Win-win in collaborating on innovation

SINGAPORE

Two British agencies got together to organise an innovation forum in Singapore that took place at the ArtScience Museum on Friday.

The forum brought together innovators from Britain, Singapore and South-east Asia to showcase their strengths, encourage research and industrial collaboration. Speakers talked about transforming lives through innovative design and technology in health care. They also discussed what makes an innovative city.

These are common themes that matter to both Singapore and Britain, which explains why the two British agencies chose to hold such a forum in Singapore.

Working hand in hand will help us tackle our common challenges.

One of the most important tasks facing governments, and especially ministers with business-related portfolios, is to help companies compete in the global marketplace. To do this, governments have to collaborate with other like-minded states.

Singapore and Britain are well-placed for such a cross-border, collaborative partnership. There are synergies to be exploited in the way we help our small businesses drive innovation.

The two countries enjoy a long-standing economic relationship, with both functioning as an important link between their respective regions.

Singapore is the destination for more than half of Britain's total exports to South-east Asia. And 70 per cent of Singapore's investment into the European Union goes to Britain.

In both countries, small businesses also provide about seven in 10 jobs and make up half of gross domestic product, making them the natural focus of government policy.

Our two countries already have a strong record of scientific collaboration through the UK-Singapore Partners in Science programme.

But there is scope to do more, as we both look to build economies based largely on research and innovation.

The UK-Singapore Economic and Business Partnership aims to provide opportunities for cooperation across business, research and policy formulation, helping to identify linkages in priority sectors from which both countries can benefit.

Under the Partnership, both sides have identified several key priority sectors. These include urban solutions, clean technology, information and communication technology, creative services, and education.

One area of collaboration is in the aerospace and high value manufacturing sectors.

Rolls Royce, for instance, has undertaken research and development activities in Manufacturing, Computational Engineering and Electrical Power Systems in collaboration with Singapore research institutions.

Together with several global industry companies, Rolls-Royce is working with A*STAR and NTU to establish the Advanced Re-Manufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC), which will test pilot cutting-edge manufacturing and remanufacturing technologies to reduce costs, improve productivity and reduce production lead time.

Joint work is being undertaken on the topic of future cities.

In March, a workshop was held in London to share best practices and identify areas for further collaboration. Ideas discussed included making better use of large volumes of data available from existing networks, such as traffic flow data or hospital patient registration data.

These data can be used to make improvements to areas such as transport systems, urban planning and health care. Such collaboration allows designers and researchers of both countries to work on developing people-centred innovative cities.

To ensure that cooperation bears fruit, we need industry experts in both our countries who can apply their knowledge to convert research into business-viable solutions that can help small companies compete at a global scale.

Such experts will ensure huge growth potential for our innovative businesses.

The British Technology Strategy Board estimates that over $12.5 trillion will be invested globally in city infrastructure over the next 10 to 15 years.

Wider, cross-border collaboration has the potential to unlock innovation in small companies which increasingly operate as part of global networks.

In this way, many will be able to contribute specific expertise to global value chains that straddle different continents.

Innovation is borderless.

Thus, we must think and act internationally.

We need to encourage our small businesses to develop collaborative networks that make the most of the available opportunities. There must also be more platforms to allow policymakers, academics and industry practitioners to come together to share best practices.

stopinion@sph.com.sg

Lord Stephen Keith Green is the British Minister of State for Trade and Investment. Mr Teo Ser Luck is Minister of State for Trade and Industry.