Meeting with the Science Counselor of the Swiss Embassy in Singapore to explore Collaboration
On December 17, 2021, exploreASEAN together with the head of International Relations, Prof. Robert Buttery welcomed Mr. Joël Henri Brunner, Science Counselor at the Embassy of Switzerland in Singapore. The purpose of the meeting held at the campus Olten was to explore possibilities of support for the project and to discuss means of expanding FHNW’s collaboration with Singaporean universities.
Singapore: A Knowledge-Based Economy
Since their independence in 1965, Singapore has remarkably developed from a low-income country to a high-income country with an average GDP growth of 7.3% (until 2019). Everything started with the government recognizing that they must make up technologically for the country’s constraints in resources. Their most valuable resources: the people. At the beginning they struggled to get the scientists and engineers willing to pursue in R&D. However, thanks to Singapore’s substantial investment efforts in R&D within the science and technology area, the island city-state has managed to become a true knowledge-based economy that thrives on innovation and enterprise. According to the World Bank Human Capital Index, Singapore leads the ranking as the best nation worldwide in human capital development.
The Potential of Swiss Universities of Applied Science
Today, Singapore’s universities are among the top ranked universities in the world. This is especially the case in engineering and technology (e.g. NUS and NTU) but also in the field of business and management (e.g. Singapore Management University). Whereas high ranked Swiss universities like the ETH or EPFL are well connected with Singaporean universities, Swiss universities of applied science are still in process of establishing a foothold and build these partnerships. Recently, Singapore and its universities have recognized the need for a more practical education going beyond academic merit, greatly increasing the interest in the offerings of Swiss applied universities.
That shift has been recognized by Mr. Brunner, who is responsible to promote and strengthen bilateral cooperation between Singapore and Switzerland in the domains of education, research and innovation. He stated that Singapore has been closely watching the Swiss education system. In his view, Swiss universities of applied science are doing very good work and he believes that there is great potential for exchange with Singaporean institutions. In the case of the FHNW School of Business, this work has recently paid off with the prestigious AACSB accreditation, underlining the potential of Swiss universities of applied science and their students.
After a brief introduction from Prof. Buttery to the vision and mission with the long-term goals of the School of Business in terms of international collaboration, our project members Anil Singh and Marsha Schurtenberger presented the 7th edition of the project to Mr. Brunner, providing him with a good general overview and with the mission of our project, which is to build bridges for young talents through teaching cultural values and business aspects of the ASEAN region and providing a network where students of the FHNW can connect with their potential future employer.
Supervisor Dr. Freiburghaus further explained that the project team needs to work out everything by themselves. For instance, the project’s theme and the decision on the visiting destinations, the planning and execution of the seminars in Switzerland and abroad, or the financing of the project by acquiring new sponsors. Not to forget the selection of an interdisciplinary delegation across all the schools of the university of applied science.
Prof. Buttery proudly added that the four international student projects (ISP) are enabling students to apply what they have learned during their studies. He stressed that ultimately it is not about the ranking of a university, but about what the students are capable of. Moreover, Prof. Buttery explained that the prestigious ISPs, which are not quite easy for students to join due to the strong competition, are a good springboard for the students into the global business world and will enhance their employability.
The Role of exploreASEAN
When Mr. Brunner was asked why he had decided to visit the FHNW, he explained that while he was researching links between Singapore and Swiss institutions, he had stumbled upon the exploreASEAN website and was impressed by the project.
Mr. Brunner further emphasized the importance of teaching students to tackle complex problems in cross functional teams to best prepare them for the “real world”. The FHNW degree programmes build on cross-functionality and exploreASEAN is thus a good example of showcasing this. He is convinced that the exploreASEAN project can support him in demonstrating through his platforms, what Swiss universities of applied sciences and their students can do. For example, Mr. Brunner discussed the potential of showcasing the insights gained by exploreASEAN on the online platform nextrends-Asia, helping to increase visibility for the projects and the students individually. The platform regularly showcases upcoming education, research, innovation and policy trends from China, India, Israel, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia, and how Switzerland’s innovation players engage with them.
Finally, Mr. Brunner assured that the Ambassador Filliez and the Swiss Embassy in Singapore will be happy to support exploreASEAN with linking them up with potential partners and sponsors and welcoming them at their premises.
The team thanked Mr. Brunner for his support and is looking forward to welcome him in February 2022 at the Seminar in Switzerland.