Bridging Horizons: The 2023 Cluster Matchmaking Event Amplifies EU-Singapore Business Synergies
Marking a significant return one year after the previous gathering, the much-anticipated EU-Singapore Matchmaking event unfolded in the vibrant city of Singapore from 30 October to 1 November 2023. This year’s edition was a compelling display of international collaboration, featuring a robust EU delegation of 34 delegates comprising 27 prominent clusters and 5 SMEs from across 18 countries. The delegation represented a broad array of industries, with a particular focus on sectors such as agri-food, health care & biomedical tech, digital tech, smart cities & urban solutions, advanced manufacturing, and green tech. All arrived eager to establish connections and delve into the latest developments in the Singaporean and Southeast Asian markets.
The event provided a fertile ground for EU clusters and SMEs to explore business opportunities. It was more than a networking event; it was a melting pot of ideas, expertise and potential partnerships. Participants were poised to share their insights, embrace new perspectives and forge strategic alliances with their Asian counterparts.
The event was jointly organized by the European Commission and Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG), supported by the EU Delegation to Singapore, the Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Singapore Business Federation, and facilitated by the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP) and the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). Over the course of three days, the event was packed with activities, including targeted C2C, C2B, and B2B Matchmaking sessions along with informative site visits to notable trade shows such as Singapore Week of Innovation & Technology (SWITCH), Agri-Food Tech Expo Asia 2023, and the government agency JTC Corporation.
The EU-Singapore business relationship is shaped by the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA), which came into effect in 2019. It removes tariff and non-tariff barriers for goods and enhances conditions such as market access for service businesses. Building on this success, the EU-Singapore Digital Partnership, signed in February 2023, marked a significant milestone in bilateral relations and set the stage for further collaboration in the digital era.
After the organizers from EISMEA and the ECCP officially welcomed the EU Delegation to the EU-Singapore Matchmaking event, the rich three-day program kicked off with a welcoming session. In a swift round-table format, 34 participants from 18 European countries, each representing their respective clusters and SMEs, introduced themselves, setting a collaborative tone for the upcoming days.
The mission's first stop was the Singapore Business Federation, where Enterprise Singapore hosted informative sessions on boosting sales, creating a footprint and enhancing brand presence in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Participants also gained insights into Singapore's innovative spirit and its collaborative initiatives with Europe, and delved into the city-state's vibrant start-up ecosystem, which includes a comprehensive support system for international start-ups.
Stella Quek, Lead Consultant, emphasized the strategic advantages of establishing a business in Singapore, highlighting its position as Asia's digital frontrunner, its political stability, transparent legal system and skilled workforce.
Jonathan Lim, Director of the Global Innovation Network at Enterprise Singapore, underlined Singapore's pivotal role in connecting startups with global opportunities, stating: “We actively create opportunities for startups to test their solutions in Singapore by stimulating demand.”
Following an insightful networking lunch, H.E. Iwona Piórko, Ambassador of the European Union to Singapore, opened the Matchmaking event by stressing the strength of the EU-Singapore economic partnership and the potential of the ongoing negotiations for an EU-Singapore Digital Trade Agreement.
“It is really excellent to see this bustling crowd of businesspeople, sitting immediately at one table - Singaporeans, Southeast Asians with Europeans doing business. My tip is to be open and look into the areas of the future, like green digital, advanced manufacturing, food-tech, and try to be open and look for opportunities in the areas you have not considered” said H.E. Iwona Piórko.
In a video message, Jakub Boratynski, Director for Networks and Governance at DG GROW, European Commission, remarked, "The EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, effective since 2019, has been pivotal in enhancing market access for our businesses. It's essential for both regions to harness its benefits. This event signifies our strong commitment to continued collaboration with Singapore."
The day continued with testimonials and presentations exemplifying the successful and ongoing collaborative relationships between EU and Singaporean business organizations. Mike Richardson from OpTecBB and Mabel Fu from Start2 Group presented 'Scaling Startups Beyond Borders,' showcasing their expertise in fostering international collaboration. Start2Group offers tailored support to startups, either from the EU moving to Asia or vice versa. Their global network of 500 mentors, including Mike Richardson, provides customized mentoring to help startups identify their market niche.
Additionally, a presentation titled 'How Face-to-Face Facilitates Mid-Term Collaboration' by Susanne Baden Jorgensen from Food & Bio Cluster Denmark, Mónica Riera from Packaging Cluster Spain, and Tracy Saw from FoodInnovate & Sustainability at Enterprise Singapore, shone a light on the Global Foodture project. This project aims to foster innovation and collaboration in the food systems sector, specifically targeting today's most urgent challenges faced by the global food system, including sustainability, food security, and climate change impact.
“Enterprise Singapore was a great help, providing us with 15 speakers during our monthly thematic workshops, and we are very pleased with this collaboration," said Susanne Baden Jorgensen. This collaboration has successfully bridged European and Asian SMEs, leading to impactful workshops and international trading. It showcases the project's effectiveness in tackling the pressing issues confronting the global food industry.
The much-anticipated Matchmaking sessions then took place with notable success. All 197 scheduled meetings were conducted with a 100% success rate. Additionally, 8 ad-hoc meetings brought the total to 205 one-to-one business meetings, involving representatives of 32 European clusters/SMEs and 31 Singaporean delegates. The Singaporean delegation was composed of 13 clusters and business associations, 10 SMEs, 4 RDI organizations, and 4 public authorities. This impressive turnout underscored the event's effectiveness in fostering business collaborations.
Participant feedback confirms the day's success:
Julija Kravčenko, Consultant at the Health technology cluster iVita in Lithuania, reflected on the productive nature of the meetings: “The meetings I have had so far have been very productive. We already have several activities planned for the future. We are planning to sign several memoranda of understanding and Non-Disclosure Agreements for distribution purposes.”
Federica Fernandez, Cluster Manager/Prof. Arch at ECODOMUS Cluster in Italy (focused on sustainable construction, energy saving, and technologies powered by renewable sources), shared her meeting experiences: “I had a lot of interesting meetings with both clusters and companies that could be interested in selling their materials in Italy. On the other side, I also met companies interested in finding new products. My companies produce innovative materials, such as waterproofing, cuttings, and other thermal insulating plasters. Companies here in Singapore are really interested in testing these materials in their new buildings.”
Sui Jin Kon from the Blockchain Association Singapore highlighted the potential for future collaborations: “We had many fruitful meetings, and we are going to start collaborating on projects related to voluntary carbon markets, FinTech, and things like educating the public on why they should be consuming more mindfully.”
Alexis Biton, International Affairs Coordinator at Genopole Cluster in France (focused on genomics, life sciences and biotechnologies), emphasized the strategic importance of the event: “One of the key elements that made us come back for the [Matchmaking Events’] second year is that meetings were beneficial for our companies and members of the cluster. Singapore is a key market for the food tech industry and these meetings are instrumental in allowing companies to test and introduce new products in this market.”
On the second day of our Matchmaking, the EU delegation embarked on a journey through innovation and technology, visiting two prominent parallel trade fairs, each aligning with their specific sectoral interests and expertise.
At the Agri-Food Tech Expo Asia, our delegates experienced the region's foremost showcase of cutting-edge products, services, and solutions in global Agri-Food and Agri-Tech innovation. The day featured a curated guided tour, immersing participants in vital themes like aquaculture & urban protein production, food safety & security, food waste management and smart farming. The tour was a deep dive into the future of food, unveiling innovations that are reshaping how we think about agriculture and food production.
Key booths that captivated our delegation included:
ArianeTech Engineering: Revolutionizing urban farming with innovative technologies.
Agua Foods: Pioneers in plant-based food manufacturing, showcasing the future of sustainable food.
Futura Ingredients: A hub of creativity, aiding startups to conceive transformative solutions for the food industry.
GROW: A dynamic accelerator driving start-ups towards remarkable achievements.
APAC Society for Cellular Agriculture: Leading the charge in cellular agriculture advancements.
The SWITCH exhibition was a vibrant hub, bringing together startups, SMEs, MNCs, investors, research institutions and government organizations in a melting pot of innovation and enterprise. It was a platform where ideas met opportunities and future collaborations were born.
Delegates had the opportunity to access the Biz ‘N Buzz networking zone, where they could engage in structured networking sessions and take advantage of dedicated matchmaking opportunities through the event's official system. Additionally, they could participate in industry-specific guided tours, visiting carefully selected booths that showcased solutions addressing the needs of the delegation.
Highlights from the SWITCH booths included:
A*STAR - Agency for Science, Technology and Research: Showcasing trailblazing research and tech breakthroughs.
Consortium for Clinical Research and Innovation, Singapore (CRIS): A beacon for clinical research and healthcare innovation.
Wateroam: Addressing global water challenges with groundbreaking solutions.
Esri Singapore: Demonstrating the power of geographical information systems in transforming our world.
Several delegates seized the opportunity to register on spot and attend TechInnovation Expo, which was also taking place at that time.
The last day in Singapore kicked off with a debriefing session, offering a valuable platform for the EU delegates to share their insights and feedback on the event. Following this very productive start, the rest of the day was a dynamic showcase of start-ups and their immense potential. Our EU delegation delved into the world of innovation and forward-thinking entrepreneurship, uncovering the future of industry and technology.
Our visit to JTC Corporation, a government agency dedicated to sustainable industrial development, opened doors to the future. The delegation also participated in curated tours of one-north's cutting-edge innovation labs, allowing them to witness advancements that are propelling Singapore to the forefront of global innovation. These labs, buzzing with ideas and creativity, provided a glimpse into the technological leaps being made in various industries.
We encountered a range of ground-breaking products, each a testament to the ambition present in Singapore's start-up ecosystem:
- A food delivery robot, reimagining the logistics of food service with advanced automation.
- A VR machine, innovatively designed for treating health issues, blurring the lines between technology and wellness.
- A personalized air conditioner, offering custom comfort solutions in the realm of climate technology.
- Health-testing machines, epitomizing the intersection of technology and healthcare.
As we concluded our final day in Singapore, the delegation left inspired by the vast potential and bright future of start-ups. The eagerness to reconvene at the next ECCP Matchmaking event was palpable, with anticipation for even more ground-breaking ideas and collaborations.
📸 Photos from the Singapore mission.
💡 Dive deeper into the Matchmaking event in Singapore 2023
🌍 Explore our upcoming ECCP events to immerse yourself in similar occasions.
🎥 Highlight video from the Singapore Mission
 Countries included: Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, France, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Serbia, and Ukraine.