Letter from Singapore: Knowledge at the Core
This week a group of Norwegian Members of Parliament visited Singapore – the Standing Committee on Research and Education. Their purpose was twofold. Firstly, we wanted to explore the close linkages between research and business development in Singapore, in short how knowledge translates into money in this economy. Secondly, their visit allowed for a quick look at an educational system that differs significantly from ours. It became an interesting visit – for the visiting Parliamentarians and for us at the Embassy. We were reminded of the importance of knowledge for any modern economy, and we got a good look at how knowledge is being built in Singapore. Most research activities in Singapore are aimed at developing this nation’s competitive edge. The government spends a good 1% of the GDP on research, and the industry itself more than matches that amount. Much of the government-funded research is carried out in close collaboration with industry, to ensure that research findings result in marketable products and services. One example of such teamwork is the Offshore Technology Center at the National University of Singapore (NUS), which is run jointly by the University and the ship and rig-builder group Keppel. Knowing the capabilities of NUS and Keppel I know that this center will become an important center of knowledge – in an industry of strategic importance to Norway, and situated in an area where we will see large investments in offshore exploration and production in the years to come. We can chose to see this as a challenge or an opportunity. I am convinced - our response must be to team up with Singaporean and other partners – to make sure that Norwegian know how and companies can help deliver the energy to fuel Asia’s growth. Fortunately, Innovation Norway has made sure that there already are close ties between NUS and people at Marintek and SINTEF. During the visit, we also made sure that our Parliamentarians met some members of the Norwegian business community. After being impressed with strategic Singaporean research policies, these meetings were in a way reassuring. We were reminded that Norwegian companies play in the premier league, too, notably in the maritime and offshore sectors. Our companies are attractive partners – precisely because of their knowledge and experience. They are not the least expensive, but they offer a kind of quality that there is still in high demand, in particular where reliability and safety really matters. We can continue to meet this demand, provided we keep developing our capabilities. Norwegian industry has shown a remarkable ability to reinvent itself, to transform strong competencies into something new. That is how a strong maritime tradition helped us become a global oil and gas nation, how our knowledge of fisheries is at the base of our success in
Norwegian industry has shown a remarkable ability to reinvent itself, to transform strong competencies into something new.
aquaculture. That is also how Norwegian start-ups in Singapore use our on-line experience to capture the business opportunities made by the millions of Asians who hook up to the web every month. I am convinced that we will see similar conversions of knowledge in the future. If we succeed in transforming our knowledge, it becomes a renewable resource. That will require that we allow ourselves to be challenged by opportunities and partnerships in new markets. It will also require a continued investment in research and innovation, and an education system that foster the talents of tomorrow. Knowledge will remain at the core of what Norway offers the world. That was the number one take-away for our visiting Parliamentarians – and an important message to reinforce for all of us who work to promote Norwegian interests abroad.
H.E. Ambassador Tormod C. Endresen leading the participants through the summit agenda.