Spreading knowledge from the leading-edge companies to the rest of industry is a key aspect of Singapore's innovation journey, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday.
Mr Tharman made his remarks at the official opening of Schneider Electric's East Asia and Japan headquarters in Kallang yesterday.
He applauded the French energy management and automation company for contributing to the local innovation ecosystem, especially towards small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). "I know that you have already been helping many SMEs - 50 of them so far - to level their operations and to get them to their own digitalisation journey."
Schneider Electric, which has been operating here for 45 years, has worked with its distributors to set up their own e-commerce platforms, as well as launching an online knowledge-sharing platform for its partners.
"Through your efforts, your suppliers are also growing and moving abroad," added Mr Tharman, who is also the Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies.
He noted that Sanwa, a local SME that manufacturers plastic products, has moved with Schneider Electric to Indonesia, China and India.
Number of SMEs in Singapore that Schneider Electric has helped "to level their operations and to get them to their own digitalisation journey", said DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
Mr Tharman pointed out that talent and skills development was the heart of innovation.
He noted that Schneider Electric will form a partnership with the Economic Development Board this year to launch the Energy Generation Programme - X, a management trainee course for fresh graduates.
Mr Tommy Leong, Schneider's president of East Asia and Japan, later told a briefing that the company would hire Singaporeans and send them for overseas assignments to key markets for a year or two before bringing them home.
"We strongly believe to develop the leaders of the future, it is not just about working in one country, it is about having an international perspective, orientation and exposure to other cultures," he added.
The new headquarters will serve customers and industry partners from 14 countries in East Asia and Japan and consolidate the company's Singapore operations at four previous offices in Changi, Penjuru, Ang Mo Kio and Ayer Rajah. It will also serve as the company's first Innovation Hub in Asia.
Schneider Electric spent $23 million to retrofit the nine-storey building so that it can be powered by a hybrid electricity power source, with solar panels installed onsite and offsite. It was reported in 2015 that the firm will invest $102 million into its Singapore operations over the next five years.
The Innovation Hub will bring together software engineers, solution architects and research scientists, who will work on the company's Internet-of-Things enabled system architecture and platform, EcoStruxure.
The firm is setting up a 21-person machine solutions research and development (R&D) team - one of four such teams globally - which will increase its R&D base here to more than 100 people. In all, the building can house over 1,200 employees.
Schneider Electric chairman and chief executive Jean-Pascal Tricoire said: "This opening reaffirms our commitment to East Asia and Japan as key markets for our business, and signifies the growth opportunities that we see in the region."