The launch of InnovationAsia has come at the right time in relation to Singapore. In recent weeks Singapore has hosted three major tech-focused conferences that not only boasted record numbers of participants, but also provided a platform for policy announcements and the release of new industry reports that all point to opportunities for Australian companies to seize in 2020 and beyond.
The fourth edition of the Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF) – already the world’s largest FinTech festival – saw it combine for the first time with the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (otherwise known as SWITCH) to create SFF x SWITCH.
This mega event ran for five days and attracted more than 60,000 participants from 140 countries. It included a record 569 speakers, close to 1,000 exhibitors and 41 international pavilions present.
The SWITCH portion of the event included the SLINGSHOT startup pitch competition, with more than $2m worth of prizes attracting more than 2400 entries which were filtered down to 100 pitches.
While size isn’t everything, the merging of SWITCH and SFF provided an incredible platform for connections, collaboration and deal making. And what was the theme of this giant FinTech conference? It was Sustainability and Climate Change.
With so many world leaders in finance and technology in attendance, Singapore took this opportunity to focus on some of the most important issues facing the world. This was brought home in keynotes by the President of the World Wildlife Federation, and by Singapore Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung, who is also Board member Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
In his ministerial keynote address Mr Ong, dressed in jeans and casual shirt, outlined the underpinnings of Singapore’s long-term low emission strategy, and said “our next ambition, is to leverage green finance to make the world greener.”
“Finance fuels the economy and business. It determines investment decisions. It drives action. We must make finance green, to drive climate action [and to] mitigate and adapt to climate change.”
“Our goal is to be a leading centre for Green Finance in Asia and globally” and set out Singapore’s strategy to make this a reality including the announcement by MAS of a US$2 billion Green Investments Program,” Mr Ong said.
The minister concluded with a statement that could well become a catch cry for business and government leaders alike: “Finance, innovation and technology are a force for good, to overcome challenges and improve lives. Climate change is the ultimate challenge for mankind.”
“It cannot be that the two objectives of being green and pursuing growth are irreconcilable. With imagination, innovation and technology, determination we can reconcile them,” he said.
This is leadership, and from a small island state that is often seen as conservative but was actually the first country in Southeast Asia to impose a carbon tax.
As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his recent address to the United Nations General Assembly, “Singapore takes climate change very seriously. Climate change is an existential issue for us.”
But as Singapore has done many times before, it will turn such challenges and issues into opportunities and develop world leadership positions, just as it has with water solutions. Today Singapore meets up to two-thirds of the country’s water needs through technology.
Singapore now aims to become a leader and a hub in green finance and sustainability solutions.
Adam Lyle is the Executive Chairman of Padang & Co and Head of the LEVEL3 Singapore innovation and co-working space. He is immediate past-President of the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (AustCham).