ISSUE #67 – Ambassador of Singapore to France H.E. Zainal Mantaha (pictured below) shares more about the bilateral innovation initiatives in this Year of Innovation, in particular the activities that have taken place in France thus far.
Innovation is a critical enabler of economic and social transformation to better lives and societies. France has long-established strengths in research and development, and President Emmanuel Macron has declared his vision to turn France into a “start-up nation” and placed innovation at the heart of his reforms. On its part, Singapore has made great progress over the years in strengthening its research, innovation and enterprise value chain, in collaboration with educational institutions, enterprises and other actors. Both countries understand the strategic advantages of strong, mutually-beneficial partnerships and alliances in developing their respective innovation ecosystems.
It is in this context that Singapore and France declared 2018 as the Year of Innovation (YOI) to deepen innovation partnerships, and allow both countries to harness complementarities and synergies arising from our different experiences, find areas of convergence and take advantage of one another’s innovation capacities. The YOI will also enable us to profile and structure our growing innovation partnerships under a coherent framework, creating a platform for innovation actors to interact, exchange ideas, spot untapped opportunities and launch new initiatives together.
In France, the YOI kicked off with a bang, auspiciously coinciding with Chinese New Year in February 2018. Organised by the Singapore Embassy in Paris, in collaboration with our colleagues from the Economic Development Board (EDB), the event resembled more a start-up launch event than a typical diplomatic reception. First, it was held in a venue located in the heart of Sentier, the place to be in Paris if you are a tech and tech-related enterprise. Second, we incorporated a lively interactive information seminar, featuring a presentation by EDB on Singapore as a partner for French innovation providers, as well as a panel of French start-ups sharing their experience with the Singapore innovation ecosystem. Third, guests were engaged to contribute to the conversations about French-Singapore collaborations in the priority YOI sectors on a “wall of ideas”.
YOI Launch Event in February 2018 – lo hei
The YOI launch event attracted a strong turnout of close to 200 representatives in the French innovation ecosystem, and allowed us to spread the YOI message to a large and diverse audience in the French tech scene, ranging from the grandes entreprises to the SMEs and start-ups. Senator Jacky Deromedi and Secretary-General for Investments Mr Guillaume Boudy, who oversees the French government’s “Investment for the Future” programme, were among those who honoured us with their attendance. And what would be a Singapore Chinese New Year event without the lo-hei ceremony – the communal tossing of raw fish salad to enlist the spirits of fortune and prosperity to ensure the success of our joint ventures!
Another major highlight in our YOI calendar in France was Singapore’s inaugural participation in the 2018 Viva Technology Forum in Paris in May 2018. Minister for Communications and Information and Minister in-charge-of Trade Relations Mr S Iswaran led a delegation comprising officials of the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Enterprise Singapore, as well as senior executives of the Action Community for Enterprise and SGInnovate, and 15 Singapore start-ups to raise the profile of the Singapore start-up ecosystem in one of the most important technology and innovation event in Europe. Minister Iswaran delivered a keynote address at the Singapore Conference titled “Collaboration for Innovation” and participated in an interactive dialogue with French Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation Frédérique Vidal to promote Singapore as a gateway for French companies to expand into ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific. In his intervention, Minister Iswaran explained how French companies and start-ups could take advantage of Singapore’s strong innovation and start-up ecosystem and its extensive linkages with the region, to help them gain useful market insights and locate partners that could help them access regional markets more effectively. We were pleased that President Macron even cited Singapore as one of the partners with a thriving innovation ecosystem, with which France was keen to work in his address at VivaTech. French non-profit organisation Hello Tomorrow also inked an MOU with Enterprise Singapore during the visit to develop deep tech start-ups, focusing on accelerating technology transfer into real-world applications.
Interactive dialogue between Singapore Minister Iswaran and with French Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation Frédérique Vidal to promote Singapore as a gateway for French companies to expand into ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific on the sidelines of VivaTech in May 2018
Not long after Singapore’s milestone VivaTech participation, we capitalised on the official visit of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to France to attend the French National Day celebrations on 14 July as President Macron’s Guest-of-Honour to inject even more momentum in efforts to attain the objectives of YOI. Both President Macron and PM Lee reaffirmed the strong economic and innovation cooperation between the two countries. Notably, there are close to 2000 French companies in Singapore with extensive Regional HQ, innovation and manufacturing activities for the Asia region, including Airbus, Thales, and Sanofi. French start-ups like Kpler, Metron Lab and Actility have also established regional headquarters in Singapore. The EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, when ratified, will give further impetus to this momentum and further enable European and French companies to tap on Singapore’s positioning to access innovation, growth, and business opportunities in the broader Southeast Asian region. In addition, both leaders issued the France-Singapore Roadmap for Deepening Cooperation in Digital Innovation, Internet Governance and Cybersecurity to reaffirm our mutual commitment to intensify dialogue at the bilateral, regional and inter-regional levels on issues concerning the development of the digital economy. The release of this roadmap is a manifestation of both countries’ interest in engaging each other in new emerging areas such as cybersecurity and digital governance.
Singapore PM Lee‘s visit to France in July 2018
In conjunction with the Prime Minister’s visit, Minister for Trade & Industry Chan Chun Sing and Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, Mr Mounir Mahjoubi, witnessed the signing of two agreements with ESSEC and Creative Valley to launch the Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) Programme in Paris. The GIA programme will help Singapore start-ups kick-start their activities in target markets. The GIA has been established in San Francisco, Jakarta, Bangkok and Beijing. GIA Paris is the first in Europe. Its launch speaks of our confidence in the strengths of the French start-up ecosystem and France’s potential as a gateway for Singapore start-ups to scale up at the international level, either on their own or in collaboration with French enterprises or start-ups. GIA Paris will also facilitate the entry of French start-ups in Singapore and the region beyond. To complement the GIA, Singapore also welcomed the establishment a French start-up hub under Version 2 of the French Tech Hub programme, as well as the Impact accelerator programme, in Singapore, which would help French start-ups launch and scale in Singapore and Southeast Asia, leveraging Singapore’s strong regional networks. Together, GIA Paris, as well as the French Tech Hub and the Impact acceleration programme in Singapore, will help to forge even closer two-way links in innovation and start-ups between the two countries.
Singapore Minister Chan Chun Sing and French Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, Mounir Mahjoubi, at Station F to launch the Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) Programme in Paris in July 2018
I am pleased with the progress we have made over the last eight months. Activities held under the aegis of the YOI both in Singapore and France have added much impetus and visibility to our bilateral innovation cooperation. There remains much to do in the latter half of YOI. Most imminently, we look forward to the visit of Secretary of State for Digital Affairs Mounir Mahjoubi to Singapore in September for the Singapore Week of Innovation & TeCHnology (SWITCH) 2018, a leading “plug and play” platform in Asia that showcases the best ideas, technology and innovation from around the world – very similar to the positioning of VivaTech in France and Europe. It will provide opportunities for more partnerships and tie-ups between innovation actors of the two countries.
Perhaps, more importantly, as we approach the close of the France-Singapore Year of Innovation, we would also need to think ahead and discuss how to sustain and build on the good momentum generated by YOI. We look forward to discussing various ideas and modalities with our partners to concretise the YOI legacy.
Read also: A word from the Ambassador of France to Singapore H.E. Marc Abensour
A word from the Ambassador of Singapore to France H.E. Zainal Mantaha
Published in FOCUS Magazine — Issue #3 2018 “The Innovation Issue”