Dr Bicky Bhangu
Chairman, Singapore International Chamber of Commerce
1. Good evening. It is wonderful to see all of you attending SICC’s dinner today. Coming from the private sector, I understand how important trade associations and chambers are in promoting collaborations.
2. Now, more than ever, even as we gather together and find ways to collaborate, it is not always something the world is used to in these times. With the challenges geopolitically and on the trade front, my colleagues and I have been busy trying to spur collaborations, not just between companies, but also between countries and regions.
3. Thank you to SICC for launching the Awards for Collaborative Innovation. You first launched the awards in 2015, as part of the SG 50 celebrations. If you look back over the past 58 years, collaboration has been key to Singapore. In fact, it has always in Singapore’s DNA. Even in our earliest days, Government, businesses, society, and our unions came together to dream, and to turn dreams into reality.
4. Even today, collaboration is key to Singapore’s continued success. Initiatives such as the SICC awards are critical to helping our local companies to grow, become more innovative, and become better in collaborating in the workplace.
Developing Innovation Capabilities
5. As many of us know, collaboration does not always come naturally to businesses. Companies may fear that when they collaborate with other companies, they may spill trade secrets, their staff may be poached, or they fear that they may be slowed down by other companies because they have different ideas or ways of doing things.
6. This is understandable. But fear also results in missed opportunities. In fact, commercial collaborations are one of the fastest ways businesses can grow, innovate, and succeed.
a. A good example of this collaboration is between Sea Forrest Technologies and Strategic Marine. I visited them in March this year and saw how they pooled their capabilities in shipbuilding and energy management solutions. Together, they built Singapore’s first hybrid wind farm crew transfer vessel. It helped to encourage eco-friendly shipping practices and open new markets in Europe.
b. Many companies are also ready to help our startups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) looking to expand. Infineon, for example, opened its first global co-innovation space for startups in Singapore in 2018. It has since extended its Asia-Pacific innovation ecosystem in 2021 to include local companies like Singapore’s CapitaLand Investment and Korea’s Hyundai Motor Group. Together, these companies teamed up to help our startups develop solutions for electrification and digitalisation.
7. The Singapore Government is also playing our part, by creating spaces for our companies to collaborate on innovation and internationalisation projects.
a. One initiative is our Partnerships for Capability Transformation (PACT) scheme. PACT has supported collaborations between large companies and smaller SMEs. Since we launched PACT in 2010, we have set aside more than S$150 million to support its initiatives. This has benefited more than 2,000 Singapore-based firms.
i. For instance, we awarded PACT to Strides Digital (“Strides”), the digital arm of Strides Green Tech, to develop an Electric Vehicles Operating System (“EVOS”). EVOS harnesses the many mobility solutions that Singapore companies have developed. It also complements Strides’ EV leasing business, and accelerates electrification for commercial fleet operators in Singapore, as well as the greater Asia Pacific region.
ii. Through PACT, Strides can create greater stickiness with their customers by offering an end-to-end e-mobility platform. PACT helps Singapore-based solution providers gain greater access to new customers, especially overseas ones, through Strides’ EVOS platform.
b. Internationally, Enterprise Singapore’s Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) connects Singapore-based companies to other major innovation hubs globally, and facilitate collaborations through both inbound and outbound programmes. I was in New York this month with DPM Lawrence Wong to launch our 18th GIA, to connect our startups with New York’s entrepreneurs, and startup ecosystems, to help them enter the market.
8. We have put all of these into play. But ultimately, the onus is on companies to take that first step to recognise the value of working with other partners. I’m glad that Bicky and the SICC team have been facilitating that.
a. Bicky mentioned SICC’s Channel NewsAsia programme “Collaborate to Innovate” that features a panel conversation with representatives of the winning collaborations. Please watch this programme – I think it is useful to be able to have a platform to share what you have learned and how you have collaborated.
Encourage Workplace Collaboration
9. Besides collaborating ‘outside’ with other companies, what is very important is for companies to collaborate ‘inside’. Singapore has consistently invested in talent, by upskilling our workforce and remaining open to world-class talent – not just bringing world-class talent in, but making sure we go out and learn from them. This is what helps us build a strong ecosystem and keeps Singapore open and connected to businesses, talent and investments.
10. We also want to ensure that workplaces, and companies, remain open and equipped to support their employees. This is why SICC has introduced a fifth award category to recognise the Most Positive Workplace Collaboration. It recognises the collaborative nature of work between employer and employees, and between teams, to support and create a positive workplace culture.
a. BASF, one of the finalists in this category, shows us how. It has enhanced management visibility, introduced employee volunteering initiatives and created employee resource groups. It has also redesigned its head office to offer more flexibility and collaboration opportunities. It did this collaboratively with its employees to build a physical space to spark creative and spontaneous interactions.
11. Working within, working with others, and supporting one’s employees is key. I am glad that SICC and your companies are strong exemplars and advocates of this.
12. In conclusion, I have talked about collaborating ‘outside’, in a very fragmented world; and collaborating ‘inside’ which is very important for companies. But I think underpinning all these, culture is key in all that we do.
13. I want to quote the management guru Peter Drucker, who famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. I’m sure many of you have already had breakfast and are looking forward to dinner now. So, let’s build a culture of eating and collaborating, and enjoying tonight’s awards. Thank you very much.