Friday, 4 Dec 2020

How 7 industry-led coalition groups are preparing for Singapore's post-Covid economy

SINGAPORE – The gradual resumption of events in the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) sector, in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, is among seven areas being studied by industry-led coalition groups that were set up in June this year.

The aim of this Alliance for Action (AfA) team for bringing back travellers is to take steps to re-establish Singapore as a leading destination for such events, and maintain the country’s position as one of the top 10 cities in the world according to international visitors traffic.

This AfA is among seven industry-led alliances convened by the Emerging Stronger Taskforce to work closely with the Government and act on key growth opportunities. The others range from e-commerce and robotics to developing Singapore as a sustainability hub or “Little Green Dot”.

Updates on the work of these seven alliances were given at a press conference on Thursday (Nov 19) held by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and the task force’s co-chairs: Minister for National Development Desmond Lee and PSA International Group chief executive Tan Chong Meng.

Mr Lee said that in the past four months, the seven groups held discussions with more than 600 people from more than 330 organisations, such as businesses, unions, trade associations, social enterprises and government agencies.

Unlike past efforts, the seven AfAs adopt a “start-up” approach, in which they aim to take action and build prototypes quickly, while keeping an eye on opportunities in the longer term.

Some of their projects in the works are:

Resuming travel and Mice events

Last month’s Singapore International Energy Week conference marked a milestone in the country’s tackling of the Covid-19 pandemic, with all visitors to the large trade show tested for the virus on the spot before being allowed into the venue.

This was made possible through the AfA’s focus on safe and innovative visitor experiences.

The group, which had first mooted the idea, is working on other ideas in the Mice sector. They include designing safe business events and leisure itineraries for both Singaporeans and foreign guests.

The pilot rapid-testing trial will continue to be refined at upcoming trade shows, like the TravelRevive conference later this month.

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Growing e-commerce

One idea to refresh the ailing retail sector involves the blending of online and offline shopping experiences – delivering the personalised approach that shoppers want, while helping traditional retailers expand their reach.

It was achieved earlier this month by the AfA for smart commerce through a tie-up between mall developer CapitaLand and virtual retailer Shopee. As part of the campaign, shoppers could win discount vouchers for six CapitaLand malls by playing a game on the Shopee app.

The ultimate goal is to help traditional retailers go digital and expand their customer base beyond Singapore.

The AfA has also started an incubation programme for Singapore brands that want to export their products.

Digitalising supply chains

This AfA aims to secure Singapore’s competitive edge and enhance its supply chain agility as the country’s hub status is being challenged by the global shifts resulting from the pandemic.

“We must advance Singapore’s position as a digital trade and fulfillment hub to strengthen the efficiency and resilience of our supply chains,” said PSA International group CEO Mr Tan.

The AfA has gathered more than 50 public and private stakeholders, comprising about 300 people, through workshops to identify pain points and push towards digitalisation.

It will culminate in the creation of a Common Data Infrastructure, which will enhance interoperability among the platforms used by different segments of the supply chain ecosystem. This will improve trade financing integrity, productivity of logistics-dependent players, and strengthen the resilience of Singapore’s supply chain in essential goods.

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Building the ‘Little Green Dot’

This AfA plans to position Singapore as a hub for carbon-related services and nature-based solutions, and transform the country into a “Little Green Dot”, where sustainability efforts will serve the needs of the domestic and overseas markets.

One aim for the hub is to come up with a standard for companies to measure, mitigate and offset their carbon footprint.

The threat of climate change was part of the motivation to have an AfA on sustainability, said Professor Koh Lian Pin, who is a professor of conservation science, technology and policy at the National University of Singapore.

“What we hope to achieve is to identify new economic opportunities that could help to build Singapore’s climate resilience and resource resilience, as well as protect and preserve our natural eco-systems,” he added.

Reaching learners through edutech

By 2025, the total global expenditure on education technology is expected to grow to about US$400 billion (S$537 billion). The AfA for edu-tech is kick-starting minimum viable products, or products with just enough basic features to interest customers, with the goal of turning Singapore into a global talent hub.

For example, it hopes to help individuals better understand their learning needs and curate the appropriate programmes for them.

One ongoing project is a digital platform to analyse employees’ learning abilities, in order to recommend solutions to improve their learning and build better teams. For companies, this means a tool to develop talent, improve communication and achieve business goals.

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Digitalising the built environment

The construction and built environment sector has been “very severely impacted” by the Covid-19 crisis, said National Development Minister Lee, as infections in dormitories and work sites brought construction to a standstill for many months.

The specified AfA builds on the Industry Transformation Maps, such as for construction, real estate and environmental services, by gathering developers, construction firms and other players together to transform the sector through digitalisation and more advanced building technologies.

Mr Lee said: “This will enhance productivity by integrating work processes and connecting different industry stakeholders throughout the whole building life cycle and ecosystem.”

The AfA aims to bring 300 companies on board the coalition within a year, and 1,000 companies by 2025.

Raising productivity through robotics

As its key priorities are to achieve breakthroughs in productivity and address Singapore’s manpower challenges, this AfA is leading pilots to develop and test robotics solutions in public land transport and in the area of cleaning.

For instance, it is working to launch two deployments of autonomous vehicles by the end of this year.

Hope Technik chief executive Peter Ho and ST Engineering chief executive Vincent Chong are co-chairing this AfA.

Mr Chong said the jobs transformation that will take place with robotics solutions will be gradual.

“In the process of transition, we’ll also be able to help workers address the pain points in their work using technology so that it’s win-win for both enterprises as well as workers,” he added.

Additional reporting by Fabian Koh and Linette Lai  

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