Collaborating with SMEs to build a digital ecosystem

Announcing a spending of S$80 million in the 2017 budget to help SMEs to go digital, the Singapore Government is looking to enhance the country’s capabilities in the areas of data and cybersecurity

This article was first published in Orient magazine, 27th June 2017


By Bicky Bhangu, Regional Director South East Asia and Pacific, Rolls-Royce


Unveiling measures to boost Singapore’s economic growth, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat delivered the 2017 Budget, laying out the Government’s priorities over the coming year. With a sharpened focus to develop Singapore’s digital capabilities and remain an innovative nation, it has made small and medium enterprises (SMEs) its priority this year. Announcing a spending of S$80 million to help SMEs to go digital, the Government is looking to enhance Singapore’s capabilities in the areas of data and cybersecurity. It also plans to increase its collaboration with global partners and customers.


As an organisation centred on innovation, Rolls-Royce is developing its digital capabilities through a coordinated approach across Europe and Asia. Specific to Singapore, there is a strong fit between our Digital Strategy and Singapore’s vision to boost its capabilities in driving a digital economy.


At the core of the company’s Digital Strategy is the consistent investment in Research and Development (R&D). Last year alone, we invested £1.3 billion in R&D initiatives to keep us at the forefront of innovation and help bring to life future-forward products and solutions. Furthermore, we have made a very deliberate and considered focus on building our digital capabilities and with that, a digital ecosystem. This will help us win future global market share and provide us with a complete end-to-end view of our products through its lifecycle – from Research & Technology (R&T) through to helping our customers maximise the benefits of their assets and optimise their operations.


A common thread of success in our Digital activities to date is the collaborative work between SMEs, research institutions, academic partners and airline customers. This can be seen through the Applied Technology Group based in Seletar and the CorpLab in Nanyang Technological University. Our Customer Service Centre, which supports all airline customers across Asia Pacific, also enables a more responsive workflow.  



Long-term partnerships


For several decades, we’ve successfully used a collaborative approach and developed strong partnerships that go beyond standard endowments or research programmes. Such collaborations have seen the successful delivery of key technology programmes that have resulted in cross-sector applications. The Advanced Remanufacturing & Technology Centre (ARTC) is one such example. Launched in 2014, the ARTC follows an industry-led public-private partnership across sectors and supply chains. It is a platform for the public sector research laboratories to partner with academia and industries to help bridge technological gaps in the adoption of advanced manufacturing processes. One example is our collaboration at the ARTC with a local SME, AmpTec Industrial Heating; together, we developed a dry ice blasting machine, which is an eco-friendly technique for cleaning aircraft engine components without using industrial chemicals. Apart from creating digital efficiencies within the industry, projects like this is helping Singapore move to a more sustainable manufacturing process as well as opening up new business possibilities for local enterprises.


Digital and innovative excellence are increasingly seen as equally important facets of a country’s economic status and clout as well as major contributors to the global economy. The Government is also working closely with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) to support 400 companies over the next four years to create roadmaps for operation and technology. This will enable enterprises to remain competitive and develop deep capabilities.


Earlier this year, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with A*STAR. The MoU will facilitate the growth and development of a local digital ecosystem encouraging SMEs to work collaboratively in technology centres. The Centres are essentially a ‘sandpit’ where SMEs and industrial players can work together to uncover a world of data and the huge potential that comes with it. They can find new patterns, solutions, and products to facilitate the areas of sensor technology and computational science development. These solutions could potentially be applied beyond the aerospace and marine industries, and to similar context industries like the healthcare and cyber security sectors. Such innovative playgrounds related to knowledge generation and sharing will help Singapore grow on a global scale, thus, creating in the process new jobs and opportunities, generating wealth and adding punch to the soft power of the city.


Equally important are partnerships between the public and private sector. As Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat shared, digitalisation and innovation is what enables cities to prosper, while staying connected to the world. Through valuable collaborations with local industry partners, there is a unique opportunity for Singapore to accelerate and develop smart manufacturing capabilities that can place Singapore as Digital leaders on the global platform.



About the author


Dr Bicky Bhangu is Regional Director for South East Asia & Pacific at Rolls-Royce. He has been with Rolls-Royce since 2007 initially based in UK and subsequently moved to Singapore in 2009. Bicky is the Chairman of the Institution of Engineering Technology (IET), Engineering Fellow of the IET and a Chartered Engineer. He is the Chairman for IET Singapore Network. Bicky served as the Chairman for Aerospace Industry Skills and Training Council (ISTC) supporting Workforce Development Agency (WDA) to oversee the skills development for the Singapore aerospace industry (2013 – 2015). He is serving the Singapore Maritime Port Authority (MPA) as select committee member for R&D investment in green port technologies.


Bicky has a BEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the University of Nottingham, an MSc in Control Systems, PhD in Advanced Machines and Drives from the University of Sheffield and an MBA in Technology Management. Bicky is an Adjunct Professor at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.


About Rolls-Royce Singapore


Rolls-Royce is a pre-eminent engineering company focused on world-class power and propulsion systems. Established in Singapore since the 1950s, today the country is a key regional hub for the Rolls-Royce Civil, Defence, Marine and Power Systems businesses. For more information, visit