SINGAPORE - Japan's Kajima Corporation broke ground for its first overseas innovation centre at Singapore's Changi Business Park on Thursday (Aug 27).
The Kajima Global Hub, which represents an investment of $100 million, will also serve as its Asia Pacific headquarters, according to a joint statement issued by Kajima, one of Japan's biggest construction companies, and JTC Corporation.
The Global Hub will contribute new building technologies and research and development capabilities to Singapore's construction sector, they said. The construction of the Hub project will also be the first known application of a comprehensive suite of robotics solutions by Kajima outside Japan.
Slated to be completed by 2023, the Hub will occupy 13,088 square metres of business park space, R&D lab space and double volume construction lab space in Changi Business Park. To strengthen its regional operations, Kajma will consolidate all 400 staff across its business functions - construction, engineering, development, research, and design - under one roof at the Hub.
At the hub, Kajima Technical Research Institute Singapore (KaTRIS) will research and develop advanced construction technologies, as well as testbed sustainable and wellness technologies. The building itself will showcase new construction technologies in robotics, digitalisation and automation by incorporating data-driven environmental control technologies and energy-saving solutions for its occupants.
KaTRIS will increase the number of local research personnel, while Kajima Global Hub will create better jobs, attract local hires and reduce the environmental impact of new developments.
At the ground-breaking ceremony, Mr Yoshikazu Oshimi, president of Kajima, said: "By promoting open innovations with renowned institutions in the region, both public and private, we strive to build our solid foundation, not only to deliver the best services and solutions to our clients, but to plant seeds and incubate new businesses for future generation."
The Kajima initiative comes after it signed a memorandum of understanding with JTC last year to share expertise and collaborate on R&D.
Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling said at the event: "This latest development reinforces Singapore's value and strength as a trusted and well-connected global R&D hub."
She said the Covid-19 pandemic has given Singapore's construction sector a strong impetus to accelerate the adoption of digital technology and automation, improve productivity, and reduce its manpower requirements for lower-skilled levels.
"Emerging technology trends such as robotics and artificial intelligence will play an instrumental role in re-shaping the built environment sector in a post Covid-19 world," Ms Low added.
Kajima and JTC will launch several joint initiatives including research on the Building Information Modelling (BIM) system to digitalise the building operations in facility management. To automate the construction process, they will jointly develop a concrete-finishing robot with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and a local SME, Mega Plus Technology. By early next year, the robot can reduce manpower and labour cost by 50 per cent, on top of improving quality and safety.
JTC has also introduced Kajima to an NTU start-up, Transforma Robotics, to deploy its painting and inspection robots that were jointly developed with JTC, to work alongside Kajima's construction robots.
JTC's CEO, Mr Ng Lang, said; "As the Government's appointed Centre of Excellence for Building and Infrastructure, JTC forms strategic partnerships with industry partners, such as Kajima, and academic institutes to address a broad spectrum of real world challenges faced by the sector."
He said by combining our engineering capabilities with forward-looking industry expertise, JTC hopes to accelerate and contribute to the built environment sector's digitalisation journey.
Kajima has been working closely with National University of Singapore (NUS) on "well and green" building design concepts. It is also partnering the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) on the adaptation of advanced technologies such as drones for the construction industry.
The company is also sponsoring the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition managed by Singapore Management University (SMU), and participated in the Open Innovation Platform managed by Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).
Moving forward, Kajima will co-create new ideas with start-ups and SMEs to expand open innovation activities at the Kajima Global Hub.