10 January 17 The Business Times by AMIT ROY CHOUDHURY
BRITISH aero-engine maker Rolls-Royce and A*Star signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Jan 9 to advance its digital capabilities and, at the same time, facilitate the growth of the supporting digital ecosystem in Singapore.
Rolls-Royce, which has been present in Singapore since 1950, considers the country a key regional hub for its civil, defence, marine and power systems business. At its Seletar campus it assembles and tests aero engines that power the Airbus 380 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Singapore is also the only place outside of the UK where it manufactures its patented hollow, titanium wide-chord fan blade.
Under the MOU, the British company plans to collaborate with A*Star to establish technology centres here to exploit growing capabilities in Internet of Things (IoT) and advanced manufacturing technology in the industrial, healthcare, transport and other sectors. The proposed centres are likely to include a collaborative sensor technology design laboratory on developing IoT sensors using nanotechnology and microelectronics. It may also include a collaborative computational science development laboratory, among other purposes, to create solutions to connect sensors with the digital value chain, including analytics software, applications design and cybersecurity.
The MOU also proposes the strategic development of future manufacturing capabilities including digital manufacturing and advanced manufacturing technologies and processes for manufacturing, assembly and MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) applications.
Ian Davis, Rolls-Royce chairman, said that by "sharing our world leading expertise in digital technology", Rolls-Royce and A*Star can together build a digital ecosystem "that all industries can benefit from".
Mr Davis said that with its Smart Nation initiative, Singapore has demonstrated that it is "continually transforming, able and inventive". That is why Singapore is a compelling partner to work with on "some of our digital strategy streams", he added.
He said that the MOU would expand and deepen the company's capabilities in Singapore. He added that 90 per cent of the company's sales comes from outside its UK home market. He added: "Today 50 per cent of our aircraft (engine) sales come from Asia, in 20 years 70 per cent of of our sales will come from this region." Singapore's importance lies in the fact that it is a major engine repair and maintenance centre of the company.
A*Star chairman, Lim Chuan Poh, noted that Singapore is the largest aviation hub in Asia. The total output from the aerospace industry in Singapore is worth S$8.3 billion out of which 90 per cent comes from MRO activities and the rest from manufacturing. The sector employs 20,000 highly-skilled talent with the vast majority being locals, Mr Lim said.
Singapore hosts more than 100 aerospace companies. These include multinationals such as Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier and Rolls-Royce, and local enterprises such as ST Aerospace, SIA Engineering Company, Wah Son Engineering, and Ka Shin Technologies.
Mr Lim noted that over the years, Rolls-Royce has proven to be one of A*Star's most valuable partners in collaborative research that "kick-starts innovation" for the industry. "These initiatives not only contribute to the local aerospace sector, but to the overall manufacturing landscape in Singapore," he added.
In 2007, Rolls-Royce joined the A*Star Aerospace Programme consortium as one of its founding members. In 2011, it established a Joint Lab with A*Star's Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) in computational engineering. Mr Lim added that Singapore worked with Rolls-Royce and a few other industry partners to set up the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC) which was officially opened in 2015.