EDB appoints 3 European business leaders to attract more investors to Singapore

(From left) Dr Heinz-Juergen Bertram, Dr Roland Gerner, Dr Michael Schadlich, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Dr Gunther Kegel, Mr Thomas Fischer, and Mr Hans-Peter Metzler at The Charles Hotel, on July 10, 2017.
(From left) Dr Heinz-Juergen Bertram, Dr Roland Gerner, Dr Michael Schadlich, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Dr Gunther Kegel, Mr Thomas Fischer, and Mr Hans-Peter Metzler at The Charles Hotel, on July 10, 2017. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

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

The trio, called economic ambassadors, will share their extensive experience in Asia with small and medium enterprises from their countries - known as Mittelstand - and encourage them to develop their business in Singapore, as well as use the Republic as a springboard to expand in the region.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong presented them with certificates of appointment at a ceremony at the Charles Hotel in Munich on Monday (July 10).

The three new ambassadors are: Dr Heinz-Juergen Bertram, chief executive of fragance and flavours manufacturer Symrise AG which serves clients such as 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 AG.

EDB managing director Yeoh Keat Chuan said the trio, whose companies have been in Singapore for over two decades, are well 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 said.

The EDB launched its economic ambassadors programme in 2015, to create what Mr Yeoh called a trusted "Asia Insider" network for medium-sized companies which are keen to grow in Asia to tap on.

It appointed four ambassadors then, and another two last year. Each economic ambassador is appointed for three years.

In the past two years, they have reached out to more than 900 "Mittlestand champions" - medium-size companies in world market leadership positions , Mr Yeoh said.

They did so by speaking at major conferences, giving media interviews and providing one-on-one consultations to business owners.

Mr Yeoh said the EDB is appointing more ambassadors to widen its outreach to more regions and to different industries.

The existing ambassadors cover areas such as the wider Munich region, as areas in Austria and Switzerland.

The new ambassadors will help reach out to Mittelstand in the Hamburg region and upper and lower Austria, among others, Mr Yeoh said.

The EDB hopes the new ambassadors will help draw in more investors, to add to the more than 3,000 companies from Germany, Austria and Switzerland already present in Singapore.

Dr Bertram said Singapore's attractiveness stems from its protection of intellectual property, its stable environment, and the presence of major companies that are customers.

Singapore is also a melting pot of Asian cultures, which could be a reason why most German companies 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," said Dr Bertram.

In his speech at the ceremony, Mr Yeoh also highlighted an EDB programme that provides polytechnic students with scholarships to study at the University of Applied Sciences in Germany while working at a Mittelstand company.

Forty-one engineering students have joined the programme to date. After they graduate, these students will return to Singapore as young ambassadors for high-tech Mittelstand companies and strengthen the bridge between both countries, he said.

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

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