Japan's Kajima Corporation broke ground for its first overseas innovation centre at Singapore's Changi Business Park yesterday.
The $100 million Kajima Global Hub will also serve as its Asia-Pacific headquarters, said a joint statement from Kajima - one of Japan's oldest and biggest construction firms - and JTC Corporation.
The 13,088 sq m facility will contribute new building technologies and research and development capabilities to Singapore's construction sector, they said.
Its construction will also be the first known application of a comprehensive suite of robotics solutions by Kajima outside Japan.
Kajima will consolidate all 400 staff across its business functions - construction, engineering, development, research and design - under one roof at the hub.
Kajima Technical Research Institute Singapore (KaTris) will research and develop and test-bed construction, sustainable and wellness technologies. The building itself will showcase robotics, digitalisation and automation by incorporating data-driven environmental control and energy-saving solutions.
KaTris will increase the number of local research personnel, while Kajima Global Hub will create better jobs, attract Singaporean staff and reduce the environmental impact of new developments.
Kajima president Yoshikazu Oshimi said at the ground-breaking ceremony: "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 also to plant seeds and incubate new businesses for future generations."
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 pandemic has given Singapore's construction sector a strong impetus to accelerate adoption of digital technology and automation, improve productivity and reduce the need for lower-skilled workers.
Kajima and JTC will launch several joint initiatives.
They will develop a concrete-finishing robot with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and a local small and medium-sized enterprise, Mega Plus Technology, to automate the construction process.
The robot should be able to reduce manpower and labour cost by 50 per cent, on top of improving quality and safety, by early next year.
NTU start-up Transforma Robotics will deploy its painting and inspection robots that were jointly developed with JTC to work alongside Kajima's construction robots.
JTC chief executive Ng Lang said; "JTC forms strategic partnerships with industry partners, such as Kajima, and academic institutes to address a broad spectrum of challenges faced by the sector."
He said by combining its engineering capabilities with forward-looking industry expertise, JTC hopes to accelerate and contribute to the construction sector's digitalisation.
Kajima has been working closely with the National University of Singapore on "well and green" building design concepts while partnering the Singapore University of Technology and Design on adapting 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, and participated in the Open Innovation Platform of the Infocomm Media Development Authority.
Correction note: An earlier version of this story said that the facility is 3,088 sq m. It should be 13,088 sq m. We are sorry for the error.