From the Public Service Sector to diplomacy – an Interview with the new Ambassador for Viet Nam to Switzerland, H.E. Mr Phung The Long

“If you visit Viet Nam, you will see a lot of renewable energy plants in the centre of Viet Nam, with solar and wind farms. It develops quickly, and we are ready to share our experience with the Swiss partners.” – H.E.Mr. Phung The Long

We had the honour to interview the Ambassador for Viet Nam to Switzerland, His Excellency (H.E.) Mr Phung The Long, regarding his journey of becoming the Ambassador and questions about this year’s exploreASEAN theme. The interview took place during our one-week Seminar in Switzerland. The seminar was attended by the exploreASEAN delegation soon travelling to Viet Nam, Malaysia and Singapore but also other students, who took the seminar as an elective course. The primary purpose of the seminar was to provide an understanding of the different cultures, getting to know companies relating to our 2023 theme (Renewable Energy and Automation) and networking with fellow students and potential employers.

The journey of becoming the Ambassador of Viet Nam to Switzerland

Before ever being appointed as an Ambassador 15 years ago, H.E.Mr. Phung The Long had been working in the public service sector for 20 years. His first position as an ambassador was that for the State of Qatar from 2008-2011. Between that role and his current role as the Ambassador of Viet Nam to Switzerland since 2022, H.E.Mr. Phung The Long was employed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the Director General and Vice-Chairman of the National Boundary Committee. Furthermore, he served as Consul General of Viet Nam in Perth, Australia.

From the inspiring conversation with the ambassador, here two inputs on Switzerland – Viet Nam relations we would like to share with our readers:

What potential do you see regarding renewable energy and automation to enhance the relationship between Viet Nam and Switzerland?

“First, I would like to talk about our development philosophy. Our development philosophy is putting the interest of people and the planet on top. We have a big development and aspiration. We have aimed to become a modern and industrialised country by 2020 and a high-income developed country by 2045. At the same time, we are timely carrying out the economic transition to a green, circular, low-carbon emission economy to achieve a net zero carbon emission by 2050 (…). We focus on financing services, high technology, automation, machine manufacturing, engineering and renewable energy (…). We also want to learn from Switzerland’s experience in research and education, especially in vocational training.”

Do you think Switzerland could take inspiration from Viet Nam regarding renewable energy to implement its sustainability strategy and vice versa?

 “I think the two countries could share experiences and learn from each other. I would like to talk about Viet Nam’s renewable energy strategy. We have a huge potential to develop renewable energy. Switzerland has the technology, and we would like Switzerland to share its experience with us to develop a green economy. I think Switzerland can learn from the experience on the Vietnamese side. If you visit Viet Nam, you will see a lot of renewable energy plants in the centre of Viet Nam, with solar and wind farms. It develops quickly, and we are ready to share our experience with the Swiss partners.”

Our explore ASEAN Seminar in Switzerland was a big success, and we thank every party involved. We hope to have sparked your curiosity about this seminar – and our project. We happily invite you to follow our social media channels,LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook. Do not miss out on any upcoming posts – and keep following us during our on-site seminar in Viet Nam, Malaysia and Singapore!

Your exploreASEAN communications team 22/23


The importance of automation in ASEAN countries

Automation is seen in various forms. It starts with simple things such as a washing machine, and goes up to robotics. In the eight’ edition of exploreASEAN, our theme is renewable energy and automation in ASEAN countries. Especially in post-pandemic times, businesses in ASEAN are struggling to recover. Is automation the solution to a rapid recovery?

The importance of automation in ASEAN countries

Today, when hearing automation, we automatically think of robots, but what does automation really mean? The word automation comes from the Greek word “automatos”. It states that something does a task without human influence, which could involve machines and computers. As a result, automation replaces many tasks which need human force. However, this does not indicate that job positions are decreasing. Automation helps to eliminate more dangerous and repetitive tasks and creates new flexible positions for people to extend their knowledge. exploreASEAN aims to showcase these automation developments in ASEAN countries to interested parties. If you are in the last year of your studies and want to explore this year’s theme with us, remember to apply for the delegation on our website!

ASEAN countries struggle to recover from the pandemic, especially warehouse operators, since they are facing labour shortages, inventory accuracy and visibility issues, according to TECHWIRE ASIA. Automation could be the solution for a rapid recovery. With these advancements, businesses can automate many tasks and employees can reorganise themselves within the company to other valuable positions. Businesses in ASEAN countries have acknowledged this and are working on the challenge to innovate and implement automated technologies. Of the ten ASEAN countries, Singapore has the best foundation for future innovations in automation. Furthermore, Malaysia is increasing their 2023 budget for connectivity and cybersecurity. By expanding 5G coverage, the country expects an improvement in automation since, on the one hand, the transmission of data would gain a new speed and, on the other hand, ensure lower latency.

The ASEAN market has proliferated since 2000, and the adoption of automation has advanced due to the pandemic. Companies are now moving from robotic process automation to intelligent process automation, which involves artificial intelligence, computer vision, cognitive automation and much more. For example, warehouse workers prefer using automated technologies, such as autonomous mobile robots. These robots can handle many tasks without getting tired. Therefore, warehouse operators are investing in autonomous mobile robots. Furthermore, Swiss and European logistic companies operating in Southeast Asia can improve their customer journey with intelligent process automation by eliminating the risk of low stock through effective supply chain management, using AI for delivery and optimising transportation routes for faster delivery and reducing operating costs. According to TECHWIRE ASIA, there is an expected growth of 92% in Asia-Pacific for their use in the next five years. The advancement in automation brings excellent benefits such as visibility, real-time data for workers, data-driven performance management and fewer business environment errors.

Automation is the solution to keep up with customers’ expectations and provide employee satisfaction. Now more than before, it is vital for companies in ASEAN countries to make daring moves and be open to innovate, develop and implement automation. In our On-Site seminar, we want to visit companies developing and implementing automation into their business and acknowledge their growth in this field.

Are you interested in more information on exploreASEAN? Then follow us on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn and support our project!



Clean energy is a Winner!

Cooking with the lid on the pan! Reducing the heat by 1°C less! Don’t use the tumbler! Only use the dishwasher when it is fully loaded! Those are all recommendations on how to get through the winter without risking an enormous energy bill and ensuring a successful future for Switzerland in terms of energy efficiency. Sounds doable, right? Another way to help overcome the energy crisis is renewable energy, such as Solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower and biomass.

Clean energy is a Winner!

Renewable energy and automation are this year’s topics. Delving into the Southeast Asian countries of Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Singapore, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia and Laos, we can see rich renewable energy sources. A 2019 published article by Erdiwansyah, Mahidin, Mamat R, Sani M, Khoerunnisa F and Kadarohman A, states that some of the ASEAN countries are experiencing rapid population and economic growth, leading them to developing renewable energy.

According to an article published by MDPI in 2022, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand contribute to the rich hydropower resources in the ASEAN countries with an annual rainfall of over 200 cm and plentiful rivers.

Thailand and Vietnam have the most installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity. In 2020, the total installed solar PV was 47% of that of hydropower, making it the second largest installation capacity of all renewable energies in ASEAN. A minimum wind speed of 4 m / s (metre per second) is needed for the efficient use of wind turbines. As the average wind speed is below this threshold value, wind is the least-used renewable energy in ASEAN and is only used in the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. Geothermal ranks fourth in installation capacity among ASEAN countries with the most substantial geothermal potential obtained in Indonesia and the Philippines due to their close location to the ring of fire, where active tectonic movements cause hot magma to rise close to the earth’s surface. Lastly, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines have the highest bioenergy potential, which is the third-largest installation capacity among renewable energy in ASEAN. In our on-site seminar, we will be discovering some interesting enterprises that are focused on renewable energy. Check out our website and access the newest information!

In conclusion, ASEAN countries have the best natural conditions to fight against the energy crisis, which also has the upside of being the cheapest power option in many of Southeast Asia. If this article sparked your interest and you also want to become a part of this exciting journey with exploreASEAN, apply for the delegation! For more information go to our Social Media channels; LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.




The ASEAN Key Figures 2021 reported a consolidated GDP in 2020 of $3.0 trillion for the ASEAN region, which is home to over 680 million people. Ranking it as the 5th largest economy in the world, after Germany ($3.8 trillion). By 2030 the ASEAN are likely to become the 4th largest economy, considering the current growth rate and future growth outlook, that is forecasted to an annual 5% for the next decade. This article will investigate the role of ASEAN+ in the global value chain, their growth potential and how the region can strengthen its position. 

ASEAN – The World’s Manufacturing Hub 

No matter if electronics (Thailand, Malaysia, and Philippines), automotives, rubbers (Thailand), machineries, chemicals (Malaysia), textiles, garments (Vietnam), semiconductors (Philippines and Singapore), biopharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, medical technologies (Singapore) and many others, companies around the world rely on their production sites or their sourcing located in the fast-growing ASEAN market. Although – besides from Singapore – this is mainly true for low-wage assembly work, current and future developments are creating new opportunities for the region and seem to be the chance for the ASEAN to move up the manufacturing value chain. These developments involve the companies’ need for more resilience in their supply chains, the ongoing digitalization and fourth industrial revolution as well as the growing pressure on companies to lower their emissions. 

Visit at the Bernina Factory in Thailand during the On-Site Seminar 2022

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership 

On 1 January 2022 the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) came into force. The world’s biggest regional free trade agreement was signed on 15 November 2020 between the ASEAN+ (excluding India) and aims to strengthen the region’s competitiveness. This is especially true for manufacturing. The agreement covers around 30% of global GDP and world population. Furthermore, it is accounting for over 25% of global trade volume. 

The RCEP is expected to accelerate the flow of goods and investments between Southeast Asia and their trade partners and will help ASEAN+ to gain further importance in the global value chain. The FTA within ASEAN+ will lower trade barriers, making it easier and cheaper to import manufacturing inputs and provides new opportunities for companies in designing supply chains that leverage advantages and skills across the ASEAN members. The Boston Consulting Group estimates that by 2030, $400 to $600 billion additional output can be generated yearly. Foreign Direct Investment (FDIs) have the potential to increase between $14 and $22 billion per year and 90’000 to 140’000 new jobs can be created annually. 

©/MAXPPP – 3rd Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Summit on the sidelines of the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit on November 4, 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo by Liu Zhen/China News Service/VCG)

Foreign Direct Investment 

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has been the main driver for growth in manufacturing across the region. Originally, the US, EU and Japan have been the biggest sources of FDIs. However, investments from Asian markets like China or South Korea are on the rise when manufacturers started to look for low-cost production sites and to deeply penetrate ASEAN markets. 

Although the Covid-19 pandemic lowered FDI in the ASEAN by nearly 25 percent from $182 billion in 2019 down to $137.3 billion in 2020, ASEAN remains one of the most attractive investment destinations. According to the ASEAN Investment Report 2020-2021, the ASEAN share of global FDI increased from 11.9% in 2019 to 13.7% in 2020. Moreover, in the period between 2018 to 2020 the annual financing of international projects in ASEAN amounted to $74 billion, which means a 100% increase to the previous period between 2015-2017. 

Collaboration Efforts Boosted by the Global Pandemic 

To counter the pandemic challenges in the global value chain ASEAN countries undertook collaboration efforts to ensure the flow of essential goods, as well as to increase resilience in supply chains and sourcing among the member states. In this regard, one of the most important collaboration plans launched during the pandemic, was the Hanoi Plan of Action on Strengthening ASEAN Economic Cooperation and Supply Chain Connectivity in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The joint response was crucial as the majority of FDIs are linked to global value chain activities and production networks in the region. 

Gaining Importance of Diversification in Supply Chains 

The pandemic has caused major disruption in supply chains and learned companies more than before to reduce risks through diversification of their sourcing and production portfolios away from single sources in order to enhance resilience in their supply chains. A survey by Gartner in 2021 found that 87% of supply chain professionals are planning to invest in supply chain resilience within the next two years. Similarly, a Nikkei survey in 2021 stated that 84% of Japanese companies who manufacture domestically began to diversify their supply chains in response to the pandemic. There are good reasons for management to focus on supply chain resiliency. Rising economic nationalism, persistent trade frictions between the USA and China and of course the current disruptions caused by governmental restrictions due to the Covid-19 outbreaks around the world and nowadays especially in the People’s Republic of China. Therefore, more and more manufacturers are exploring alternative production sites or adapting the so-called China Plus One strategy. A strategy that is said to reduce risks of disruption significantly, while maintaining manufacturing presence in the important market of China. A further trend that can be observed and will help companies improving supply chain resilience, is the relocation of production sites closer to end markets. 

Industry 4.0 

The locating of more flexible small batch production facilities closer to end consumers is possible through emerging technologies coming with the fourth industrial revolution. Yet, most of the MNCs and Southeast Asian companies are not embracing digital technologies – such as advanced robotics or real-time digital factory simulations – in ways that can put them at the forefront of Industry 4.0. However, unlocking the potential of industry 4.0 systems will be crucial to ASEAN to strengthen its role in the global value chain. Singapore, Vietnam, and Malaysia have already announced plans to invest in new manufacturing technologies like cloud computing applications, advanced robotics and industrial Internet of Things (IoT). To become more global competitive, companies in the region should move early to capture new opportunities and gain advantages. 

How ASEAN+ Can Strengthen Its Position

Southeast Asia with its relatively open access to Western and Asian markets, will continue to be a prime candidate for new plant sites. New opportunities will arise in ASEAN manufacturing sectors as new manufacturing clusters are established in the region. 

The distribution of specific skills and strengths among the ASEAN+ countries combined with the removal of trade barriers through RCEP and other agreements among member states, provides a great opportunity for companies to adapt twinning models that allow them to take advantage of low-cost manufacturing in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand and advanced manufacturing in Singapore, South Korea or Japan. By creating multinational value chains, companies can benefit from the strengths of each location and the economic integration of the region.  

The ASEAN Investment Report 2020-2021 emphasizes opportunities to boost more sustainable FDI in the region, especially FDI connected to the value chain, which will not only be facilitated by the RCEP but also by the recent ASEAN Investment Facilitation Framework (AIFF). Moreover, ASEAN is pushing for digital transformation and private investment in the development of digital infrastructure, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and smart manufacturing. The automotive and mobility industry awaits with new opportunities for the region thanks to the growing demand for all types of electric vehicles (EVs). Not only could ASEAN leverage its large market, but also its nickel reserves. The raw material is a key to the production of EV batteries. Finally, trade tensions and disruptions in the global supply chain are also creating opportunities for ASEAN in forward-looking sectors such as medical technology, biopharmaceuticals and chemicals. 

Source: 3DEXPERIENCE Company

Manufacturers and members in the region must seize these opportunities now and position themselves to take advantage of these current changes, increase productivity and expand market share. This will require meeting commitments agreed between governments and making major investments in infrastructure and workforce development. By doing so, the deployment of Industry 4.0 is likely to accelerate and boost productivity. The current economic developments in global manufacturing are a great opportunity for the ASEAN+ market to strengthen its position in the global value chain and allow more people in the region to benefit from socioeconomic progress. 



Interview with the South Korean Minister Counsellor Wonchang La

Interview with the South Korean Minister Counsellor Wonchang La

exploreASEAN had the honour of hosting the South Korean Minister Counsellor Wonchang La during the Seminar in Switzerland, held from 14 to 18 February 2022 at the FHNW campus in Olten. He provided interesting insights into the ASEAN+3 member state South Korea and its unprecedent rapid economic development. Moreover, Mr. Wonchang La was available for a short interview in which he speaks about his personal journey of becoming a diplomate, about the cultural challenges he faced and his personal values. He is currently Deputy Chief of Mission at the South Korean Embassy in Bern and has already been posted in Kazakhstan, Russia, the USA, and Italy.

South Korea and ASEAN

The 7th edition of exploreASEAN focuses for the first time in history not only on the ASEAN but also on the ASEAN+ member states, considering the growth and influence in the global market that cannot be overlooked. This is especially true for South Korea, which is ASEAN’s fifth largest trading partner, and conversely, ASEAN is the second largest trading partner for South Korea. The two economic powers are currently updating their free trade agreement to further reduce trade barriers as South Korea seeks to diversify its trade portfolio and expand its presence in Southeast Asia.

South Korea’s Unprecedent Rapid Economic Development – The Miracle on the Han River

The resource poor country surrounded by powerful neighbours like Japan, China, Russia and North Korea, has seen one of the most unprecedented rapid economic development in the world. South Korea’s GDP grew from 4 billion USD in 1960 to 1.630 billion USD in 2020, this means an increase of 410 times in the last 60 years. In terms of GDP, South Korea ranks 10th in the world, after the G7 states, China and India. Moreover, GDP per capita has increased 209 times. The country’s trade volume ranks 7th in export and 9th in import. In addition, according to the Bloomberg Innovation Index, South Korea ranked 1st in 2021. It was already the case for the seventh time over the last nine years.

After the Korean war in 1953, only few people may have foreseen such an economic success story for the developing country. The South Korean government, with its seamless execution of economic development plans and focused investments in talent development on the one hand, and the Korean people, with their strong work ethic and an enthusiasm for education on the other hand, have been key to this never-before-seen economic growth, dubbed the “Miracle on the Han River”.

Project Manager Patrick Bier responsable for the seminar’s organization handing over a gift basket with selected food specialties from the ASEAN+ countries and Switzerland

After Mr. Wonchang La’s presentation the PR team had the unique possibility to conduct an interview with the Minister Counsellor who has been posted in several different countries. His latest challenge awaits him in Bern, Switzerland. As a widely traveled diplomate, a cultural expert and connected to South Korea by his roots, he is the perfect interview fit for the current exploreASEAN edition.

Mr. Müller: During the presentation you mentioned the quality development of Korean goods, like the Korean car, which quality you have experienced quite disappointing in the late 1990’s and surprisingly good in 2006 when you bought a Hyundai car in Moscow. You also mentioned this strong work ethic of South Korean people. Did this work ethic develop during this time, or was it just that it finally paid off thanks to other factors that came together and ensured that the economy developed and produced better quality?

Mr. La: That’s a tricky question. Just like Switzerland, South Korea is a resource poor country, so in order to survive and succeed you have to work hard. That work ethic has been etched into our mentality throughout the history. Once South Korea became an independent country after the war, we could work for ourselves. With the advent of the democracy in 1987 after the end of the military dictatorship really unleashed people’s freedom to be rewarded for what they do. Also, South Korean family have witnessed that higher education pays off. So that is why each family is motivated to send their kids to college. Doing so requires a lot of sacrifice from these families but they think it is worth it and they place it on top priority. So, this ingrained in a work ethic and the strong motivation to put the next generation into higher education. Those are the two most critical elements in the South Korean work force which turned them into one of the top-notch workforces in the world.

Mr. Müller: Now I would like to ask you more personal questions. In your life, you have lived, studied and worked in many countries: How did you handle the cultural differences? What has been the main challenges?

Mr. La: I grew up in South Korea and then moved to the US as a teenager. During my college days I also spend a year in Japan as an exchange student. Ten years later I came back to South Korea to become a Korean diplomate, I was 27 years old at the time and since becoming a diplomate I was posted in five different countries starting with Kazakhstan. The postings in Moscow, Washington D.C., Rome and finally Bern followed. Spending time in all these countries – for me the two most important elements to continue my personal developments as a person and as a professional are the adaptability and the willingness to learn and enjoy my surroundings. Moving from South Korea to the United States as a teenager was a huge challenge, I did not speak English at all, but I made a lot of effort to pick up the language as quickly as possible and I was really focused on my studies. That really helped me to be able to adapt quickly in new surroundings throughout my career so moving from a central Asian country to a former Soviet Union and also going back to Washington DC. and then moving to Rome and Switzerland was quite a change in scenery and working environments but based on my past experiences I enjoyed the transitions and they have been rather smooth.

“…you are more defined by how you do what your tasked to do and not by what you do.”

On my second point, most young people tend to think that their value or their standing is determined by what they do – like what kind of job descriptions they have. It might be true but, in my view, a more accurate, a more useful approach would be that you are more defined by how you do what your tasked to do and not by what you do. If you do even small tasks with a lot of effort and you are willing to do it well then you will be gradually assigned to more important tasks and bigger responsibilities. I think that this really is key for young people to keep in mind. That has actually been my moto during my public career and you know, paying attention to details and small things matters. It allows you to see the differences and this helps you to adapt and enjoy the new environment and find new opportunities.

Selina Stücker and Marco Müller from the PR & Communications Team with Mr. Wonchang La

Mr. Müller: Willingness comes from motivation. What was your motivation to decide to become a diplomat for South Korea in 1997?

Mr. La: In my opinion, not many people end up with the job that they initially thought they would be doing. It was the same for me. I did not think about becoming a South Korean diplomat. I moved to the United States as an immigrant and I started high school and college there. I was in a graduate’s program with the intention to work in the private sector or for international organizations. During my Master’s degree, a South Korean diplomat who was a classmate of mine started foreign service with the South Korean government. Although it was not a venue or the career I was thinking about, I thought it could be an interesting career – so, I applied. To my own surprise I passed all tests on the first try. I think it is probably the same for every country that becoming a diplomate is quite a challenge. The Level of exam is quite difficult and there are usually very few slots open in these positions. In South Korea we select about 20 diplomats each year out of 50 million people.

“…my hard work as a student to focus on international markets and relations paid off.”

Even though I did not try to become a Korean diplomat, my hard work as a student to focus on international markets and relations paid off. In terms of career ways, you might not end up doing what you planned to do but if you spend each day with a determination to excel, then you end up with something surprising, very enjoyable and worthy to do.

Mr. Müller: A great message for all students. Where in the world did you find yourself the most comfortable?

Mr. La: Not as a diplomate but as a person I think Switzerland has the most, what I would wish for my own people and my own country. The clean environments, the beautiful nature the productivity and the level of wage and social welfare and the diversity of education and career developments, the medical services – I mean I can go on and on about the most admirable aspects of Switzerland and I think that this is why Switzerland is the envy of the world and in that regard, I am happy that my country is making small steps to emulate and get closer to Switzerland. You know all the countries that I have been posted had some attractive sides. For instance, Italy and their cultural inheritance is tremendous. I mean not only Rome or Firenze or Venice, even if you go to the small towns, you find some world class Art hidden there and not to mention the cuisine the wines and the beautiful sights. In Washington D.C. I played a small role in helping South Korea and the US to verify their free trade agreement – it was professionally a very rewarding experience. To intermingle with policy makers and top-notch thinkers in foreign affairs and economy is really an accelerating experience. In Moscow I learned a lot about the history about communism and what It means to transit from a communist country to a free economy and about what kind of costs that the people have to pay for this to happen. Kazakhstan is a very exotic place. The first time I went to the green market where vendors sell all these dried fruits – really delicious! For young people I recommend to spend their time to visit different countries and to explore different cultures and see it for themselves.

Mr Müller: Thank you very much for your insightful contribution and for your time!

The obligatory photo shoot in front of the FHNW Olten main building. From left to right: Anil Singh, Marsha Schurtenberger, Teresa Freiburghaus, Michael Jeive, Wonchang La, Patrick Bier, Selina Stücker, Jasmin Freiburghaus.

Exploring Collaboration Opportunities with Singapore

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.

From left to right: Marco Müller, Selina Stücker, Dr. Teresa Freiburghaus, Mr. Joël Henri Brunner, Marsha Schurtenberger, Anil Singh, and Prof. Robert Buttery.

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.

Singapore, Marina Bay.

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.

Marsha Schurtenberger and Anil Singh presenting the project to Mr. Joël Henri Brunner.

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.

Active exchange between the participants.

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.

Obligatory photo shoot in front of the FHNW campus in Olten.

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.



The ASEAN Smart Logistics Network (ASLN)

The ASEAN Smart Logistics Network (ASLN)

One year ago, on November 14, 2020, during the 37th ASEAN Summit the President of Vietnam and former Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and the Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong launched the ASEAN Smart Logistics Network (ASLN) together with its first project, the Vinh Phuc Inland Container Depot (ICD) Logistics Centre. Also known as the SuperPort. This article provides an overview about its goals, projects initiated, and potential opportunities for foreign investors.

ASLN – Enhanced Logistics in the ASEAN Region
Source: YCH Group

The ASLN serves as a platform which aims to promote logistics interconnectivity and integration within the member states of ASEAN. Moreover, it seeks to encourage the use of smart and sustainable logistics infrastructure. Also, the ASLN is a supportive means to ASEAN’s economic integration efforts and initiatives, such as the ASEAN Connectivity Master Plan 2025. A policy, which’s vision it is to connect and integrate ASEAN members seamlessly and comprehensively to promote competitiveness, inclusiveness, and finally a greater sense of community. Seamless logistics is one out of five strategic areas elaborated in the Master Plan. The area is focusing on two strategic objectives: lower supply chain costs and make the supply chains faster and more reliable in each ASEAN member state.

According to the Master Plan the previous initiatives have not reached the goals set in terms of logistics improvements. The reasons evaluated were named as a lack of coordination between government departments and sharing of best practices.

With the launch of the ASLN, the ASEAN is aiming to provide greater collaboration between logistics organizations, academic institutions, and the ASEAN member states with the shared goal of smart and sustainable growth.

Besides the ASEAN Connectivity Master Plan 2025, the ASLN is also assisting the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, and the ASEAN Integration Initiatives.

Vinh Phuc ICD Logistics Centre (SuperPort) in Vietnam
Source: Delco Construction

The inauguration of the ASLN was also the kickoff for its first logistics project in Vietnam. The SuperPort is going to be one of Vietnams largest logistics centers, which is situated in the northern province of Vinh Phuc near Hanoi. Not only will it serve as an inland transit point for domestic goods, imports, and exports. But also, as an inland container depot and a facilitator for customs clearance services for imports and exports.

The logistics center connects 20 industrial areas by road, rail, air, and sea. Furthermore, it is providing connectivity to the city of Hanoi, Hai Phong International Airport and China’s Yunnan Province, where the goods are transported via the Lao Cai border gate along the Hanoi-Lao Cai economic corridor.

The project is operated by the T&T Group of Vietnam and Singapore’s YCH Group. The investment made amounts to USD 166.68 million.

Phnom Penh Logistics Complex in Cambodia
Photo credit: Ministry of Public Works and Transport

The second project under the ASLN has been released by Cambodia’s Ministry of Public Works and Transport, and again by the YCH Group from Singapore.

The Phnom Penh Logistics Complex project will start in 2022 and follows the concept of the SuperPort in Vietnam. The costs for the logistics project are estimated at USD 200 million.

The aim is to build a state-of-the-art logistics complex, using latest technology to enhance resilience, visibility, and the process flow of the logistics. Moreover, it will feature a training academy and startup hub to train employees in the logistics sector of Cambodia.

Opportunities for Foreign Investors and Businesses

The Singaporean YCH Group is managing both ASLN projects by providing their expertise for the development of the logistics infrastructure. This example implicates the support needed from more developed countries to excel in the complex projects initiated.

Even though the main partners involved will be from the ASEAN region, foreign companies may contribute with consulting services, goods and services for the development of the logistics infrastructure, and with other kinds of collaboration. Furthermore, the funding of the projects might also be attractive for foreign investors who are or want to be involved in the ASEAN region.

Even if not directly engaged, these businesses will also profit from the implemented projects: greater integration within the ASEAN will lead to more efficient and faster logistics. This will benefit the trade in goods and services across the region and lower costs.


So far, two major projects have been launched under the ASLN, which is said to improve logistics in the ASEAN region significantly. With the expertise of the Singaporean YCH Group and the willingness to collaborate, these projects are most certainly going to succeed and implemented as planned. More sustainable projects will follow, and further improve logistics infrastructure, which will not only benefit the ASEAN member states and their businesses. New and attractive opportunities will emerge even for foreign companies and investors.



Theme and On-Site Trip Destinations

Theme and On-Site Trip Destinations

The world is a complex value chain, a network of organizations that works collaboratively to transfer products and services from producers to consumers. The conditions we have become accustomed to is inconceivable without an international supply chain. During the 7th edition of exploreASEAN we will dive into this complex world of global value chains and the positioning of ASEAN+ in those growing dynamics. Learn more about our theme and the destinations chosen for the on-site trip.

Over the last several years, ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) maintained strong and steady economic progress showing the enormous potential that lies in this region. As a result of closer economic and political collaboration – the establishment of trade agreements combined with the promotion of peace and stability – poverty declined significantly, and GDP rates grew rapidly.

During the 7th edition of exploreASEAN we will dive into the complex world of global value chains and the positioning of ASEAN+ in those growing dynamics. Herewith, we proudly present this year’s project theme:

ASEAN+ in the Global Value Chain: Gain and Sustain

The world is a complex value chain, a network of organizations that works collaboratively to transfer products and services from producers to consumers. The conditions we have become accustomed to is inconceivable without an international supply chain. Due to this reason, we want to dive into the intricate field of the global value chains and the positioning of ASEAN+ in those growing dynamics. Due to the rapid development, sustainable potential, and fast pace of innovation, the value chain of ASEAN+ is an exciting destination for tomorrow’s investors.

For this year’s edition we have incorporated South Korea in our project. The unprecedent inclusion of an ASEAN+ country was based on the growth and influence South Korea has gained in the global market in recent decades. South Korea’s economic success cannot be overlooked and therefore will be an exciting and remarkable addition to this years exploreASEAN.


Value chains exist to connect producers and consumers in an ongoing exchange of value. As a result, innovations in value chain drive innovations in the rest of the economy. According to a research conducted by the APEC Policy Support Unit, a 1% gain in logistics performance and competitiveness may result in a 3% boost in export growth. This fraction already shows the immense potential in the ASEAN market. Hence this project will investigate the position of ASEAN+ in the global value chain and how their role might be strengthened or challenged.


Value chains are to human civilization what oxygen is to life; when they work well, no one notices them. It is only when they start to fail that we realize there is a problem. Therefore, one can say that the value chain is an integral part of a company which is commonly faced with many challenges. Whether it is in the day-to-day operations or more significant adaptations like the transformational change, which are gaining on importance in the forthcoming years. The growing volatility in the business environment motivated us to explore the difficulties, innovations, and opportunities that might face ASEAN+ and how their competitiveness can be sustained in the constant evolving environment.

On-Site Trip Destinations

The journey of this year’s exploreASEAN edition will lead us to two founder nations of ASEAN – Singapore and Thailand – and to one of ASEAN’s main partners and ASEAN+ member state, South Korea.

Singapore – World-Class Global Connectivity

Thanks to state-of-the-art technology and a strong Free Trade Agreement network (25!) and a reliable, highly advanced, and efficient logistics and supply chain management hub, Singapore has one of the best logistics performances in the world and plays a crucial role in the global value chains.

Even in times of the pandemic, which severely disrupted supply chains, Singapore’s strong maritime performance could be relied upon. This is a clear indication of how it has strengthened its status as a global logistics center.

Thailand – ASEAN’s Manufacturing Hub

Manufacturing is one of the most important sectors of ASEAN second-largest economy Thailand. Therefore, it is not surprising that Thailand is one of the largest manufacturing hubs in Southeast Asia. The country produces a variety of goods such as textiles and apparel, footwear, electronics, machinery, including computers, automobiles and parts, gems, and rubber.

Thailand’s government currently is investing in four major infrastructure projects with the aim of transforming Thailand into a leading ASEAN investment and business center.

South Korea – ASEAN’s important trade partner

A country with big multinational corporations such as Samsung, LG or Hyundai has raised global importance in the value chain within the last few years. With its 17 Free Trade Agreements, including ASEAN, EFTA and EU, South Korea is a major international trading partner.

The country is looking to expand its presence in Southeast Asia and has recently launched talks with ASEAN to update its FTA. The recent Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement between the ASEAN and ASEAN+ member states is expected to reduce import and export costs significantly and will help facilitate international supply chains.

Today, ASEAN is the second-largest trading partner of South Korea.

The Current Pandemic Situation

Due to the current pandemic situation, our team is faced with planning uncertainties. As a result, we allow ourselves to keep the option open to visit other significant and relevant countries, which play a vital role in the global value chain if the prevailing restrictions make it impossible for us to complete our mission in the countries listed above. Possible alternative destinations are Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia. In the worst-case scenario, we might visit key European hubs in terms of the global value chain.


ASEAN + 3 + 6 = ?

ASEAN + 3 + 6 = ?

ASEAN stands for Association of Southeast Asian Nations and consists of ten member states including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The aim of its creation was to improve economic, sociocultural and political cooperation and to balance political conflicts between these countries. But what exactly is ASEAN+3 and ASEAN+6? And what purpose do they have?

In 1967 the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established by five countries; namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. The main purpose of ASEAN was to stimulate economic growth, social progress and cultural, technical as well as educational development through mutually beneficial collaboration and cooperation among the member states. With its slogan “One Vision, One Identity, One Community” a harmonic coexistence including supporting regional peace and stability was promoted. Over the course of time Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar became members of the Association and with Cambodia joining in the year 1999 ASEAN consists now of ten member states.


China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea are the countries which represent the “3” in ASEAN+3, which was established in 1999. Its goal was to strengthen and deepen the cooperation in East Asia even further. The main objectives and principles are written down in the Joint Statement. In the year 2007 a second Joint Statement “Building on the Foundations of ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation” was accepted, which states that ASEAN+3 continues to support ASEAN in building an East Asian community. Furthermore, the ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation Work Plan (2007-2017) was developed in order to enhance the East Asia cooperation. Ten years later, at the end of the Cooperation Work Plan (2017), ASEAN+3 was proclaimed to have a crucial role for peace, stability, and prosperity in the East Asian region. Moreover, ASEAN+3 agreed to be a continued essential partner of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.

Overview of countries that belong to ASEAN, ASEAN+3 and ASEAN+6.

Besides what we already know now, ASEAN+6 includes the ASEAN+3 member states as well as Australia, India, and New Zealand. This formation was inspired by the European Union and shaped the basis for the envisioned East Asian community.


Switzerland became a Sectorial Dialogue Partner in the year 2016 and celebrated its 5th Anniversary of this valued Partnership in August 2021. Southeast Asia’s importance in global affairs is continuously growing and with Switzerland joining the Sectorial Dialogue, the country is able to intensify the cooperation with Southeast Asia and expand its ties with the Asia-Pacific region. There are four defined priority fields for a cooperation between ASEAN and Switzerland: human security, vocational education and training, climate change and social forestry, as well as disaster management and risk reduction. The countries support each other during challenging periods which was emphasised in a speech of the Vietnamese Ambassador on the 1st of September 2021:

“Vietnam has been profoundly thankful for the Swiss timely donations of Covid-19 medical equipment such as oxygen machines, Covid-19 test kits, masks and with total value of 5 million USD. Delivered on the occasion of the visit, the Emergency Aid package sent a clear message of solidarity and empathy to the Vietnamese people, in line with the spirit of “A friend in need is a friend indeed.””

  • Mrs. Le Linh Lan, Vietnamese Ambassador on the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Switzerland on 1st September 2021


ARIC (n.d.). Association of Southeast Asian Nations Plus Three (ASEAN+3) cooperation on energy, transport, and information & communications technology. ASIA REGIONAL INTEGRATION CENTER.

ASEAN (n.d.). The Founding of ASEAN. Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

ASEAN plus three (n.d.). History. ASEAN plus three.

Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA (2021, August 19). Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). EDA.

Toh, M. H. (2009, May 15). ASEAN+6 as a step towards an Asian Economic Community. Eastasiaforum.


Seizing opportunities in international collaboration

Seizing opportunities in international collaboration

How to increase competences in international collaboration during times of a pandemic?

For our article we had the chance to talk to Christian Czupalla, the founder of weEmpower. The expert in the field of intercultural collaboration and digital communication shared his insights on how to increase intercultural competences in order to seize the opportunities of the situation.

Christian Czupalla founded the leadership academy called weEmpower. He completely adapted the strategy and switched to online services during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020. With this new format of their training and consulting activities, the company found a way to adapt the own services to the new demands of their audience. Their offering helps participants and clients to gain practical knowledge in order increase their leadership competences. 

With the new dynamic of their offering, the clients of WeEmpower can incorporate the sessions into their regular workday even easier and faster. Which gives them a handy tool during times of rapid change which can be observed globally.

Christian Czupalla emphasizes:

“International collaboration means learning, it is equally important to reflect and understand the own culture as well as gaining an understanding for the other culture”

To him international collaboration is exciting and dynamic since requirements like laws for example can change suddenly. Therefore, openness and adaptability are crucial in any situation. From Christian Czupalla’s point of view, the dynamics in international collaboration are being shaped and defined by the various effects of COVID on the business world. Patterns of the past are being re-evaluated constantly and methods for improvement can be identified and implemented to adjust to the situation.

There is a big chance when It comes to interaction, since there is a significant advance in communication technology, many actions can be coordinated more easily.
For example, the simple collaborative editing of spread sheets which used to be a big challenge without being able to share the screen. Examples like this offer many opportunities to prevent misunderstandings and speed up a wide range of processes.

When speaking of the ASEAN region there are many challenges and chances which can be observed. The biggest challenge South East Asian countries must face at the moment is the controlling of the supply chains, since COVID caused rapid demand changes. With a variety of products or product components produced in this region, the effects are particularly noticeable. Nevertheless, the offering of solutions and the willingness to be a part of the solution rather than the problem, is a big advantage of the region. In Christian Czupalla’s experience, the agility is particularly high in this regions and solutions are always offered quickly.

“The golden rule in collaboration is, that the relationship decides on what is possible.”

According to Christian Czupalla the new digital opportunities will make it easier to maintain professional relationships. This factor is going to improve intercultural communication and understanding fundamentally.

There is room for improvement in online communication, when it comes to the implementation of guidelines, which can simplify the “forming phase” at the beginning of every collaboration.
We can benefit from the advantages of nonverbal communication, even in a digital setting, if the cameras are switched on for example. Therefore, defining those aspects in advance will help us to increase the effectiveness for each participant.

Another key factor is the choice of the tool, which can determine the success of an operation. Therefore, the available options must be evaluated carefully when planning a project. 

With those insights in mind, the change which is pushed by the pandemic can be applied optimally and the advantages of the innovations and strengths of each region can be utilized to the benefit of all parties involved.

But despite all the digitalization and closer direct collaboration, the success factor is and remains the understanding and relationship between people.  The degree of the relationship determines what can be achieved together.