UK-Singapore Innovating Together for the 21st Century

On the occasion of the State Visit by Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam to the United Kingdom, the UK-ASEAN Business Council (UKABC) teamed up with the British High Commission in Singapore's UKTI and Science & Innovation teams and Singapore's National Research Foundation on 22 October to deliver the "UK-Singapore Innovating Together for the 21st Century" event at the Royal Society. 

By Judith Slater, Deputy High Commissioner


Attended by over 100 businessmen, policy makers and scientists from the UK and Singapore, the event both celebrated the strength of the ongoing collaboration between the two countries and looked ahead to a bright future, implementing the Innovation and Research Partnership (IRP), launched the same day at No 10 day by UK Prime Minister David Cameron and President Tan


Lord Livingston and Grace Fu (fifth and sixth from left) with panellists and representatives of UK businesses succeeding in Singapore


Welcoming the IRP, Trade Minister Lord Livingston, who opened the event said “this partnership will help the joined-up approach between our two countries to thrive”, and called on participants to “delve deeper, share ideas and meet new collaborators”. He said “innovation and reinvention...[are] at the heart of the Singapore story”, and he highlighted the “synergies between the UK and Singapore as outward-looking, open economies and gateways to our respective regions of Europe and Asia”.    



Singaporean Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Grace Fu said her country offered a warm welcome to UK businesses large and small who wished to do business in and with Singapore, the natural gateway to South East Asia. She echoed Lord Livingston in welcoming the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, concluded earlier in the week. 



Jonathan Asherson, ASEAN and Pacific Regional Director of Rolls Royce, Lily Chan, CEO of National University of Singapore, Enterprise and Geoff Mulgan, CEO of the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts also spoke at the Plenary, chaired by UKTI SE Asia Regional Director, Judith Slater.



Mr Asherson described Rolls Royce’s holistic approach to innovation as part of their long-standing collaboration with A*Star and other Singaporean government agencies. 


Ms Chan spoke of NUS Enterprise’s establishment of an innovative culture throughout NUS and Singapore’s ongoing work to develop an ecosystem which enabled and encouraged innovative companies to spring up and flourish. She referred to their learnings from Cambridge and Tech City in the UK and also local infrastructure such as Block 71 and its upcoming neighbouring buildings which were ideal for start-ups.



Geoff Mulgan described NESTA’s burgeoning work overseas and work to ensure government interventions nurtured innovation and got as many people involved as possible, through inducements such as prizes like the recently–revived Longitude Prize.  


Two afternoon seminars attracted outstanding panels. The “Smart Nation” panel consisted of  Professor Bertil Anderson - President, Nanyang Technological University (NTU); Professor Low Teck Seng - CEO, National Research Foundation of Singapore;  Steve Leonard, Executive Vice-Chair, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore; Professor Dame Wendy Hall, University of Southampton and Director of the Web Science Institute; and Neil Crockett - CEO, Connected Digital Economy Catapult. The discussion ranged across the various aspects of building a truly smart nation, from developing a regulatory structure that creates public confidence in how their data is shared and used, to the ways in which improvements to infrastructure can respond to the challenge of aging societies. A clear link was the way in which the UK and Singapore are hubs for their respective regions, and could collaborate to test and deploy solutions for wider markets.



The “Reinventing Healthcare” panel comprised Ben Seet, Executive Director , Biomedical Sciences Research Council, A*STAR; Professor Ragna Krishnan, Dean, Duke-NUS Medical School; Sir Roy Anderson, Professor of Infectious disease Epidemiology, Imperial College; and Polly Wilson, Lead Technologist, InnovateUK. The session explored some of the many common challenges our two ageing populations faced, and how to work with the rise of patient lobby groups pressuring for earlier trials of new drugs for dementia and other conditions. UK panellists described the UK’s ongoing issues with antimicrobial resistance, and their Singapore colleagues explained Singapore's approach to public health and how that differed from the UK’s.  The panel also discussed the international response to ebola, including whether there was read-across to how Asia/Singapore handled SARS (although the two diseases are very different).  They also debated the ethical and legal issues raised by seeking to deploy vaccines quicker than normal in crises.


The closing plenary was chaired by the Royal Society's CEO, Dr Julie Maxton. Addressing the plenary, Martin Donnelly, Permanent Secretary of BIS, welcomed both the signing of the IRP and the continuing broader bilateral collaboration under the auspices of the UK-Singapore Economic and Business partnership, signed in 2011 by Business Secretary Vince Cable and Singapore’s Trade Minister Lim Hng Kiang. Sir John O’Reilly, Prof Low and Ben Seet agreed on the importance of both government and academic-institution- built frameworks for collaboration and their funding, as well as more spontaneous and free-flowing exchange. The IRP would add to the existing architecture and facilitate creativity.       


Prior to the event, President Tan met the keynote speakers and also representatives from a selection of UK businesses with recent success stories in Singapore, as follows: Nick Lamb Vice Chairman of architects Benoy;  Gary McIlraith, CEO of Netnames, protectors of brands through technology; Julie Flanagan , MD of Eleisha Training Ltd, who deliver outsourced learning online; and Daryl Arnold, CEO of  Singaporean company Newton Circus, who have tied up with Appello, UK to provide mobile and smart home assisted living technologies.     


From left to right: Nick Lamb, Vice Chairman of Architects Benoy, President Tan and Lord Livingston


UK-Singapore Innovation & Research Partnership

The United Kingdom and Singapore share common aims of using research and innovation to enhance
competitiveness and generate prosperity. Our governments, companies and universities have long standing collaborations focused on creating knowledge and boosting the education and skills of future generations.


Singapore and the United Kingdom sit at the crossroads of global flows of knowledge and trade, providing access to the best talent and opportunities in our respective regions. Our partnership is underpinned by the strength of our bilateral collaboration in research and innovation activities. We are also working together to address wider challenges, particularly barriers to development in South-East Asia.


The UK–Singapore Partners in Science initiative, launched in 2004, encouraged joint work on a wide range of scientific topics and has delivered real benefits to both countries. Ten years on we expand our commitment by broadening the partnership to include innovation and the wider research agenda. The successful application of knowledge and research to drive the development and exploitation of ideas will mean that our countries can continue to respond to challenges and changes, increasing competiveness and improving standards of living.


This is a genuine partnership in which both countries will contribute and benefit through a range of approaches such as:


  • Shared learning through exchange and mobility of students, researchers, entrepreneurs and policymakers;
  • Co-ordination, joint funding and shared access for research and development activities and
  • Joint challenge and prize initiatives, testbeds and support for early stage innovative companies.


Implementation of the partnership will be co-ordinated by the National Research Foundation in Singapore and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills in the United Kingdom. A working group will be formed including representatives from companies and universities with progress reviewed at Permanent Secretary level as necessary.


Rolls-Royce in Singapore


Rolls-Royce is working closely with Singapore’s top universities and government agencies to conduct research, to find new ways to apply that research in manufacturing processes and to train workers for employment in advanced manufacturing.


  • Research & Technology:
    • As part of its global Research & Technology acquisition activities, Rolls-Royce is engaged with local research partners in Singapore including A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research), NTU (Nanyang Technological University) and NUS (National University of Singapore).
    • In May 2012, Rolls-Royce signed a MOU with A*STAR’s SIMTech (Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology) and NTU along with industry leaders to establish the Advanced Remanufacturing & Technology Centre (ARTC) of Singapore. This ARTC is scheduled to be opened in January 2015.
    • In July 2013, Rolls-Royce signed an agreement with NTU to establish the Rolls-Royce@NTU Corporate Lab at a joint investment of S$75 million between NTU, Rolls- Royce and the National Research Foundation, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore.
    • In addition, our Advanced Technology Centre (ATC) at our Seletar Campus is an important part of the Group’s investment in developing advanced technologies to support core business areas. The ATC focuses on four key fields of research: materials support technology, computational engineering, electrical power and control systems, and manufacturing technology.
  • Training and Development:
    • Rolls-Royce has been working with Singapore’s National Trade Union Congress’ e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency to develop specialist training and qualifications to support the aerospace and marine industry as it continues to develop in the region.
    • The Group also participates in the EDB’s Training and Attachment Programme (TAP), which aims to help companies develop manpower capabilities and prepare for growth.


The Rolls-Royce Seletar Campus at Seletar Aerospace Park is a testament to our commitment to Singapore. The Campus significantly increases Rolls-Royce manufacturing capacity, and provides greater proximity to the Group’s growing customer base in the Asia Pacific region.


Built on a 154,000 sqm site, we employ over 700 people on site, 90% of who are Singaporeans or PR, bringing innovative high value manufacturing techniques to Singapore.


Our Wide Chord Fan Blade manufacturing facility (WCFB) is the Group’s first facility outside the UK to manufacture hollow titanium WCFBs, a unique technology which has played a key role in the success of the Trent aero engine family. At full capacity, this facility will produce over 7,600 fan blades per year.


Our Seletar Assembly and Test Unit (SATU) assembles and tests Trent 900 and more recently the Trent 1000 engines. It is the Group’s first in Asia and is designed to allow simultaneous assembly and testing of large Trent aero engines under one roof. At full capacity the facility will produce up to 250 engines per year.


We are pleased to say that the Seletar Campus has come full circle as we prepare to launch and produce a Trent 1000 engine Made in Singapore for Singapore’s very own low cost carrier, Scoot.