Speech by 2M Tan See Leng at the 23rd Annual Business Awards Gala Dinner

Speech by 2M Tan See Leng at the 23rd Annual Business Awards Gala Dinner

Her Excellency Kara Owen, British High Commissioner to Singapore

Mr. Damian Adams, President of the British Chamber of Commerce Singapore

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. A very good evening to all. Thank you for inviting me to the 23rd Annual Business Awards, where we celebrate excellence in UK and Singapore businesses. 

a. I am very pleased to be here with you on this special occasion. Tonight, marks the return of having the Awards in person, as the past two iterations had to be conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

b. Allow me to extend my warmest congratulations to all our finalists present here tonight.

UK and Singapore – A future-oriented partnership

2. Singapore and the UK share a historical and longstanding relationship. Our cooperation is robust, spanning many sectors, such as finance, transport services, as well as research and innovation. We share warm people-to-people ties, marked by a deep bond of friendship and trust between both sides. 

3. Our trade and investment relationship is strong and growing. The UK is Singapore’s 6th largest services trading partner. In turn, Singapore is the UK’s top trading partner within ASEAN. Both sides have also made sizeable investments in our respective economies – exceeding S$190 billion of investment stock in 2020. This mutually beneficial economic partnership is underpinned by the UK-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, which is the UK’s first trade agreement with an ASEAN country.

4. Our bilateral cooperation has also expanded to new and forward-looking areas. The UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (UKSDEA) entered into force in June this year. 

a. The UKSDEA will enhance Singapore’s and the UK’s roles as business hubs in our respective regions, and trusted nodes in global value chains. This will enable businesses to use us as gateways to access a greater range of opportunities in Asia, Europe, and beyond. 

b. Three MOUs were also signed alongside the UKSDEA, namely on Digital Trade Facilitation; Digital Identities; and Cybersecurity. We encourage our businesses, especially our SMEs, to explore these emerging areas in the digital economy, and hope that you can develop, test, and implement use-cases and pilot projects that can demonstrate the value of these technologies to our consumers. 

5. We have also started discussions for a framework on green economy cooperation. I am heartened to hear that the potential of these emerging areas has not gone unnoticed by our companies, and there is keen interest in capturing these growth opportunities.

6. I give you two examples from amongst the finalists today. 

a. First, the start-up, Muuse, which offers consumers the option of borrowing reusable takeaway containers from eateries. Muuse’s innovative platform offers businesses and consumers a convenient alternative to single-use packaging, and has helped saved over 70,000 single-use items from our landfills. 

b. Second, IES, which is a world leader in intelligent sustainability solutions for the built environment. By using IES’ first-in-class digital twin technology – which are virtual versions of real-world buildings – organisations will be able to test new approaches and systems towards reducing emissions, saving energy, and reducing operational costs.

British companies – Anchoring their heritage in Singapore

7. UK businesses have a long history and presence in Singapore. Today, there are over 5,700 British companies in Singapore, which run the gamut from manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, to transport engineering. 

8. There are significant British investments in Singapore, and they are continuing to expand their presence in Singapore. For example, industry titans like Rolls Royce, GSK, and Dyson, have dedicated substantial resources in Singapore in recent years. 

9. We are also constantly looking out for companies seeking to base themselves in Singapore, and leverage us as a gateway to the rest of ASEAN.

a. I am delighted that, just last month, Singapore played host to a delegation of 24 cutting-edge British companies focused in innovative areas such as lawtech, cybersecurity, autonomous vehicles, and deeptech. 

10. Digitalisation and innovation are core to the future and prosperity of our economies.

a. I am pleased that today’s Awards recognise companies’ efforts in using innovative technologies to overcome emerging challenges for businesses.

b. One such company is Fern Computer Services, which has identified issues that many traditional financial institutions would face when adopting digital banking technology. By leveraging A.I. and data analytics, Fern Computer Services is able to offer tailored and innovative business solutions, which can then be integrated seamlessly into the institutions’ existing core banking systems.

11. I am happy to note that, according to the recent Global Innovation Index 2022, the UK and Singapore rank as the fourth and seventh most innovative economies globally.

a. Although this reflects excellently on our innovation capabilities, we must continue to do more. In 2021, we inked the Singapore-UK Bilateral Co-Innovation Programme, which will develop and fund joint innovation projects by Singapore and UK enterprises in areas such as advanced manufacturing, agrifood tech, and cybersecurity. 

Drawing from the talent networks of the world

12. Innovation thrives on the exchange of ideas and creation of new knowledge. To achieve this, we must remain open and connected to the world, and ensure that we build a robust pipeline of talent. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected talent mobility in complex and unprecedented ways. Governments and businesses recognise this and must adapt swiftly or risk falling behind.

13. To this end, I recently introduced the Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass (ONEPass) and announced targeted enhancements to our work pass framework to better attract top global talent and experienced tech professionals in areas of skills shortage. We also hope to pull “rainmakers” into Singapore – people who can create outsized value and opportunities for our businesses and workers. This way, we can tap their networks, grow teams around them, learn from their expertise, and level up our competencies. The larger goal is to help businesses based in Singapore, including BritCham member companies, to continue growing and creating new opportunities together in this region.


14. In closing, I look forward to deepening UK-Singapore business ties in the years ahead.

15. I would like to propose a toast to the British businesses here, and congratulate all of tonight’s finalists and award-winners.

16. Thank you and have a good evening.

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