New initiative to connect Singapore and China tech firms

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The Singapore Government has launched in China the first overseas initiative under the Global Innovation Alliance (GIA), a network to promote entrepreneurship and innovation with a focus on technology.

The GIA (Beijing) initiative will see IE Singapore create launch pads for Singapore firms to connect with the business community in China, and let both sides benefit from the innovative ideas springing from their respective start-up scenes.

A key reason China has been chosen as the first springboard for GIA is the vibrancy of its start-up ecosystem, with more than 10,000 new start-ups registered every day.

Speaking at the launch at the 798 Art District in Beijing yesterday (Nov 24), Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat noted that Chinese President Xi Jinping had prioritised strategic initiatives aimed at innovation at last month’s 19th party congress, and that local governments across China have already begun taking measures to promote innovation and commercialisation of research and development.

“I see a lot of potential where both countries can work together in the area of innovation,” Mr Heng said.

“With so much energy and potential in the Chinese innovation ecosystem, what is important is to bring together people with many talents and from diverse backgrounds to work together, so that they can exchange ideas and inspire one another to experiment and create new solutions that can be of value to others.”

GIA is a key recommendation in the February report by the Committee on the Future Economy, which is chaired by Mr Heng.

In his Budget speech in the same month, Mr Heng said the initiative aims to give Singaporeans opportunities to gain overseas experience, build networks and collaborate with their counterparts in other innovative cities.

Yesterday’s event saw nine start-ups pitch their ideas at the IE Singapore-CapitaLand Tech and Innovation Summit, with the winners getting funding and a chance to testbed their solutions at CapitaLand’s office buildings, shopping malls and residential developments in China and Singapore.

Among the nine finalists are three Singapore start-ups – fintech firm M-Daq, facility management analytics firm Smart Clean and ViSenze, an AI company.

CapitaLand China CEO Lucas Loh said his firm is a prime example of how technology can improve even the most traditional of companies, such as real estate developers.

Technologies it first implemented in China and is rolling out across more of its projects include facial recognition at entry points of its office buildings.

“China has a wide pool of available opportunities as well as ideas (and) we see an abundance of opportunities to tap new applications of technology in areas related to our business,” he said.

Mr Heng is on a five-day visit to China. Before arriving in Beijing, he was in Suzhou to co-chair the 11th Singapore-Jiangsu Cooperation Council meeting and launch the NUS Enterprise’s Block71 Suzhou, a hub for start-ups located in Suzhou Industrial Park.

While in Beijing, Mr Heng will also visit Tsinghua University and deliver an address outlining his views on Singapore’s relations with China. He will also call on senior Chinese officials, and visit ride-sharing giant Didi Chuxing.

He is accompanied by Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon, as well as officials from the ministries of Finance, Education, and Trade and Industry, as well as from IE Singapore.

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