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Kajima invests S$100m in first overseas innovation centre in Singapore

Groundbreaking Ceremony for Kajima Global Hub.jpg
(from left): JTC CEO, Ng Lang; Managing director and CEO of Kajima Development, Shuichi Oishi; Minister of State, Low Yen Ling; Ambassador of Japan to Singapore, Jun Yamazaki; Managing director and CEO of Kajima Overseas Asia, Koji Sugimoto; General manager of Kajima Technical Research Institute Singapore, Yuichi Takemasa.

Guest-of-Honour Minister of State, Ms Low Yen Ling, delivering her speech at the groundbreaking ceremony for Kajima Global Hub.jpg
Guest-of-honour and Minister of State Low Yen Ling, delivering her speech at the groundbreaking ceremony for Kajima Global Hub.

KAJIMA Corporation's first overseas innovation centre at Changi Business Park will serve as its Asia-Pacific headquarters, as well as contribute new building technologies as well as research and development (R&D) capabilities to the construction sector.

On Thursday, the Japan-listed construction company broke ground for the centre, Kajima Global Hub, at a ceremony which was live-streamed online.

The hub, which Kajima invested S$100 million in, is slated to be completed by 2023, and will occupy 13,088 square metres of business park space, R&D lab space and double volume construction lab space at Changi Business Park.

It will also consolidate the group's 400 staff across its business functions in Singapore - construction, engineering, development, research, and design - under one roof.

"Kajima Technical Research Institute Singapore (KaTRIS) will conduct R&D and open innovation on advanced construction technologies, as well as testbed sustainable and wellness technologies (at the facility)," said Kajima and JTC in a joint press statement on Thursday.

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With the expansion of R&D activities under KaTRIS, this will increase the number of local research personnel, and the centre will thus "create better jobs, attract local hires and reduce the environmental impact of new developments", according to the statement.

The Kajima Global Hub project will be the first known application of a comprehensive suite of robotics solutions by Kajima outside Japan.

On why Singapore was chosen as the location for its Asia-Pacific headquarters, Shuichi Oishi, managing director and chief executive of Kajima Development, said: "Singapore is a magnet for many of the top multinational companies. Hence, it is the best strategic location where Kajima can spearhead its operations in the Asia-Pacific and beyond."

At the ceremony, Kajima also reaffirmed its partnership with JTC, after both organisations signed a memorandum of understanding in 2019 to share expertise and collaborate on R&D to improve productivity and maintenance capabilities within the sector.

"By combining our engineering capabilities with forward-looking industry expertise, we hope to accelerate and contribute to the built environment sector's digitalisation journey," said JTC chief executive Ng Lang.

For instance, both sides have developed a concrete finishing robot which is expected to "reduce manpower and labour cost by 50 per cent, on top of improving quality and safety".

"(We) are now working with (Nanyang Technological University) and Mega Plus Technology Pte Ltd to refine the new robot, (and) are looking to deploy the first prototype of the concrete finishing robots at Kajima Global Hub when ready… Once the performance of the robots is validated, they will be deployed and scaled up in the construction industry," said JTC group director of engineering Calvin Chung.

The importance of R&D efforts was highlighted by Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling, who said at the ceremony that "in the long run, we cannot continue with the old model of over-reliance on labour for construction".

She added: "Emerging technology trends such as robotics and artificial intelligence will play an instrumental role in reshaping the built environment sector in a post-Covid-19 world.

"When such changes are embraced, the construction industry in Singapore will become more productive and will be able to offer good employment opportunities. Construction companies will also be better positioned to compete globally and expand their footprint overseas."

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