A high-tech district known as "the smartest square kilometre in the world" was at the top of President Halimah Yacob's agenda yesterday, the fourth day of her state visit to the Netherlands.
Located in the city of Eindhoven, the district has been dubbed the "new Silicon Valley" and features government, business and academics working together to come up with innovative solutions for economic and social issues.
During her visit to Brainport's High Tech Campus, President Halimah attended a round-table discussion on this "triple helix" model of collaboration. She also rode in a futuristic autonomous vehicle, and viewed several smart lighting and medical robotics projects.
"This trip helps us to better understand how the different parts and elements of the triple helix work together to produce really substantial research work (and) outputs," she said. "That can be of use to industry as well as mankind."
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs as well as Trade and Industry Tan Wu Meng, who spoke at Brainport, said Singapore and the Netherlands will have many opportunities to deepen existing partnerships and develop new ones in areas such as logistics, renewable energy technology and urban solutions.
"Some of these, in the past, maybe have been buzzwords or even the stuff of science fiction," Dr Tan said. "But today, with these collaborations, we are imagining the future - inventing it; making it reality today and tomorrow."
Dutch State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy Mona Keijzer said: "Ageing populations and pressures on labour productivity challenge us both, and we all seek to tackle issues like these through innovation because we are aware that the challenges of tomorrow cannot be solved by the technology of today."
Making tracks in smart mobility
At semiconductor giant NXP, researchers are looking at how to take humans out of the driver's seat.
Nine in 10 traffic accidents are caused by human error, said Ms Clara Otero Perez, the company's director of system innovations. "If you can remove the human from the equation, you can decrease the number of accidents."
To do this, NXP is working on sensor systems that will let an automated vehicle "see" its surroundings and even around corners, as well as communicate with vehicles beyond the range of its physical sensors.
If a car slams on the brakes some distance away, these systems could pick it up "within milliseconds" and slow down.
Similar technology can even be installed in traffic lights to tell emergency vehicles, for example, what speed to travel to avoid red lights.
Installed in large trucks, it could help companies save money by letting them drive closer together than usual. This reduces aerodynamic drag on each truck, which leads to less fuel being used.
Last year, NXP and the Nanyang Technological University launched a consortium to test smart mobility technologies on the university's campus. It involved 50 vehicles equipped with smart on-board units, and 35 roadside units with video cameras mounted on street lamps.
"I think Singapore wants to be the front runner in the plans for smart mobility," Ms Otero Perez said.
On Thursday night, President Halimah met Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who hosted her to a dinner in the Binnenhof complex, where the Dutch government meets. The Binnenhof has served as the country's legislature for more than 500 years and is the oldest House of Parliament in the world that is still in use today.
There were about 40 guests at the dinner, including King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands as well as officials from the Dutch and Singapore delegations.
During the banquet, President Halimah spoke warmly of the hospitality shown by her hosts, as well as the "cutting-edge research projects" she saw during her visit.
"We have not just learnt new things, but we have also deepened and strengthened the friendship between our two countries," she said.
Mr Rutte also drew attention to the similarities between Singapore and the Netherlands. "We might be small countries, but we punch well above our weight in areas like logistics, transport and trade."