Innovation and tech festival returns in November with focus on sustainability and climate change

Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng (left) during a visit to tech start-up Transforma Robotics. PHOTO: ENTERPRISE SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - An event in Singapore for tech professionals will explore ways for businesses to tap opportunities in Asia at its next edition in November, with a focus on sustainability and climate change.

The annual Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (Switch) will be held together with the Singapore Fintech Festival (SFF) in a hybrid format from Nov 8 to 12.

The sixth edition of Switch will be expanded from a week-long conference into a year-long movement that includes monthly opportunities to network and make deals, said Enterprise Singapore (ESG) on Friday (July 23).

Switch garnered more than 15,000 participants from 42 cities last year, with more than 600 global thought leaders such as Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin and tech giant Sea's group chief executive Forrest Li at more than 200 conference and masterclass sessions.

A highlight of Switch 2021 is a new digital platform that will allow participants to convene and access the year-long calendar of activities.

It will kick off with SG Innovation Community Day on Aug 4, followed by monthly seminars on areas like biotech, edtech (education technology) and entrepreneurship, leading up to the Switch conference.

The theme of the main conference is "Global Gateway to Innovation in Asia" and it will spotlight ways in which Singapore and its enterprises can help small and large global businesses to ride on opportunities in the region.

"These include sustainability and climate change, which have become a global priority as nations and businesses race to find innovative solutions that can mitigate their environmental impact as they grow," said ESG.

Business and market leaders with a presence in more than 40 cities will discuss trends and expansion opportunities.

There will also be talks by industry leaders as well as Slingshot - a deep tech start-up pitching competition with more than $1.1 million in prizes to be won.

Mr Edwin Chow, ESG's assistant chief executive officer (innovation and enterprise), said pressing challenges such as the pandemic and climate change have created opportunities for business innovation.

"As Asia becomes the global centre of technological innovation, we believe Singapore can be the partner of choice for global businesses to access these opportunities in the region. Switch 2021 will see new ideas discussed and innovation partnerships formed between corporates, start-ups and universities in the region."

SFF x Switch as a whole will involve entrepreneurs, investors and industry professionals from the innovation and fintech communities, added ESG.

The government agency added that both events will address how the technology and financial sectors can be enablers and change agents for sustainability.

Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng said open innovation provides a platform for small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups to innovate in response to demand, collectively develop new products and expand into overseas markets.

Open innovation challenges allow companies to come up with solutions to address various issues.

"Platforms like Switch and Slingshot are critical programmes in our country's innovation and R&D (research and development) strategy," added Dr Tan, who is also Manpower Minister, on the sidelines of a visit to tech start-up Transforma Robotics.

The company is among the winners of an energy open innovation challenge organised in September last year by ESG and energy companies Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell.

Transforma now works with companies in the oil and energy sectors to trial solutions, which include a smart magnetic painting robot that can apply paint to protect the interior of cylindrical oil tanks from corrosion.

The method is expected to reduce reliance on manual labour and minimise operators' exposure to hazardous conditions.

The start-up has also seized new opportunities amid the pandemic - for example, by converting some of its spray painting robots to ones for disinfection.

Professor Chen I-Ming, chairman of Transforma, said the pandemic has made people realise the importance of robotics and automation in industries like construction.

"Robots are no longer just productivity tools," he added, noting that they also help to tackle the shortage of manpower. "The mindset starts to change and this really drives robotics and AI (artificial intelligence) moving forward."

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