11 October 2005
Business Times Singapore
©2005 Singapore Press Holdings Limited
THE Singapore Israel Industrial R&D Foundation (SIIRD) is investing about US$3 million in six new joint projects, but there is still more scope for cooperation, according to an Israeli official.
"I would say that Singapore is very well-known in Israel but not enough on the basis of the quality of Singapore's science and technology and research development," said Azriel Hemar, deputy chief scientist of Israel's Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labour. "I think Israel appreciates Singapore as a manufacturing hub, as a marketing hub, but not yet as a knowledge hub - one of the aims of Singapore."
Still, credit must be given to SIIRD for matching compatible companies from both countries and funding their collaboration. The latest injection brings funding by the foundation so far to US$53 million, and the number of joint projects to 53.
Administered by Singapore's Economic Development Board and Israel's Office of the Chief Scientist in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labour, SIIRD funds up to half the cost of joint technology development programmes undertaken by companies from Singapore and Israel. It was set up in 1997, following a cooperation agreement signed by both countries in 1996.
The six new joint projects will involve 12 companies and almost 90 research scientists and engineers from both sides. The latest participating companies from Singapore include Creative Technology, Excelpoint Systems, Vidzmedia, Ntegrator, XID Technologies and Xhance. The technologies to be developed include an interactive voice interface for household appliances, a video surveillance system based on facial and body recognition, and a mobile digital TV card for USB ports.
Speaking to BT during Global Entrepolis @ Singapore, Mr Hemar said he hopes the cooperation developed at the enterprise level can be taken upstream. "I think we've achieved quite a lot of economic activities between Israel and Singapore companies," he said. "But I think at the research or academic level, there's not enough." He attributes this to a traditional tendency of Israeli companies to look to the US and Europe when it comes to international co-operation in science and technology.
Similarly, Singapore too looks to the US and Europe, said SIIRD general manager Chan Eng Chye. "Based on anecdotal interaction with the researchers here, many of them are aware of the well known institutes in Israel, such as the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) and Weizmann Institutes", he said. "It's just that Israel is not a natural market."
Discussions about whether SIIRD should also cover academic collaboration are still in progress. Meanwhile, Mr Hemar already has a few ideas to take the bilateral cooperation further. He said: "We, of course, are also looking at Middle East as a new market, but because of our geopolitical situation in relation with the Arab countries, it might be easier for us to do business in the Middle East through Singapore, rather than do it directly."