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German software giant SAP is investing S$250m (US$184m) over the next five years in a new innovation lab in Singapore to shore up its capabilities in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, cloud transformation, digital supply chain and intelligent business networks.
Located at SAP’s newly revamped regional headquarters in Pasir Panjang, the lab is expected to employ more than 500 digital professionals by 2025, doubling SAP’s existing engineering workforce in Singapore.
“We are convinced that this investment in people will bring us success,” said Thomas Saueressig, an SAP executive board member who leads the company’s product engineering efforts. “Software is a people business and it’s about the talent who create the product.”
The facility, SAP’s fifth in Asia-Pacific following similar labs in India, China, South Korea and Japan, will also serve as a conduit for its engineers in Singapore to work on real-world problems faced by SAP customers.
Saueressig said this will bring its product development efforts closer to users that SAP will work with to define future industry standards and address their needs through design thinking sessions. “Effective collaboration with customers and the market is super important and this will help to inform our development roadmap,” he added.
Eileen Chua, managing director of SAP Singapore, said that while SAP does not claim to solve every single problem, the lab can still serve as an avenue to help customers integrate their own solutions with the company’s software.
“Some organisations in Singapore would have an R&D [research and development] or innovation team that will seek to build very specialised solutions that are unique to their industry or their business as their secret sauce,” said Chua.
“It may not necessarily be something that we take on as standard development, but it certainly is an avenue for us to work together with them because some of these solutions that they build will need to be integrated.”
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The innovation lab is not SAP’s first R&D investment in Singapore. In 2012, the company established its first corporate lab at the National Research Foundation’s Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise.
The corporate lab provided a collaboration platform for open innovation in real-world settings and offered the opportunity to turn research solutions into tangible digital offerings for businesses.
In 2017, Singapore also became the birthplace of SAP machine learning, with SAP setting up its global innovation centre for machine learning in the city-state. Today, the centre continues to build machine learning systems such as SAP Service Ticket Intelligence to help SAP customers automate their business processes.
Jacqueline Poh, managing director of Singapore’s Economic Development Board, said SAP’s commitment to R&D fits well with the country’s efforts to create a vibrant and globally competitive digital economy driven by innovation.
“As a country, we have set aside 1% of our GDP to fund public research in a slew of areas, not least in the technologies that service our smart nation and digital economy objectives,” she said. “These include AI, blockchain, cyber security, quantum and 5G. Partners like SAP are critical to the creation of digital innovations that make a smart nation come to life.”