Knighted in 2000 for his contribution in cancer research, Professor Sir David Lane (above photo) is internationally recognised for his original discovery of the p53 protein SV40 T antigen complex. The p53 gene is the most frequently altered gene in human cancer with more than half of all cancers having mutant p53.
We spoke to Prof. Sir David Lane at EmTech Asia 2017 as he shared on his milestones as the Chief Scientist of A*STAR, ongoing research projects, working with industry and upcoming trends in cancer research.
Could you share with us about some of the projects you are working on now?
We’re working on projects related to development of new treatments for cancer and one of our major projects is trying to develop drug molecules that will activate p53. We’ve been working on this for some time but things are beginning to go very well. So that’s one big area. Then we have another area, which has been announced to the press with ASLAN pharmaceuticals on an antibody to a target called RON, which is overexpressed in tumours but also involved in immune modulation. That programme is now moving towards clinical trial.
At the same time in the background, we’re always trying to do new things so a lot of work is trying to develop really new types of drugs that can attack targets inside the cell that have been difficult to treat with conventional drugs. Sometimes we call this undruggable targets but hope to make them druggable.
Some of that work has been done in collaboration with MERCK pharmaceuticals and also with Ipsen. So it’s a very exciting area to work in, it’s a big challenge, so we’ve been using PEPTIDE type molecules, rather than conventional small molecules – it’s kind of a scale thing, so a typical drug is 500 molecular weight, a big antibody has a 250,000 molecular weight and we’re trying to get things to a 1000, 2000 molecular weight because they should be able to interfere with interactions that we can’t get at with small molecules.
We sometimes call it a third class of medicine. If you want to put it simply, the big molecules are too big and the small molecules are too small. We think there’s a size in-between that would allow us to…if you look at current pill-like or small molecule drugs, they only target about 2000 proteins, there are 18000 protein targets that can’t be got at that way.
And then antibodies, which is what we call the biologics, they work outside of the cell, we want to have molecules that have the kind of specificity of an antibody but go inside the cell so a lot of what we are studying is to make these molecules and how to make them go inside cells.
How long have you been the Chief Scientist of A* STAR? What are some of the milestones/achievements thus far as the Chief Scientist?
I first came to Singapore at the end of 2004 and I held a number of different positions at A*STAR. I started off as the Executive Director of IMCB and then I founded the Experimental Therapeutics Centre (ETC). I became the Chief Scientist in 2009, I think, so 8 years as the Chief Scientist.
I think the setting up of the ETC was a very important milestone, we’re just about to celebrate the 10th anniversary – we started in 2007 and ETC has now produced 2 new drugs, both of which are in clinical trials. I think that’s a tremendous achievement, it wasn’t by any means my achievement alone, I started it off and a colleague, Alex Matter has taken over and done a fantastic job. So that’s one area I think.
I also feel pretty excited about bringing Chugai Pharmaceuticals to Singapore, establishing the Chugai antibody research lab here- again we’re making wonderful molecules. Yup, those two things and other things as well.
I guess it’s exciting to have a cohort of people you trained and see them going on to different and good positions. One of my trainees is now a patent lawyer, another one is working for BAYER and another one works for Illumina. You’re sort of feeling that a cohort of people you trained gets there, it’s good.
Do you see yourself as a mentor?
Yes, I was well mentored myself by my PhD supervisor, Avrion Mitchson, everybody needs mentors, you know. So I’ve trained a lot of PhD students, had a lot of A*STAR scholars in my lab for a while so it’s definitely part of my job.
You are a top-notch immunologist, molecular biologist, cancer researcher as well as an entrepreneur. How did your journey of combining research work and creating business begin?
I got into the business aspect because I had this passion to take my research into the clinic, to really take it to the next level. So I did that partly and I still do it partly by collaborating with industry. I also realised that starting a business might be another way of doing it so I started a biotechnology company in Dundee, that’s still in NASDAQ, developing cancer drugs. I got a lot of inspiration from that and I think the business aspect comes really from the desire to see one’s work have meaning beyond just publication.
I think I’ve always been passionate about that area. When I started in science, there was a sort of sense that you didn’t work with industry, that you’re a very ‘pure’ academic. I’ve never felt that, I always felt, “Look, if I’m gonna discover something, I want it to be tested and to have meaning”, so partly I like working with industry because it’s very rigorous. We have sometimes this issue in academic sciences that people can’t reproduce the finding but in industry, of course of you have to. Also, I like the fact that it’s a team of people working together, you’re not working for individual glory, you’re working for a kind of ‘end’, which is of course, ideally, immense and has an impact on peoples’ lives.
So those things attract me very much. Fortunately for me, that kind of fits well in Singapore as well, because Singapore’s very interested in those areas and it’s been a good fit.
What are your predictions and thoughts on cancer research and treatment in the next 3-5 years?
Well, I think we’re in the middle of a very exciting period, I think the big breakthrough has obviously been the use of the immune system so we have these antibodies now, called the immune checkpoint inhibitors, they’re re-awakening the human immune system, that’s amazing to see. And I think we’ll see a lot more of that, its early success is so strong and there are many aspects of it as well. We’re beginning to understand more of these pathways.
We’re beginning to engineer T-cells very well, so this T-Cell therapy or CAR T-Cell therapy is definitely important. A final thing is just people sequencing cancers much more deeply and finding out exactly what’s wrong in a particular cancer and finding out which drug it needs or which combination of drugs.
We have, from a situation where we only had a few drugs – now we’ve got hundreds of different drugs so increasingly, you’re seeing this very personalised treatment.
And some of the successes are quite spectacular, people who had 10 years after their treatment with no disease. This is very different when I started, you know, you treat somebody, they respond, resistance would come and the disease would have a pause but you never felt that you really made that kind of degree of difference. Now we’re seeing people that are really really ill be completely better, so, to me, is the most very exciting thing. I wasn’t even sure if I could see that.
When we started, melonoma was a tumour that you never could…once it spreads it was almost impossible to treat and now we have many cases of people who were treated and 10 years later, they’re free of disease, I think that’s amazing.
Who or what have been your greatest inspirations in moving you towards what you are doing now?
My PhD supervisor as I said was a man called Avrion Mitchison, he was a wonderful scientist and great immunologist, he was a big inspiration to me. In Singapore, I’ve worked a lot with Sydney Brenner and Philip Yeo, both of them are very inspiring. A guy called Tom Blundell inspired me in terms of company founding, he founded Astex Therapeutics. I think you need mentors for different parts of your life, not always the same thing but examples of people who are very active and inspiring, I hope I do that to the young people. You need to give people confidence that they can do great things.
You mentioned on the panel about ethics and cutting-edge research. What are your thoughts on managing ethics as well as handling potentially sensitive types of research?
You really have to strike a balance, because it is complex, you have to weigh the benefits versus the costs very carefully. And then you have to be very accurate with the information you give people and I think you have to engage the public because one of the lessons we’ve all learnt is, if we don’t educate people properly then they can make decisions that are not good. Whether it’s a vaccine problem or political issues, it’s all the same- if you don’t give people good, honest facts and if you don’t explain them carefully in a way that they understand, then you could lose things that are very important to society.
You have to put in the effort, I think sometimes everybody thinks that it’s somebody else’s job. How do you explain things to people in a way that is accurate and then they can make good decisions is very important.
Because it’s not anybody’s right to make those decisions, they have to be made by societal consensus, they’re tough! You might ethically question, is it appropriate but where is the line? I mean when test tube babies came in, people thought it was terrible but now everybody accepts it. The questions of ethics is a very dynamic field which needs greater engagement of society as a whole to get the right answers.
I think scientists should not escape their responsibilities to communicate because a lot of mistakes have happened historically. I think it’s a challenge but such an important one that one should give it study and effort, it’s a discipline in its own right. You think about the doctor’s consultation, often patients come out and they don’t really know what they’ve been told. I do think it’s an area we have to study, is it very good graphics, analogies or something else?
Because a lot of it has got to do with understanding risk, you’re making choices, I think we’re not very good in communicating that to people. It’s hard as an individual person to get a sense of relative risk but the more we can understand that, the better.
Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in education have the potential to enhance how education is provided, financed, and managed as well as offer easier access to the community.
A PPP system operates under the construct that market mechanisms, in conjunction with government inputs, are better for providing education. One of the rationales behind PPPs, which are supported by international organisations, development agencies and academics, is that competition between public and private education providers is a good way to improve the quality and efficiency of education.
PPP policy frameworks should therefore create real market dynamics in which education service providers continue to innovate and improve the quality of their services to attract learners, young and old, who are seen as benefit maximisers and well-informed consumers.
New Era of Partnerships, Building Talent Pipeline
“The structure and framework for any university to launch degree programmes can be fairly onerous, given the emphasis on quality assurance and relevance,” says Annie who is also a Professor Emeritus of Finance (Practice), Lee Kong Chian School of Business and Senior Advisor at the Business Families Institute in Singapore Management University (SMU).
However, academic-industry partnerships play a crucial role in building the future of students and facilitating the transition of young people from school to work. Students need to be exposed to a variety of jobs and workplaces to develop interest and discover where their studies and passion may lead.
Industry partnerships with different sectors offer a variety of experiences, such as simulated job interviews, career development activities, challenge-based learning projects, curriculum-aligned activities, and work-study programmes. In addition, internships have become a vital opportunity for candidates to distinguish themselves prior to full-time employment.
A PPP is mutually beneficial, allowing industry access to fresh talent and looking at the industry’s challenges from the perspective of future consumers or employees acknowledges Annie. In fact, the private sector has indicated to all institutions that they need future talent in the area of data analytics, so SMU has recently launched a track in data analytics hosted in both their business school and computer and info systems school so universities also benefit from the insights from the industry to stay relevant in our curricula.
With the help of data analytics tools, a company may take unstructured raw data and use this information to discover patterns, draw conclusions and turned into useful insights. Therefore, data analysis aids businesses in so many ways, including making educated judgments, developing a more successful marketing plan, enhancing the customer experience and streamlining processes.
Education is not only under the charge of the Ministry of Education but also needs the support of other ministries since future jobs and capacity building are expected of the Ministries of Trade and Industry, Finance, Maritime, Health and others. Partnering with the whole of government allows for students’ skillsets to be increased and all students become more relevant, valuable and workplace ready.
Prof Annie knows that no one has a monopoly on knowledge, and no one knows the exact skills which will be needed in the future. Thus, PPPs have the most value when it forms a part of “lifelong learning.”
The exciting thing about lifelong learning, Annie believes “…is that when you get your degree, you think you’re done, but you’re just getting started. Even as you gain experience and learn on the job, you’ll need to keep reinventing yourself and the skills needed to extend your runway will keep changing.”
Passion extends beyond degrees and ongoing learning is a crucial element to keep employees engaged That’s why higher education now permits a variety of pathways to marry passion with career aspirations and is no longer a paper chase, she explains.
Two good cases to illustrate the value of PPP in the context of SMU’s innovative programmes that Prof Annie is very proud of are the partnership approach in launching the International Trading track and the Maritime Business Operations track under the Finance and Operations majors in SMU’s business school.
In accordance with the creation of a strong Singaporean core, wholesale trade and maritime businesses have been focusing on both skillset development and attracting new talent supply to ensure a pipeline of sustainable human capital. So, the trading and maritime sectors do need to build a case for making the jobs in their sectors more appealing – particularly with the assistance of government grants and scholarships.
Companies can play a crucial role by showing how an organisation can provide a feeling of purpose with support and development opportunities available to make building a career in their organisations appealing and attractive to the candidate
A part of Annie’s challenge in the early days was to set up an International Trading Institute (ITI) where students could take for-credit classes under the business school and get a certificate of completion for the non-credit practice-oriented sessions, learning from practitioners in the evenings.
“My goal at SMU is to link external relevance to internal degree requirements while upholding the quality assurance requirements of the education system. Different industry partners help us with this mission to co-create and deliver the applied learning content with us.”
SMU is therefore a strategic asset for the country and both the tracks had, over the last decade, created a pool of more than 300 alumni who are knowledgeable about wholesale trading, largely in the commodities trading space and maritime operations. Now, there is available talent who are able to speak and work with more confidence up and down the trade value chain and contribute to Singapore’s relevance as a trade and maritime hub.
Another great example of PPP was manifested during the last three years of the COVID-19 crisis which saw a spate of job cuts and many experienced PMETs were laid off. Annie worked with her teams at ITI and BFI to design a nine-month Business and Digital Transformation programme which combined in-class training modules with a capstone project for candidates who are matched to SMEs to also deliver a project for these sponsoring companies. Candidates have a chance to learn and apply the knowledge and sponsoring companies also benefit from the capstone projects delivered. In addition, 70% to 90% of the programme fees are supported by SSG grants, while WSG grants provide funding support towards the candidates’ commensurate salaries.
All these partnerships were possible because a pool of companies is available and can be accessed to match the candidates as a result of SMU’s external network of trusted companies, which was strengthened by the BFI that Annie had set up 10 years ago with the support of SMU’s senior leadership. Many of Asia’s SMEs are family owned with different sets of challenges and aspirations other than the usual business issues. In addition, many of these business families have longer horizons and they are the ones that countries depend on to build businesses sustainably as they think beyond current generations.
Therefore, business families with an entrepreneurial spirit, not only make money but also contribute to changing the world through their businesses and other new ventures, including building social enterprises and philanthropic activities.
By addressing business family-specific issues such as succession, family governance, entrepreneurship and wealth management, BFI aims to strengthen the ecosystem of entrepreneurial business families and stakeholders in their creation of sustainable impact by leveraging SMU’s core competence as a thought leader. In turn, BFI has been a strong partner to the LKYGBPC. Many of LKYGBPC’s sponsors are family-owned businesses, such as Wilmar International and Frasers.
In addition, many of these family enterprises have footprints beyond Singapore and are always on the lookout for quality start-ups to invest in or be part of their accelerator programmes. Innovation is essential for a company to improve its operations, introduce new and enhanced products and services to the market, raise its efficiency, and most crucially, boost its profitability.
Annie feels that her journey in academia is more about building entrepreneurship and Technology, Talent and Trust (3Ts) are important drivers in helping companies in their transformation journeys. As such, public-private-people partnerships are even more relevant in today’s challenging and uncertain times to build back better and broader for everyone.
According to Annie, the road to digital and business transformation success is paved with courageous actions by caring and forward-looking leaders. The right leaders will build a firm sustainably and attract the right people, the right leaders will inspire and motivate the right people to learn, improve and grow.
“Developing people is my calling but learning to develop people is everyone’s responsibility. And because the world is bigger than yourself, you need to be big-hearted, purpose-oriented, and have an open mind to be successful on any path you choose,” Annie concludes.
Cleveland train users will be the next to benefit as the rollout of the Smart Ticketing system continues. Customers travelling from Central station and Cleveland station will have access to the system from 30 November 2022. Queensland’s Minister for Transport and Main Roads stated that the AU$ 371 million project continued to gather pace, with Cleveland line customers now having more ways to pay.
He said that delivering better public transport services for Queenslanders is not just about acquiring more trains or buses but about making it easier for people to use the trains without barriers. This trial allows adult customers to use their credit card, debit card, smartphone, or smartwatch to pay for their train journey – meaning you do not need to think before hopping on a train, you can just tap and go.
The Member for Capalaba stated that the system would put Queensland on par with major cities like London, Singapore, and New York. He said that record levels of investment in the region mean that commuters can get home safer and sooner, spending more time with family and friends.
Meanwhile, the Member for Lytton encouraged commuters to use the new system. She said that there is no doubt this trial is proving to be immensely popular with public transport users. She looks forward to seeing the rollout extend onto local buses, which is set to take place next year.
The project will replace 1300 fixed devices and 12,000 onboard readers to bring 18 different payment systems across the regional bus network together under one Smart Ticketing umbrella. Whether commuters are visiting family and friends in Cairns, Bowen, Rockhampton or Bundaberg, there will be one seamless way to pay.
The Member for Bulimba praised the success of the trial, which had already clocked up more than two million trips. She said that commuters and tourists alike are finding it easy to use, and we’ve seen incredible numbers tap on and off using the system since it began.
The region will continue to develop the system to bring concession card holders onboard while also encouraging those who travel at a discounted rate to continue using the go card for the time being.
The Member for Greenslopes noted that the expansion added new destinations to the Smart Ticketing map, adding that this is another crucial step toward rolling out the system across the South East Queensland heavy rail network, following on from trials already underway.
Next, the South Brisbane and South Bank transport hubs will begin the rollout of the Smart Ticketing system. This will connect the area to the hospital and health precinct as well as South Bank businesses.
Smart Ticketing is already operational on the Ferny Grove, Ipswich/Rosewood, Springfield Central, Sunshine Coast/Caboolture, Redcliffe Peninsula, Doomben and Shorncliffe train lines. Next, it will launch at the Airport, Beenleigh, and Gold Coast lines, enabling customers to interconnect from the Gold Coast Light Rail through to Brisbane CBD and the airport, with buses and ferries set to follow next year.
Train users who prefer to pay with their go card will be able to continue doing so. Customers travelling on a child or concession fare should continue to use their go card for now, as should customers travelling to or from destinations not yet using the trial, or anyone using a connecting bus or ferry service.
What is smart ticketing?
Smart Ticketing is an innovative ticketing technology that enables more ways to pay for public transport across Queensland. Over time, more Queenslanders will be able to pay for travel with contactless payment methods using a Visa, Mastercard and American Express debit card, credit card, smartphone, or smart device. As a long-term project, the aim is to have more Queenslanders tap on and off to conveniently pay for everyday travel on train, tram, bus, and ferry.
The Second Minister for Trade and Industry, Tan See Leng, and the Republic of Korea (RoK) Minister for Trade, Dukgeun Ahn, have signed the Korea-Singapore Digital Partnership Agreement (KSDPA).
Under the agreement, the two sides will work to establish digital trade rules and norms to promote interoperability between digital systems. This will enable more seamless cross-border data flows and build a trusted and secure digital environment for businesses and consumers. A government press release wrote that KSDPA will also deepen bilateral cooperation in new emerging areas such as personal data protection, e-payments, artificial intelligence, and source code protection.
The Ministers also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Implementing the Korea-Singapore Digital Economy Dialogue, which will act as a platform to promote digital economy collaboration between industry players and academic experts from both sides. The MoU is part of bilateral efforts to develop cooperative projects to implement the KSDPA. Key features of the KSDPA include:
Facilitating end-to-end digital trade
Electronic Payments (e-payments): The two sides will adopt transparent and facilitative rules (e.g. encouraging open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)) to promote secure cross-border e-payments.
Paperless Trading: Singapore and RoK will accept electronic versions of trade administration documents to support the digitalisation and seamless exchange of key commercial documents.
Open Government Data: Both countries will ensure that government data will be publicly available in a machine-readable and open format, with easy-to-use and freely available APIs.
Enabling trusted data flows
Cross-border Data Flows (including for financial services): Businesses in Singapore and RoK will be allowed to transfer information, including those which are generated or held by financial institutions, across borders if the requisite regulations are met and with adequate personal data protection safeguards in place.
Prohibiting Data Localisation: The two nations will establish rules against data localisation requirements so that businesses can choose where their data is stored and processed, and their cloud technology of choice.
Facilitate trust in digital systems and participation in the Digital Economy
Artificial Intelligence (AI): The countries will promote the adoption of AI governance and ethical frameworks that support the trusted, safe, and responsible use of AI-based technologies.
Cryptography: Neither country will require the transfer of or access to private keys and related technologies, as a condition of market access.
Source Code Protection: To ensure software developers can trust the market within which they operate and ensure that source code is protected, neither country will require the transfer of, or access to, source code as a condition of market access. This includes the algorithm expressed in the source code.
Online Consumer Protection: The two sides will adopt laws that guard against fraudulent or deceptive conduct that causes harm to consumers engaged in online commercial activities.
Small and Medium Enterprises Cooperation: Singapore and RoK will promote jobs and growth for SMEs. They will also encourage their participation in platforms that help link them with international suppliers, buyers, and other potential business partners.
Digital Identities: The countries will promote interoperability of digital identity regimes, which can lead to reliable identity verification and the faster processing of applications. This will enable businesses and consumers to navigate the digital economy with ease and security.
Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) and an IT service management company jointly launched the “Idea Launcher” co-ideation initiative to foster and accelerate innovation and technology (I&T) development in Hong Kong through extensive support, mentoring and coaching to help early-stage start-ups nurture innovative ideas and research projects.
The project is another addition to HKTSP’s co-incubation mission with sector leaders, with the Idea Launcher being the first partnership with a corporate leader under HKSTP’s IDEATION Programme. The IT service management company collaborate closely with HKSTP to specifically support the development of early-stage ideas from emerging start-ups and next-generation entrepreneurs.
The Idea Launcher continues the strategic collaboration that the two parties began earlier this year, covering the four key pillars of Research & Development, Technology Simulation, Co-incubation, and Talent and Culture Cultivation. It is a six-month co-ideation initiative that provides early-stage start-ups and entrepreneurs with technical training, business consulting, capabilities assessment as well as project feasibility to optimise start-up solutions and concepts.
HKSTP will offer HK$ 100,000 in seed funding and incubation training to selected start-ups, while the IT service management company will provide tailor-made AWS innovation culture workshops to help start-ups build up their innovation capacity. Programme participants will also receive up to US$ 25,000 in the IT service management company’s cloud resources, as well as technical support and training through their Program, set up especially to help start-ups optimise their business models and fuel future development.
The Head of Business Development at the IT service management company’s Hong Kong and Macau branch stated that with its established start-up ecosystems and investment development teams in Hong Kong and beyond, the firm gathers talent with investment institution backgrounds and entrepreneurial experience that is geared to supporting start-ups throughout their growth cycle. He noted that the company looks forward to deepening its partnership with HKSTP to advance local start-ups and propel Hong Kong on its journey to international I&T hub status.
The Chief Corporate Development Officer of HKSTP stated in partnering with one of the world’s largest and most iconic start-ups, HKSTP is ready to elevate Hong Kong’s talented entrepreneurs onto the global stage.
About the IDEATION programme
The IDEATION programme was launched by HKSTP in 2019, furthering its support for early-stage research and development projects and innovative ideas. Well-received in the start-up community, the number of participating members and teams in the programme has more than tripled from 60 to over 230.
Start-ups will receive help turning realising their ideas and beginning their entrepreneurial journeys with the Ideation Programme – an up to one-year start-up support programme for tech-focused entrepreneurs. Through the programme, participants can develop the fundamental skills they need to kickstart their businesses. All-round support will be provided from designing a business model to finding investment. Participants will receive guidance along every step of the way, to fine-tune their ideas for technical development.
The programme provides seed funding in the form of a grant worth up to HK$ 100,000; a mentor for business advice; training on a variety of topics including Hong Kong’s start-up ecosystem, business modelling, pitching and investment, and more; access to centre facilities like co-working spaces (subject to availability), and potential to bridging programmes which means participants will be prepared for admission into other HKSTP incubation programmes.
Singapore and the United Kingdom held the 7th UK Singapore Financial Dialogue, where they renewed their commitment to deepening their financial partnership, which was agreed upon in 2021. They also discussed sustainable finance, fintech, and innovation.
The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the UK-Singapore FinTech Bridge, which is based on an agreement signed in 2016, which removes barriers to fintech trade by opening new regular talks between regulators and businesses. The FinTech Bridge will build on the active interest of fintech players in the areas of payments, regulatory technology, and wealth management. It will also provide a structured engagement that will aid the development of policy actions, enhance assessments of emerging issues, such as the development of distributed ledger technologies and data sharing, and support trade and investment flow between respective markets.
According to a press release, the countries recognised the importance of the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (DEA), which was signed earlier this year. They exchanged views on recent developments in the fintech sector, including advancements in crypto-assets, and agreed on priority areas for further cooperation. They shared their latest assessments of market developments, opportunities, trends, and longer-term expectations for the crypto-assets sector.
Further, the risks and challenges relating to financial stability and regulatory arbitrage were discussed. They shared their progress in strengthening rules on consumer protection and developing the regulation of stablecoins. Both sides agreed there is a strong need to support the safe development of a digital assets ecosystem while ensuring that risks posed by digital assets are consistently managed.
They will continue to actively participate in the shaping of robust global regulatory practices through engagement within international multilateral fora such as the Financial Stability Board (FSB), the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures (CPMI), and the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO).
Regarding digital payments, Singapore provided updates on the progress of its review of e-wallet caps and the expected next steps. The event covered the recently released consultation, with the UK providing views on the key proposals. Singapore also updated on the new digital banks that recently launched their operations in Singapore.
Moreover, the sides have agreed to a roadmap for activities in sustainable finance, fintech and innovation, and other areas of mutual interest, leading up to the next Dialogue scheduled to take place in London in 2023.
The Financial Dialogue was co-chaired by the Deputy Managing Director (Markets and Development) of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Leong Sing Chiong, and the Director General (Financial Services) of HM Treasury (HMT), Gwyneth Nurse.
Two industry-led UK-Singapore business roundtables on sustainable finance and FinTech took place on 24 November 2022. Industry participants from both countries participated in this discussion. The sustainable finance Roundtable examined the implementation challenges faced by corporates in meeting their net zero targets, and how the financial industry could help to address these challenges. The FinTech Roundtable discussed the opportunities and challenges faced by FinTech firms, and how these firms could better access overseas markets, including by partnering with financial institutions.
The Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Rajeev Chandrasekhar, has inaugurated a Digital India start-up hub at the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) centre in Davanagere, Karnataka. According to a press release, this is the 63rd STPI centre in the country and the fifth in the state of Karnataka. STPIs are autonomous bodies under MeitY, established to encourage, promote, and boost software exports from India. They fuel a culture of tech entrepreneurship and innovation in the country.
The state government had provided 10,000 square feet of built-up space in the Karnataka State Open University (KSOU) Regional Centre to establish the STPI. Among other facilities, the centre has a plug-n-play 102-seater incubation facility, network operations centre (NOC), 16-seater conference room, 32-seater cafeteria and provisions for high-speed data communication facilities, and other amenities for export of software and services.
Speaking at the event, Chandrasekhar said that STPI, Davangere will usher in new opportunities for jobs and entrepreneurship for the people in the region. Over the past few years, the government’s emphasis has been on the growth of information technology (IT), IT-enabled services (ITeS), and the electronic system design and manufacturing (ESDM) industries in newer cities. This should not be confined to the metropolitan centres, he noted.
STPI centres across the state have IT exports of US $35 billion while just Karnataka state exports more than US $70 billion each year. India has the fastest-growing innovation system with more than 80,000 start-ups and over 107 unicorns, Chandrasekhar said. “We have assumed the presidency of the G20, a league of [the] world’s largest economies, and the GPAI an international initiative on artificial intelligence. It is the fastest growing major economy that has surpassed the UK to emerge as [the] fifth largest economy, receiving its highest ever FDIs of US $83 billion,” he explained.
India aims to transform its electronics production sector into a US $300 billion electronics manufacturing powerhouse by 2026. In August, Chandrasekhar launched a report that detailed how India can achieve this electronics production target and an export target of US $120 billion over the next few years. The report is titled, ‘Globalise to Localise: Exporting at Scale and Deepening the Ecosystem are Vital to Higher Domestic Value Addition’. It was prepared by the India Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), in collaboration with the India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA).
As OpenGov Asia reported, to achieve its targets, the government has emphasised strengthening the country’s domestic manufacturing ecosystem to make it more resilient to supply chain disruptions. The aim is to emerge as a reliable and trusted partner in global value chains. The report postulates that the country must export aggressively to reach the scale in electronics manufacturing. “In addition to domestic production, and supplies and domestic consumption, the exports are [an] important way to get the scales of the other economies that are competing with us,” Chandrasekhar said. Exports will create a network effect of creating supply chain interests, and supply chain investments that in turn will increase value addition in the Indian electronics segment.
The global spread of COVID-19 has been a disaster of unparalleled proportions. Not only has it halted the world economy, but it has also made even the most optimistic leaders reconsider how soon things would return to how they were before the outbreak.
Even as the pandemic disrupted businesses and services around the world, a sudden and dramatic increase in internet consumption was observed. Businesses had to shift to digital communications and tools as the key medium for maintaining productive and interesting relationships with their many stakeholders – internal and external.
While the private sector was quicker to alter procedures in the early phases of the pandemic, the public eventually successfully adapted and innovated to continue citizen service delivery. Of course, early on, most governments rapidly put into place digital communication and emergency response platforms.
By allowing users to access their data and applications from any internet-connected device, cloud computing expands the scope of digital transformation beyond simple technology adoption to encompass a comprehensive redesign of all related procedures, resources and user interactions.
The cloud and digital transformation are now inextricably linked. Organisations across the board need to adopt a cloud-first strategy if they want to ensure the longevity of their operations and realise their transformation objectives.
Most organisations and agencies have benefited from the digital change, but some industries are behind the curve. To keep up with the fierce competition in their industries, they must guarantee the reliable operation of the cloud communication platforms that serve as a direct line of contact between the organisations and their consumers and aid in the promotion of their offerings.
The OpenGov Breakfast Insight on 25 November 2022 at M Hotel Singapore provided Singapore’s public, education, financial and healthcare sectors with the advantages of the most recent cloud technology.
Simplifying Things via Cloud Communication
Mohit Sagar, CEO & Editor-in-Chief, OpenGov Asia believes that the cloud has transformed the way organisations communicate, cooperate and carry out many other critical business and service functions.
Cloud communications are voice and data communications solutions that organisations employ to manage cloud-hosted applications, storage and switching.
“Cloud communications services are becoming an increasingly intrinsic choice for organisations looking to streamline their operations and enable their remote workforces to stay connected and productive,” observes Mohit.
Cloud communications enable organisations to interact with their employees and customers over many channels, including email, audio calls, chat and video. All of these leverage internet-based connectivity to minimise faulty connections and lag in communication.
This communication model has become the go-to option for addressing the growing need for efficient internal communications in the hybrid workplace. As numerous workers are returning to the office, and for many of those who have remote work capabilities, hybrid work arrangements are swiftly becoming the new standard.
Organisations are figuring out ways to make hybrid work as interesting and effective as they can. Leaning into what is working, changing what is not working and adapting as lessons are gained are the first steps in creating an effective hybrid strategy, work environment, and culture.
Employee access to the system from anywhere on any device is the need of a mixed work environment. Regardless of the apparatus they are using or their location, employees need to be able to connect to the system.
“User-friendly features in cloud communications make it simpler for staff to become used to the technology,” Mohit explains. “Up until now, better work-life balance, more effective time management, control over working hours and location, prevention of burnout and higher productivity have been the main benefits of hybrid work.”
Having the appropriate tools to be productive at work, feeling less a part of the organisation’s culture, poor cooperation and relationships, and disturbing work processes are some of the biggest obstacles to hybrid work.
Apart from the initial expenditure, virtual meetings result in reduced expenses because of the decline in maintenance and transportation costs. Moreover, integrations of cloud telephony enable companies to place and receive calls from any device that is connected to the Internet.
This means that cloud communications can potentially maximise resources for organisations. Procedures, implementation and adaptability can all be accelerated with a cloud communications strategy, which also offers limitless high-volume information transmission.
According to Mohit, cloud communications must have robust security components to ensure compliance with data privacy laws and the security of all stakeholders. “To assist in safeguarding data in the cloud, emerging cybersecurity tools should also be taken into account.”
These include Artificial Intelligence (AI) for IT Operations (AIOps) and Network Detection and Response (NDR). Both programmes gather data on the security and stability of cloud infrastructure. After data analysis, AI notifies administrators of any unusual behaviour that might represent a threat.
Ultimately a well-thought-out cloud communication strategy with strong security features can serve organisations and gain a competitive advantage in an increasingly digital landscape and VUCA environment.
According to Lucas Lu, Head of Asia, Zoom, if communication fails to give the greatest possible experience, everyone suffers – from employees to consumers to investors. And neglecting to address this essential avenue has ever-worsening implications.
Organisations are going through some significant changes, he explains. The first is in the general business environment. Organisations are under tremendous pressure to boost efficiency, adapt fast as competition rises and keep up with the rapid pace of innovation and technological advancements.
This problem is becoming even more pressing because of economic uncertainties. Furthermore, solving these problems requires effective communication between consumers, prospects and staff.
The workforce is likewise seeing a paradigm shift. People desire the option of remote employment and are asking for the cutting-edge equipment and communication systems they need to do their jobs.
HR managers concur that a high-performing workplace’s future requirements would include collaboration, regular communication and a mentorship culture between managers and teams. “You run the risk of losing the ‘War for Talent’ if you don’t deliver,” Lucas asserts.
With every new tool and software that is made available, communication becomes more difficult and complex. Employees, clients and potential consumers are just a few of the stakeholders who have preferences and expectations about how, when and where they conduct business.
Due to this, many businesses choose their battles carefully when it comes to facilitating communication. They follow a variety of routes, including:
- Maintaining already-established systems that are deemed adequate
- Making use of the fundamental, built-in communication capabilities that are provided with other software packages, even if they don’t entirely satisfy the organisation’s demands
- Using different approaches based on the circumstances. You might, for instance, employ one communication tool for internal cooperation and another for clients, investors, and outside events
“All these strategies are meant to provide organisations with fundamental communication,” says Lucas. “These methods provide some flexibility, but they also change the environment for prospects, employees and consumers. People are compelled to alternate between various options based on their needs as a result.”
This causes unneeded annoyance, rework, expenditures and misunderstanding. Employees may feel alienated and impatient. Customers’ interactions with the brand are disorganised and unprofessional. And various instruments frequently make business slower.
In this uncertain business environment, organisations that can move beyond basic communication into universal communication have extraordinary potential. They can develop intuitive connections to all parties, employees, customers and investors, regardless of location, technology or business activity.
This will be accomplished by integrating the individual and organisational connection demands that will result in a) Delivering a consistent and quality experience for all participants, b) Making human connection effortless, and c) Enabling rapid innovation to maintain relevance.
These results may:
- Satisfy both the primary business requirements and the consumers’ expectations
- Redirect internal resources from managing communications to new services and capabilities; and
- Increase the marketability and perceived agility within the organisation and in the market.
An organisation’s reputation is directly related to the quality of its communication services. In addition to the fact that employees, clients and customers can work remotely, those returning to the office do not t want to compromise on the at-home office environment to which they have grown accustomed.
Organisations must adapt to this new hybrid environment to guarantee that everyone receives high-quality service regardless of circumstance or location. Expectations are simply greater and it is unacceptable if a session fails due to dropped participants or subpar audio or video.
“With Zoom, you may use a top-notch infrastructure that is specially made to prevent failures to safeguard your company from communications disruptions. You eliminate a work-limiting unpredictability risk by doing this,” Lucas says confidently.
When communications are down nowadays, it is impossible to conduct business. Hence, organisations may provide a controlled experience by enabling their staff to work without being concerned about the underlying technology. Additionally, they can analyse the underlying cause of any problems in their surroundings and take preventative measures.
With this, employees can concentrate on their work without unneeded interruptions or ambiguity and will have faith that the communication solution their organisation has deployed will work as planned.
“Partnering with Zoom enables quick innovation to keep up with the times. You can take advantage of a constant flow of fresh features that correspond to actual user requirements,” Lucas says. “Moreover, by frequently communicating with their support group, organisations will rapidly realise what is possible.”
Fireside Chat: How to Prepare for the Transition to the “Cloud Culture”
Geetha Gopal, Head of Infrastructure Projects Delivery and Digital Transformation, Panasonic Asia Pacific believes that every day, new technologies emerge and the culture of change is driving a paradigm shift for which an organisation must be prepared.
“As the COVID-19 outbreak rocked the world and we were unsure of what to do, our investments in technology became our strength,” says Geetha.
As the trend toward digitisation of remote work transforms the traditional office culture, a cloud culture has evolved. Likewise, cloud computing has become a competitive advantage for these organisations.
Every step toward better efficiency in the manufacturing sector increases competitiveness. Because of this, the industry’s embrace of cloud communications has become a crucial turning point. Cloud communications have changed the game for manufacturing by enabling increased efficiency while lowering IT expenditures.
“Cloud computing is the future, and organisations are successfully transitioning from the traditional office culture to the cloud culture,” Geetha says firmly.
Streamlining operations using scalable technological solutions for essential tasks and process optimisation not only helps reduce costs but also frees up time for businesses to devote to value-adding endeavours.
This is crucial now more than ever as operations teams struggle to keep up with the quickening speed of product and investment strategy development being observed among clients.
The new service-focused, client-centric operating model for investment operations will be made possible by technology, data and scalability. Organisations need to realise that the greatest way to prepare for the future is to create it as they deal with this period of constant innovation.
As a result, operations leaders who are taking steps to redesign, reinvent and adapt their operations may ultimately be in a stronger position.
Geetha emphasises that collaboration, communication and connectivity are crucial for success in today’s work environment. The key to maximising these contacts is digital communication. “For efficient communication and productivity, your company primarily depends on specific systems, platforms, and applications.”
More organisations are understanding the enormous advantages of migrating their systems to the cloud as technology continues to progress. In addition to allowing organisations to remain relevant in a competitive market, innovation plays a vital role in economic growth. Innovations are required to solve key problems.
One of the tactics that may be employed to save money while maximising organisational resources and extending communication skills and reach is advance planning.
An advantage of cloud communications for aiding staff members in a hybrid workforce is the reduction in time spent travelling to the workplace. Employees can save time travelling with the hybrid model simultaneously offering the chance to be more productive.
Despite the importance of enabling technology, it is the human workforce that will not only execute the organisation’s digital transformation strategy but also ensure its long-term success.
Guaranteeing that personnel are up to the task, however, needs not only technical training but also a radical transformation in thinking and decision-making.
It is important to focus on organisational culture by changing the management programme and making concerted efforts to close the gap between the internal aspect and employees.
Organisations that are unable to develop and achieve new goals that will assist their employees and business to thrive are those that are unwilling to alter existing practices.
“The pandemic can no longer be an excuse or the reason – remote work is here to stay. If we want skilled employees then we need to concentrate on their needs – we must empower our employees,” Geetha concludes.
Lucas believes that every problem has a solution since most organisations fail to connect their strategy to their innovation objectives. “Change is a constant process, and what we say today might leave a legacy tomorrow. Any plan for digital transformation, in our opinion, must be built around digital innovation.”
The road of digital transformation must involve a competitive advantage that can only be sustained by introducing innovations and contemporary methods if it is to stay modern and please clients with cutting-edge goods and services.
For every change, there is a call for managerial backing to be successful and transformative. Zoom is happy to discuss how digital transformation budgets differ from traditional business or IT budgets to meet the demands of any organisation.
Lucas believes that cloud computing is transforming not only how many organisations access and store data, but also how many of these businesses run. It provides greater protection, flexibility, data recovery, minimal to no maintenance and ease of access.
“Although many people used to hesitate the cloud computing, they have now realised how important it has become to organisations,” Lucas has observed.
Mohit believes that changes in computers and how technologies are distributed are altering the ecosystem, especially for those who work in a hybrid environment. He encourages delegates to start establishing a strategy to utilise the cloud’s benefits for their businesses and services. “Organisations should determine the types of cloud services for which you require solutions, then meet with cloud service providers to determine the best long-term match.”
Both public and private organisations benefit from the adaptability, efficiency, scalability, security, improved collaboration and cost savings that cloud computing offers. “The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated cloud adoption, but it is anticipated that cloud computing is here to stay, especially since hybrid work assumes a central role,” Mohit concludes.