Your Excellency Nir Barkat, Minister for Economy and Industry,
Your Excellency Ambassador Eli Hazan, Ambassador of the State of Israel to Singapore,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Shalom and good afternoon, everyone! A very warm welcome to Minister Barkat, Ambassador Hazan, and our friends who have travelled here all the way from Israel. It is Singapore’s utmost pleasure to be hosting you and I hope you have found your stay enjoyable thus far.
2. Thank you for inviting me to speak here today. We are also joined today by businesses across sectors such as cybertechnology, healthcare, logistics, real estate amongst others. The participation at this Business Forum attests to our business community’s interest in and recognition of Israel’s significant economic potential.
Israel-Singapore Economic Relations
3. Relations between Singapore and Israel have grown from strength to strength, underscored by the warm ties between our leaders and our people. Our economic relations have also evolved over the years with robust trade and investment links. Singapore has made significant investments in Israel in sectors such as cybersecurity and e-commerce amongst others. In fact, Israel was Singapore’s largest investment destination and source country for investments in the region. In 2021, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from Israel was S$3.9 billion and our Direct Investment Abroad (DIA) to Israel was S$2.9 billion.
4. Singapore and Israel also share a common focus in innovation and enterprise. We have built a knowledge-based economy fuelled by vibrant innovation ecosystems and a world-class talent pool. Israel’s emphasis on technology across sectors has seen a surge in successful start-ups and earned the moniker of “The Startup Nation”. The number of active startups and pace at which new ones are formed are unparalleled. It is characterised by a culture of entrepreneurship, grit, determination, and creativity of entrepreneurs and businesses like yourselves.
Singapore-Israel Industrial Research & Development Foundation (SIIRD)
5. Our two countries have a longstanding and fruitful partnership in innovation. In 1997, we established the Singapore–Israel Industrial Research & Development Foundation, or SIIRD. It is our flagship economic bilateral initiative to facilitate exchanges in innovation, research and development between Israeli and Singaporean entities. The SIIRD has served as an effective and reliable platform for research institutes and companies from both our countries to collaborate in targeted innovative solutions for real world problems. Since its inception, SIIRD has supported 197 projects in areas such as information and communications, electronics, biomedical, life sciences and agritech.
6. I would like to highlight a few key success stories arising from this collaboration.
a. First, Singapore-based cell cultured meat startup Umami Bioworks had partnered Israeli 3D food printing startup Steakholder Foods to jointly develop the world’s first 3D-printed grouper fish fillet. Steakholder Foods utilises bio-ink made with cultivated grouper cells supplied by Umami Bioworks to produce the 3D-printed fillets which mimics the taste and textures of traditionally caught fish. Food security is a national imperative for both our countries, and it is vital for us to continuously innovate in food and agritech to meet the needs of our peoples.
b. Second, Singapore’s Loh & Sons, a subsidiary of Natural Cool Holdings, signed a partnership with SolCold, an Israeli startup, to embark on a joint R&D project to develop nanoparticle materials that utilise sunlight for active cooling. In 2022, the project was named as one of the top 10 finalists of the CapitaLand Sustainability X Challenge, for which they were shortlisted from a pool of over 340 entries across 50 countries.
7. There is much room for us to deepen our collaborations, especially in emerging areas such as food and agritech, health tech, artificial Intelligence and digitalisation. It is my hope that SIIRD will continue to scale and expand in its scope of programme. On this note, I am glad to share that SIIRD’s upcoming call for proposals under the Strategic Sector Programme will be focused on healthtech. It aims to facilitate the development of disruptive technologies by bringing research performers and companies together and I welcome companies to continue tapping on SIIRD to support your co-innovation projects.
Singapore as Gateway to Southeast Asia
8. There are also opportunities for Israeli companies to expand their presence in Southeast Asia through Singapore. Like the Middle East, Southeast Asia remains a bright spot in the global economy and has a young and vibrant consumer market of over 650 million people. There is a digitally savvy middle class with increasing purchasing power which offers a growing market for retailers and e-commerce companies. The region’s digital economy alone is projected to reach US$1 trillion by 2030.
9. I would like to encourage Israeli companies to use Singapore as a base for expansion into the Southeast Asia region and leverage our network of partners. For example, SimilarWeb, an Israeli company specialising in web analytics had set up its regional headquarters in Singapore in 2022. It is tapping on Singapore’s strategic location to springboard into the region. We have a strong network of Singapore companies with deep knowledge of the region that would be suitable partners for Israeli companies looking to navigate their way around our region.
10. There is plenty of room for Singapore and Israel to not only collaborate, but also to learn from each other. I am confident that today’s Forum is an excellent opportunity to cross-pollinate ideas, gain insights, establish new partnerships and deepen existing ones. I wish all the participants a fruitful discussion and engagement this afternoon, and I look forward to the continuous strengthening of economic ties between Israel and Singapore in the years to come. Thank you.