4 June 2005
Business Times Singapore
© 2005 Singapore Press Holdings Limited 47 projects, staffed by 700 engineers, research scientists
THOUGH it's not widely known, Singapore and Israel have been partners on the high-tech front since 1997, having spent a total of US$50 million on joint research projects to date.
Through the Singapore-Israel Industrial R&D Foundation (SIIRD), the two countries have cooperated on 47 projects, which employ nearly 700 research scientists and engineers. And now both want to organise brokerage meetings for Singapore and Israeli IT companies during CEBIT 2006 in Germany. 'They will typically meet each other in a designated meeting place over a period of one to two days,' said SIIRD general manager Chan Eng Chye. 'This is effective for companies to meet many potential partners within a short period of time. They could proceed with more detailed discussions on their own if they find the partners suitable.'
Set up in 1997, SIIRD was the result of a bilateral cooperation agreement signed by both countries in 1996. The non-profit foundation is now administered by Singapore's Economic Development Board and Israel's Office of the Chief Scientist in the Ministry of Industry and Trade. It funds up to half the cost of joint technology development programmes undertaken by companies from Singapore and Israel. Funding for SIIRD is contributed equally by both governments.
"For Israeli companies, Singapore serves as a gateway to the Asia Pacific region and offers fast-growing R&D and technological competence,' said Mr Chan. 'On the other hand, Israel has a global reputation for its entrepreneurial spirit, large numbers of start-ups, high-level research base and vast human intellectual resources."
Some of the projects under way include a carpark management system that incorporates licence plate recognition, an intelligent pest control system, and a portable robotic platform which can automatically seed, transplant and harvest vegetables anywhere in the world any time of the year. Right now, 80 per cent of the projects are at different stages of commercialisation.
Mr Chan reckons that the setting-up of the SIIRD also promoted greater awareness among businesses of the advantages offered by both countries. Currently, the number of Israeli companies here is estimated to be around 50, although the figures may be higher if one counts US and European firms with Israeli origins. In March, the listing of Sarin Technologies on the Singapore Exchange was the first by an Israeli company.
From Singapore, Vertex Management, a unit under Singapore Technologies, has two funds totalling US$190 million that is used for investments in Israeli companies.
The Israel Economic Mission in Singapore says Israel-Singapore trade last year came to US$556 million, of which US$316.2 million consisted of Israeli exports to Singapore.