March 5, 2021

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SG$66 million tech R&D centre for Singapore

Even before Covid-19, nations were witnessing a shift in many supply chains, in response to the growing fragmentation of the global system. With the pandemic, countries can expect further reorganisation through reshoring and diversification, to adapt to the rapid advancements in technology and digitalisation.

In this context, having enough engineers and research and development talent will help a nation like Singapore and other neighbouring countries weather the storm whipped by the pandemic. To fill this need, a tech giant officially launched a US$50 million (SG$66 million) research and development centre in Singapore that will drive innovation in computing near where data is located.

The R&D centre, a Global Innovation Hub and one of several in the world, will focus on making advances in digital transformation and experiences. The firm’s investment in the hub, located in International Business Park in Jurong East and Changi Business Park, will also create more than 160 jobs – mostly for Singaporeans – in emerging tech, including for designers, developers and strategists.

While the tech giant has other innovation hubs globally, the Singapore one is the first outside the United States to have an Experience Innovation Group that does R&D to improve user experiences, including conceptualising and developing futuristic concept products and solutions.

One of their flagship techs is called edge computing and is expected to take advantage of the roll-out of 5G mobile networks in the country. Such technology can involve computers or devices like sensors analysing data they collect before uploading selected information or results to a network, called the cloud, to be accessed by users in another location.

The tech company’s President for the Asia Pacific and Japan and Global Digital Cities noted that in the next decade, edge computing is going to dwarf cloud computing or the delivery of computer services and applications over networks. When edge computing becomes more mainstream in the next three to five years, R&D in this space will be driven from Singapore.

Moreover, edge computing will become important in future, especially for smart cities, which the country is also looking to build more on. Among other things, be cheaper to process reams of data where it is being collected and then upload the results. Another area is cloud-native architecture, or software and systems designed specifically to be deployed over a network, which can be used to support building smart nations and to help modernise a workforce. This contrasts with uploading all the collected data to be analysed elsewhere, which can also be difficult if there is a poor or limited network connection.

Besides edge computing, the hub’s R&D areas include augmented reality (AR) to enhance customer experiences, cybersecurity to monitor threats and prevent security incidents, digital analytics, and enhancing user experiences.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, who launched the Singapore hub at International Business Park, said that the opening is timely, as it complements Singapore’s efforts to emerge stronger from the Covid-19 pandemic.

He noted that as the pandemic disrupted supply chains globally, the tech firm’s artificial intelligence and analytics team modelled historical demand data from past pandemic events and ramped up consumer hardware supply. This helped them to move stock quickly to fulfil orders for consumers.

While the tech company did not disclose if it received co-funding from the Government, it said the Singapore Global Innovation Hub is supported by Digital Industry Singapore, a joint office of the Economic Development Board, Enterprise Singapore and Infocomm Media Development Authority that engages with the tech sector.

Accordingly, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said that innovative ventures sprouting across the corporate landscape will provide crucial support to the country’s economic recovery. He also added that the challenge is to find creative ways to find synergies between the capabilities of these large corporates with the fresh and creative ideas of start-ups to create successful new ventures for the country.

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