EDB appoints 3 economic ambassadors

Above: One of the new economic ambassadors, Dr Roland Gerner, is senior adviser to technology group Heraeus. Left: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong presenting Dr Heinz-Juergen Bertram, chief executive of Symrise, with a certificate of appointment at a
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong presenting Dr Heinz-Juergen Bertram, chief executive of Symrise, with a certificate of appointment at a ceremony at the Charles Hotel in Munich yesterday. A third new economic ambassador, Dr Erich Erber, was unable to attend the event.ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI
Above: One of the new economic ambassadors, Dr Roland Gerner, is senior adviser to technology group Heraeus. Left: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong presenting Dr Heinz-Juergen Bertram, chief executive of Symrise, with a certificate of appointment at a
One of the new economic ambassadors, Dr Roland Gerner, is senior adviser to technology group Heraeus.ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI

Business leaders from Germany, Austria to coax countrymen to develop businesses in Singapore

The Economic Development Board (EDB) has appointed three business leaders from Germany and Austria to coax their countrymen to invest more in Singapore.

Called economic ambassadors, they will share their extensive experience in Asia with their countries' small and medium-sized enterprises - known as Mittelstand - and encourage them to develop their businesses in Singapore, which can also be their springboard to expand into the region.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong presented two of them with certificates of appointment at a ceremony at the Charles Hotel in Munich yesterday.

These newest ambassadors are: Dr Heinz-Juergen Bertram, chief executive of fragrance and flavours manufacturer Symrise, whose client list includes Chanel and Nestle; Dr Roland Gerner, senior adviser to technology group Heraeus; and Dr Erich Erber, founder of Austrian food and feed safety group Erber.

Dr Erber was unable to attend the ceremony.

With their appointment, Singapore now has nine such ambassadors in Germany and Austria.

EDB managing director Yeoh Keat Chuan said the three men, whose companies have been in Singapore for more than 20 years, are highly respected in the Mittelstand community, which relies on personal recommendations.

"They are sought after for their experience in building successful businesses in Asia, having directly led the development and execution of Asian business strategies for their companies," he added.

The programme was launched by the EDB in 2015, specially for German-speaking countries with Mittelstand. It is to create what Mr Yeoh called a trusted "Asia Insider" network that medium-sized companies can tap into to expand into Asia.

It started with four ambassadors, and two more were added to the network last year. Each businessman is appointed for three years.

In the past two years, they have reached out to more than 900 "Mittelstand champions", which are medium-sized companies but world market leaders in their respective businesses. They did so by speaking at major conferences, and giving media interviews and one-on-one consultation to business owners.

Mr Yeoh said more will be appointed to reach out to more regions and different industries.

The earlier six ambassadors cover such areas as the wider Munich region, as well as parts of Austria and Switzerland.

The newcomers will woo Mittelstand in the Hamburg region and upper and lower Austria, among others, Mr Yeoh said.

Singapore already has more than 3,000 companies from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

What makes it especially attractive, said Dr Bertram, is its stable environment, protection of intellectual property and the presence of major firms that are customers.

Singapore is also a melting pot of Asian cultures, which could be a reason why most German firms have their headquarters or a representative in the country. "That is a natural entry place if you want to go to Asia, to start in Singapore," he added.

Mr Yeoh, in his speech at the ceremony, also highlighted an EDB programme that gives scholarships to polytechnic students to study at the University of Applied Sciences in Germany while working at a Mittelstand company. Forty-one engineering students have since joined the programme. They will return to Singapore on graduation, and become young ambassadors for high-tech Mittelstand companies and strengthen the bridge between both countries, Mr Yeoh said.

At some point, the EDB will track how many Mittelstand companies have operations in Singapore and how they are growing, he said.

"It is still relatively early days but, so far, our efforts look encouraging and promising and we think there is exciting potential," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2017, with the headline 'EDB appoints 3 economic ambassadors'. Print Edition | Subscribe