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Scientific Cooperation

 

Scientific Cooperation

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY IN SINGAPORE: General Considerations

With a population of only 5.6 million inhabitants, it is the main Asian financial hub and with a maximum degree of openness to trade, it is the EU's largest trading partner in South-East Asia. The GDP (IMF 2018) amounts to about 360 billion USD (65 thousand USD per capita and third in the world per capita for purchasing power) even if a strong slowdown in growth is underway which is attributed to international tensions. Singapore is increasingly becoming the benchmark of high technology such as electronics, information technology, telecommunications, and biotechnology, where the Singapore government has invested heavily over the last twenty years. Singapore is one of the founding countries of ASEAN (the fifth largest economy in the world after EU, USA, China, and Japan) and in 2014 it hosted the 67th meeting of the ASEAN Committee on Science & Technology. In 2018 Singapore took over the ASEAN Presidency and adopted the slogan "resilience and innovation". The ambition of Singapore Presidency was to create a network of "smart cities" within ASEAN in the long term and to connect the poles dedicated to innovation by promoting regional synergies. This project is linked to that of cybersecurity. In this last area, Singapore cyber-security-week took place on September 2017. Singapore is also the second country in the world as a robotic density (about 7%) per worker in the manufacturing field.

Innovation Index: in GII-2018 it ranks 5th place worldwide. It is a startup hub resulting (according to the GENOME startup report) the 14th ecosystem in the world (third Asian after Beijing and Shanghai) but in the first and second world rankings for connectivity and talent.

Public and private investments in R&D: 16th place in the world (in GDP percentage). In the five-year RIE2020 plan (Research, Innovation, and Enterprise) an increase of about 20% in public R&D investments is expected compared to the RIE2015 plan, and a nearly duplicated figure compared to 10 years ago, for a total of 19 billion dollars (about 1% of GDP), of which 2.5 billion in new research sectors. The NRF (National Research Foundation), a department under the Prime Minister's office, establishes the national direction for research and development by developing policies, plans, and strategies for research, innovation, and business.

Number of Researchers: Singapore is also in seventh place worldwide for the number of researchers in relation to its population with a steady increase in the number of Ph.D. holders and of the individuals employed in research and development activities.

Higher and University Education: Singapore is the first country in the world in the results of the last PISA test 2015 (Program for International Student Assessment) on high school students in all three categories analyzed (mathematics, science, and reading). At the university level, the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) rank among the top 15 universities in the world according to QS2018 database. In particular, these universities are at the highest levels in the world in the fields of engineering and technology, electronics, materials physics, and natural sciences. Other universities are Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), Singapore Management University (SMU) and Management and Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS), as well as other minor ones.

Research Agencies: SNAS (Singapore National Academy of Science), promotes partnerships with the major international universities and research centers with a view to developing multi-disciplinary and multi-national research. A very important actor in the scientific and technological field of Singapore is the agency A*STAR (Agency for Science. Technology And Research), the main research funding agency with mainly applicative aims, which brings together about 20 leading-edge institutes in the biomedical, genetic field, chemistry and materials science and which has numerous international collaborations. A*STAR includes the Biomedical Research Council (BMRC), which supervises public research activities in the field of biomedical sciences, the Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC), which is responsible for public research activities in the field of physics and engineering, the A*STAR Graduate Academy (A*GA), which manages scholarships and coordinates inter-university collaboration programs, the Commercialization and Technology Transfer (ETPL) that facilitates technology transfer to industry. Recently, the Agency's aims and research themes have been redefined, with a change in top management.

Technological Research and Innovation Centers: In Singapore, there are many research and technological innovation centers in which public, private and university actors often converge synergistically. One of these is the NRF's CREATE (Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise) which involves 8 of the most prestigious foreign universities in addition to those in Singapore and which is dedicated to research sectors that translate into direct applications for economic and social benefits. A strong synergy between the University and the business world can be found, for example, also in BLOCK71, an ecosystem for startups created by NUS in partnership with SINGTEL and supported by the government. Many multinationals in the field of software, e-commerce, fintech, data handling have Innovation centers in Singapore (Google, PayPal, Visa, Microsoft, IBM, Expedia, Oracle, Philips, and many others).

Existing relations in Science & Technology between Singapore and Italy

Agreement and P.E.: Bilateral scientific and technological relations between Italy and Singapore are currently regulated by CST Agreement signed in Singapore on July 30, 1990, ratified by law n. 140 of March 6, 1996. A bilateral agreement for scientific and technological cooperation between the Italian government and that of Singapore, which was therefore signed on 23 May 2016 in Rome and is currently in the verification and ratification stage. The agreement, with the financial support of MAECI (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation) and MIUR (Ministry of Education, University and Research) on the Italian side, includes both the exchange of researchers and teachers and the financing of joint research projects.

Recent Institutional Visits: Former Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Alfano visit on 8 February 2018 which, in addition to meetings with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, he briefly met the Chairman of A*STAR with whom he mentioned the implementation of the MoU signed in occasion of the State Visit in 2016 and to the further possibilities of collaboration on the subject of start-ups and technologically innovative companies. Visit of the Minister of the Economy, Tria on March 25, 2019. Visit by a delegation of Italian parliamentarians, members of NATO Parliament Assembly, visited Singapore on May 6-9. Among the goals of the visit are the roles of technology and innovation for Defense, and those of artificial intelligence, cyber-security, and communication. Visit by The Italian Foreign Minister, Moavero on 7 and 8 May. The Minister, accompanied by Amb. Guariglia met with the Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, and Foreign Minister, Vivian Balakrishnan. In addition, there was a meeting with the local Italian community and a working lunch with representatives of the Italian community and a small business lunch with Italian entrepreneurs in Singapore.

University academic and scientific relations: From CINECA website, in the field of scientific and technological issues, there are currently about 20 agreements between Italian Universities and their Singaporean counterparts: in particular, we mention UniGE with NTU, UniMI with A*STAR in the fields of Physical Sciences, Industrial and Information Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science, Medical Sciences, UniMIB with A*STAR in the fields of Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, with NUS and SUTD, La Sapienza University of Rome with NTU. Excellent is the relations with "Luigi Bocconi" University of Milan, which also hosts several students from Singapore. New possibilities for agreements with other universities are currently undergoing preliminary discussions. In the biomedical field, the first participation of Singapore was in 2019 at UniStem Day organized by Prof. Elena Cattaneo (UniMi and Senator) which involved almost 100 universities from all over the world.

Scientific relations with research bodies: There was an MoU between CNR and NTU (8 December 2015) and the establishment of a joint laboratory on renewable energy, materials science and the exchange of researchers. In October 2015, the Italian and Singaporean Ministries of Defense reached an agreement for the development of a dual Robot for civil and military rescue purposes that will be developed by the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) of Genoa and by the I2R laboratory of A*STAR. An IFOM-A*STAR Laboratory, for the identification of new therapeutic approaches against cancer, was carried out with the contribution of FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology of Milan. IFOM network includes Italy, Singapore, and India. A possible new general agreement between CNR and NTU is currently under preliminary discussion and promising contacts have been initiated by researchers from other research institutions such as INFN, CREA, and ENEA.

Italian companies in Science & Technology (S&T): There is a strong interest from S6T private companies, especially in electronics, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, IT and telecommunications. The Italian presence in Singapore is strengthened every year. In addition to the long-standing presence of ST Microelectronics, more recently ENI, Finmeccanica, Leonardo, Saipem, Prysmian (formerly Pirelli Cavi) and Perfetti established their presence. To mention the acquisition, in 2011, by Menarini, of the Invida Group, leader of biopharmacy in Asia-Pacific, for about 220 million USD. ENEL has initiated the procedures to implement its innovation hub. Ferrero has also recently opened a research and innovation center on nutrition.

Italian presence: Singapore is a global pole of attraction where a considerable community of scientists and researchers operates not only from the Asian region but from all over the world (an increasing number of Italians but still less than other European countries). The Italian Paola Castagnoli from 2008 to 2014 founded and led as scientific director the research center SIgN (Singapore Immunology Network), funded by the government agency A*STAR. Francesco Mancini is currently co-director of the NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

 

Science & Technology Events

In November 2016, to further promote the spread of Italian companies in Singapore, Singapore Innovation Days were held, an initiative organized by CNR, ICE Agency, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Italian Chamber of Commerce in Singapore together with local institutional counterparts. The program saw the participation of around 60 Italian companies and institutions with the organization of round tables and visits to research centers specialized in different sectors (Aerospace, Cleantech, ICT, Digital, Fintech, Green Power, Medtech, Smart Cities). The initiative was successfully replicated also in 2017.

On December 5th, 2018, the traveling exhibition “Italy, the Beauty of Knowledge” was inaugurated in Singapore, organized by the DGSP of MAECI with the contribution of CNR, the City of Science and four important Italian science museums. The exhibition was hosted in Singapore National Museum during the period 6-23 December and had a significant number of visitors. An overview of the Italian research world was also presented.

On January 22th, 2019, the Italian Embassy sponsored the seminar:“Science meets Art: how to shape the future of Humanity” at the School of Art, Design and Mass Media of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) University, with Master Michelangelo Pistoletto, the Nobel laureate Ben Feringa and the moderation of Helga Nowotny, former President of the European Research Council (ERC). Previously the ceremony, the Terzo Paradiso masterpiece by Pistoletto was inaugurated at NTU.

On March 18, 2019, a day of Italian Innovation Series was held at Accenture Innovation hub during the visit of 5 Italian start-ups: D-Orbit, Foodchain, D-Eye, Leafspace, and Enerbrain. After the presentation of the start-ups, round tables were held on the opportunities that Singapore offers in this regard and on B2B meetings between companies and local stakeholders.

On April 15, 2019, on the occasion of the "Italian World Research Day", the Italian Embassy in Singapore in collaboration with LIBER (Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Bookish and Experimental Research) at the School of Art, Design and Mass Media of the Singaporean University Nanyang Technological University (NTU) organized the event: “Art meets Physics, a tribute to Leonardo Da Vinci” during which, among other things, the Italian technology developed for cultural heritage was presented.

 

Scientific Attaché Office

During 2018, the new position of the Scientific Attaché in Singapore was established, whose service commenced on 2 January 2019. The official presentation took place in the Ambassador's Residence in the presence of a large representation of the community of Italian researchers.

The Scientific Attaché is Dr. Nicola Bianchi, Research Director of the National Institute of Nuclear Physics, formerly also Scientific Expert at the UST and Office IX of the DGSP of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. He has carried out research activities in the field of Nuclear and Subnuclear Physics publishing over 300 works, with an H-index higher than 100, and with different Responsibilities of scientific projects in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland. Among his most recent assignments are the Chair of the European Committee for Nuclear Physics of the European Physics Society, the Chair of the European Lise Meitner Prize, the membership in various international committees such as the Council of the SESAME project in Jordan, the Council of ALICE project at CERN in Switzerland, the International Advisory Committee of the LHeC project at CERN in Switzerland, the Program Advisory Committee of the TJNAF Laboratory in the USA, the Editorial Board of the HERMES project in DESY in Germany, the National Scientific Commission III INFN in Italy.

His contact details:

Nicola Bianchi

Embassy of Italy in Singapore

101 Thomson Rd, #27-02 United Square,

Singapore 307591

Tel : +65 6253 4220

Email: nicola.bianchi@esteri.it;  singapore.scienza@esteri.it

The Scientific Attaché is the local Person in Charge of the new Innovitalia platform of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAECI) dedicated to Italian researchers abroad. All Italian researchers in Singapore are invited to apply for registration. The application will then be validated by the Scientific Attaché. This platform, besides allowing the visitors to get acquainted with the Italian researchers in the world and their skills, it allows the input of job opportunities, news, and events related to the world of science and technology. Currently, around 50 Italian researchers are enrolled in the Innovitalia section of Singapore.

All Italian researchers and professors visiting Singapore are also invited to contact the Scientific Attaché both for information purposes and for possible better involvement of the local academic and research realities.

The International Relations Offices of Italian Universities and Research Institutions can contact the Attaché Officer to facilitate contacts, meetings, and agreements with their counterparts. These offices are also invited to communicate to the Scientific Attaché any new MoUs and Collaboration Agreements and to register the same agreements on the CINECA website.

The Scientific Attaché's office also addresses Academic or Research Institutions in Singapore, research groups, researchers and companies interested in collaborating with Italian counterparts in specific sectors.

The pending parliamentary ratification of the Scientific and Technological Cooperation Agreement, which is already operational in almost all other countries where there is a scientific attaché, currently affects relationships between the two countries. In fact, the presence of a bilateral government announcement, beyond the limited number of approved projects, always stimulates many contacts and developments in research topics that often find alternative forms of funding. This current lack for Singapore implies the need to explore new bilateral contacts between the individual Italian and Singapore Academic and Research Institutions to establish possible agreements on issues of mutual interest. Much of the initial activity of the Scientific Attaché has been carried out in this context. It was, therefore, necessary to identify those specific sectors recognized as excellent at an international level within the broader themes of the Italian, academic and research institutions.

The Scientific Attaché has therefore organized a series of meetings and visits to the academic and research centres of Singapore and participated in a series of events on scientific and technological issues with the aim of knowing in greater detail the actors and the topics of the research and innovation in Singapore, to make known and promote the excellence of Italian research and to suggest possible synergies and collaboration agreements.

The updated and related meetings for 2019 are listed below:

  • 14 January 2019: Day of meetings and visits to Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Meeting with Wanda Preiser (Senior Assistant Director, Office of International Affairs), Tim White (Associate Vice President - Infrastructure and Programs), Jimmy Hsia, (Dean Graduate College) and numerous NTU professors and researchers. The meetings made it possible to discuss and define the procedures, issues, and institutions to be involved for new agreements and opportunities for collaboration between NTU and Italian research groups. A visit to several Laboratories followed: Center for Disruptive Photonic Technologies, Center for Optical Fiber Technology, Additive Microstructure Engineering Lab, Marine Microbiology Lab, Robotics Research Center. A first possible agreement between NTU and CNR was discussed.
  • 19 February 2019: Participation in the Singapore Joint Academic Microbiology Seminar jointly organized by A*STAR and NTU. Meeting with Angelyn Sng (Deputy Director of NTU Development Office).
  • 20 February 2019: Meeting at NUS with Italian researchers from the Pharmacy and Quantum Technology departments.
  • 28 February 2019: Meeting at NUS with Italian researchers from the Computer Engineering department.
  • 26 March 2019: Meeting at the Art Science Museum of the Marina Bay Sands complex, with the executive director Honor Hager, to define common projects of events of artistic-scientific profile. In particular, possible popular events in the field of physics and astrophysics were discussed.
  • 27 March 2019: Meeting at Duke-NUS Medical School with Italian researchers from the Computational Biology and Emerging Infectious Diseases departments. In particular, the beginning of a possible collaboration in the field of genetics of ancient vines in the Mediterranean area was discussed with the involvement of the Research Center of Viticulture and Enology of CREA.
  • 21 May 2019: A visit to Singapore Synchrotron Light Source (SSLS) with a meeting with Director M. Breese and other researchers. The ongoing activities and the future of Synchrotron Light in Singapore were discussed. In particular, as an alternative to a new SSLS to be realized in Singapore, a possibility has emerged to finance and implement Singapore lines of synchrotron light on accelerator facilities existing abroad. In this context, the possibility was briefly illustrated in Italy in the context of the new Elettra2.0 project in Trieste.
  • 22 May 2019: A visit to the NTU Satellite Research Center and Thales Smart Small Satellite Systems in NTU (S4TIN) including a meeting with the Executive Director Lim Wee Seng, with the Associate Director (Space Technology) Amal Chandran and with researchers of Thales Alenia Space and NTU related to the space sector. Possible collaborations have emerged in the fields of satellite image analysis and the study of innovative materials for use in space, in particular with ASI.
  • 18 June 2019: Participation in the EU Networking meeting within the Information & Communication Technologies Business Mission at the Sands Expo & Convention Center. Eurotech (IoT, Distributed computing, ICT) and Rdcom (Business Messaging Solutions) were Italian exhibitors at the event.
  • 20 June 2019: Meeting at the A*STAR agency with Italian researchers from the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) who, among other things, have developed an innovative treatment of cancer cells through alternating electric fields that also work in the field of immunotherapy and bioinformatics. A strong interest in Milan's Human Technopole has emerged.
  • 16 July 2019: Participation in the Conference on Geographical Indications for Agri-food products organized by the Delegation of the European Union at the Grand Hyatt Hotel and with a presentation by Riccardo Ricci Cubastro, President of Federdoc.
  • 19 July 2019: A visit to the Future City Laboratory in the Singapore-ETH Center and a meeting with Dr. Jonas Joerin, director of the Future Resilient System Program and with Italian researchers. There has been a discussion with possible synergies with urban development programs in Italy such as MIND (Milano Innovation District) which is being built in the EXPO2015 area.
  • 28 July 2019: Participation in the 2019 World Congress on Resilience, Reliability and Asset Management at Furama Riverfront Hotel, from an invitation of Singapore-ETH Center.
  • 30 July 2019: Meeting with Giulia Ajmone Marsan, (Director, Strategy, and Partnership of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and EAST ASIA-ERIA) at the Embassy of Italy in Singapore. The meeting discussed possible joint initiatives on activities related to science, technology, and innovation.
  • 15 August 2019: Participation in a space technology seminar in Singapore and a meeting with Dr. Jonathan Hung, President of Singapore Space and Technology Association. In particular, the issues related to hyperspectral satellites and the quantum communication in the space in which Italy through ASI boasts excellence and world records have been discussed.
  • 16 August 2019: Participation in the Ocean Symposium: Melting Ice & Plastic Seas at NTU.
  • 27 August 2019: Participation in the seminar: Challenges in Structural Engineering organized by the Politecnico di Milano at the SBF Center.

 

 

 

 


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