Danish Ambassador to Singapore champions sustainability and innovation
SINGAPORE is an excellent gateway to Asia and in the eyes of Danish businesses, is the natural partner for growth, innovation, and collaboration in areas revolving around technology and sustainability.
To better understand the relationship between Singapore and Denmark and the goals and opportunities ahead, Tech Wire Asia spoke to Danish Ambassador and Danish Trade Council South East Asia Board of Directors Chairman Dorte Bech Vizard.
“Innovation and collaboration in technology have been a key focus area of mine. It’s something that we spend a lot of time on. Singapore, being one of the world’s leading technology hubs, is a natural partner for us.”
Ambassador Vizard also points out that Singapore has always embraced partnerships and collaborations with regional and international entities for a long time, which has turned it into an effective business hub and allowed it to attract talent and investment from all over the globe.
“When you couple that with the country’s focus on human resources and education, and the support it provides for business development, it really becomes an attractive value proposition for Danish companies looking for growth.”
In many respects, Denmark and Singapore are quite similar. They’re both excellent markets, have policies that encourage innovation, and are home to people who favor the deployment, use, and adoption of new and emerging technologies.
Further, in the digital age, the two countries are quite open with sharing data with businesses — without risking the privacy or security of citizens and residents in any way — which goes a long way in collaborations, partnerships, and the actual rolls out of technologies.
According to the Danish Ambassador, government agencies and business entities in Singapore, as a result, are keen to explore the opportunities that Denmark has to offer as well. Their interest is reflected in the fact that several businesses and government officials frequently visit Denmark to engage in relevant dialogues.
“We’re both small countries, we don’t really have any natural resources to speak of other than our people. And we both realize that we have to look to technology and new business models to stay ahead in the future.
“We’re both, therefore, very focused on looking around the corner, seeing what going on in the future, and preparing our societies for taking the right steps to prepare for that future.”
Promoting new opportunities to businesses
The Danish Embassy in Singapore, as anyone would imagine, aims to promote and establish new partnership opportunities for Danish businesses eyeing Singapore and vice versa.
Of course, this is especially true for businesses in Denmark looking to export its innovations to Singapore or looking to import innovative products and solutions from Singapore into Denmark and the rest of the European Union.
One of the challenges that businesses, especially startups and SMEs, in Denmark face is that Singapore is very far away from home, and hence, is difficult to access.
These businesses often tell Ambassador Vizard that they don’t have a lot of free resources to spare in order to access new markets — despite having a product or solution that they feel will be a great success in Asia.
“For them, I try to design platforms and initiatives that allow them to understand the market in Asia, access relevant data, and scout for appropriate talent from their base in Denmark. This allows companies and innovators to get a clear idea of the local opportunities before they make their first trip to the region.”
However, when businesses from Denmark do finally make it out to Singapore, they gain access to a great program that has been set up for them by Ambassador Vizard and her team, to make introductions with corporates, innovation labs, and other entities in the region that can provide support and help to get embedded into the ecosystem.
One of the areas where the Ambassador and her team made a big impact recently is fintech.
The Copenhagen Fintech Lab, the Danish Embassy’s partner at home, nurtures fintech companies in the country while also helping them prepare for entry into other markets.
The Danish Embassy in Singapore, through its participation in the Singapore Fintech Week last year, helped bring some of those fintech companies into Singapore and made introductions and connections that helped those companies to start planning to make a debut in Asia, through Singapore.
While this is just one example in one niche, Ambassador Dorte and her team work on several such projects all year round, to help businesses at home and in Singapore find new opportunities in each other’s markets.
Denmark and Singapore are focused on sustainability
While the majority of their collaboration efforts are based on using technology to innovate for business or commercial applications, the two countries are starting to do a lot of work together in the sustainability space as well.
“Singapore and Denmark have a very strong focus on sustainability, on greening our cities, and also on combating and adapting to climate change.
“Prime Minister Lee’s speech at the National Day rally last year, for example, declared climate change as an existential threat and called for significant investments to help save the planet.
“In Denmark, likewise, the Danish government has recently passed legislation which makes it legally binding to achieve a 70 percent emissions reduction by 2030.”
According to the Danish Ambassador, these kinds of ambitions spur innovation because money is deployed and companies can see an opportunity where there is demand for innovative solutions with guaranteed rewards.
Truth be told, sustainability and climate change have been things that the Danish government and businesses have been thinking about for nearly a decade — which is why they’re in a position to export some of the innovations made in that space to countries that are slowing but surely keen to adopt such solutions.
Singapore and its neighbors are making investments in the sustainability space, and will catch up in the near future for sure, but in the meanwhile, there clearly exists an opportunity for Danish entities in Asian markets.
All of Southeast Asia is interesting to Danish businesses
Ambassador Dorte also serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Danish Trade Council of Southeast Asia — and points out that efforts in terms of collaboration and joint-innovation, be it in technology or sustainability, is something that’s a focus across the board.
“We have 30 trade advisors sitting in different nations, working together. We just met in Bangkok, a couple of weeks ago, to make a plan for how we are going to make sure Danish companies get access to overseas markets in Southeast Asia.
“We have a regional focus, which is reflected in the platforms and programs we create for businesses in the country. So a lot of the time companies will come to Singapore to set up and find partners and capital, and then we help them to expand their footprint to markets outside the country, in Southeast Asia.”
The priority for the first half of the year, as discussed in the recent meeting, is to promote and encourage sustainability, in Denmark as well as across Southeast Asia.
Other technology-backed businesses and innovations will definitely get all the support they need to leverage the opportunities in both regions — that’s an ongoing priority — something that Ambassador Vizard personally enjoys.
In the coming months, the Danish Embassy in Singapore can facilitate new partnerships and spur exciting innovations. The possibilities are truly endless.