The Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology, SWITCH, was the anchor for more than ten different events organized by the Embassy of Finland, the City of Helsinki, and SuomiFinland100 organization in Singapore, Slush Singapore, and Women in Tech, which all originate in Finland. They revolved around five themes that bring our countries together: smart and clean cities, health, maritime, education, as well as innovation and growth.
The spirit of collaboration and the theme of our jubilee year – "together" – were present at every stage of the week's program. A large number of local partners and friends of Finland were also involved, which we are very thankful for.
The “ superweek” was kickstarted on Monday by the Smart & Clean cities event at Huone Events Hotel Singapore. During the event, we heard perspectives on how cities can raise their level of ambition to become more sustainable. "Cities need to be more ambitious than governments" said Minister Anne Berner – and the City of Helsinki is leading the way in this field, by aiming to become carbon free by 2030. Singapore has taken bold steps to become a smart city, especially through the Smart Nation platform program, which aims to foster connectivity and security in the city.
Personal data is also a common theme for our countries: both Finland and Singapore are working on access to personal data - Finland with the "MyData" program and Singapore with "Myinfo". Taking control of personal data and its sharing enables the creation of a flow of information across borders. A user centric approach is crucial to create the personal data management of the future, not to forget the aspect of security, Minister Berner reminded.
On Tuesday, the focus shifted towards growth and innovation, with Finnish companies showcasing their solutions both at TechInnovation and Slush. At Slush, the city of Helsinki had a stand made of ice, around which it collected partners in the key areas of collaboration: smart & clean cities, health, education technologies, and maritime ICT. Experts from the partner companies were at the stand ready to answer participants' questions. Alongside the experts, there were plenty of Finnish startup companies looking for expansion to Southeast Asia at the fair, which collected 3000 attendees. SLUSH welcomes participants to come to Helsinki SLUSH on 30th –November to 1st December.
At TechInnovation, connections were created, as the Suomi Finland 100 stand was transformed into a matchmaking platform: the stand displayed 100 Finnish companies, and helped them to get in touch with interested Singaporean companies and organizations. During the two-day initiative, around 40 matches were created. The connections are just the beginning: meetings between interested parties started taking place already during the Superweek, and continue throughout these days, as the companies explore their ideas for collaboration.
Wednesday, the morning started with the Upgraded health event at Huone events Hotel Singapore, and the theme of digitalization continued in the afternoon with the Maritime ICT seminar. Digitalization offers opportunities in both of these areas.
Health is a key agenda issue for both Finland and Singapore: both countries have the fastest ageing populations in their regions, respectively. Finland has recently stated its objective to become the "land of future health": Finland is a land of opportunity for the healthcare sector, as said Jari Gustafsson, the permanent secretary at the Ministry for Economy and the Employment. The share of health-related industry and services in our GDP is increasing, and we have internationally renowned research in our country. For the future, harvesting the opportunities of digitalization is a must, as well as increasing public-private collaboration. Also Singapore has shown a keen interest in new health solutions in its quest to tackle diabetes, which is one of the biggest health challenges the city state has to tackle.
In the field of Maritime, autonomous shipping and process efficiency enhancing robotics can generate an industry leap. Different approaches to designing data-driven maritime business and co-creating future shipping were explored in the discussion sessions throughout the day: strategic partnerships and insightful cooperation are key to realizing the potential of the digitalization of shipping.
While these events were taking place at Huone, at Marina Bay Sands Conference Center innovators, science and technology leaders from Asia were brought together by one of the Finnish flagship events: Women in Tech. At the event, Jacqueline Poh from Singapore's government technology agency Govtech and Steve Leonard from SG Innovate were present, along with leading innovation experts from universities and corporations such as Google, Citi, Spotify and Facebook. 1200 women in tech and men participated, which exceeded all expectations and shows that there is a need for this kind of get-togethers.
The end of the week was dedicated to education, as both Finland and Singapore are “superpowers” in this field. Thursday was all about designing the future of education. The Education summit, hosted at GEMS World Academy, collected nearly 600 attendees, featuring speakers as Maarit Rossi, one of the finalists for the teacher's "Nobel prize", Kristina Kaihari from the Finnish Education Agency, Peter Vesterbacka, the ex "Mighty Eagle" of Angry Birds, and Kirsti Lonka from the University of Helsinki. The experts explained how to make learning easier, meaningful and playful. Phenomenon-based learning was at the center of discussions in the Singapore – Finland panels.
Saturday, along the lines of Thursday's event, Singaporean kids got the chance to experience one day of school in Finland. Finscape was organized by Finnish teachers living in Singapore in parallel with Eduscape, where parents got the chance to discuss with Maarit Rossi, the global teacher of the year competition finalist, Peter Vesterbacka, Kristina Kaihari as well as ambassador Paula Parviainen and Dylan Soh, a 14 year old Singaporean school boy who spent some weeks getting to know the Finnish education system while doing an internship at Finnish start up Big Band Legends. After the Finnish school day learning experience, a Finnish styled free school meal was served to the 100 participating kids.
The week was full of highlights in terms of exchange of ideas and commercial ties between our countries. The contacts and exchange that was built during the superweek will hopefully bring their fruits in the many years to come. The superweek sets the example on what the jubilee year can be at its best: an occasion to showcase Finnish ideas and have an open exchange with Singaporean friends and to create long-lasting discussion, connections and friendships.