KNOWING YOUR MEMBERS…TIMO LORENZ

Timo Lorenz

 

Timo Lorenz is the General Manager, Sales, South East Asia of Noatum Logistics, a leading company in Supply Chain Management with global coverage positioned in the Top 50 freight forwarders worldwide.

 

  1. Hi Timo, could you please introduce yourself?

    Hola, I’m Timo Lorenz from Noatum Logistics, General Manager Sales for South East Asia (Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea and Japan). In 2017 we moved from Shanghai to Singapore. We very much enjoy living in Singapore, we have two daughters who are going to Kindergarten.

  2. Can you tell us the main activities and services provided by Noatum Logistics?

    Noatum Logistics is part of Noatum, a leading maritime, logistics and port services group thanks to an extensive experience gained in nearly 60 years of business.

    Noatum Logistics is a leading company in Supply Chain Management with global coverage, specialized in international transport, logistics solutions for eCommerce businesses, project logistics, customs clearance and positioned in the Top 50 freight forwarders worldwide.

    We are present in 24 countries and through our team of over 1,600 professionals with great experience in our sector, we always put our motto “Excellence in Logistics Services” into practice by providing high quality services to our customers.

  3. How would you briefly explain the company’s business strategy for Asia?

    With our network coverage in Asia and dedicated local teams in each country we can fully support our clients also from the local perspective which is very important in our industry. With an innovative character we offer specific, integrated, complex and added value responses to our clients’ supply chain, prioritizing a long-term relationship of trust and confidence to support the business success.

  4. How do you think the supply chain management of companies will change after the Covid-19?

    For now, the impact of Covid-19 in the Supply Chain sector is severe. Air Freight rates are up 3-4x because more than 50% of the market capacity is missing due to the reduction of passenger flights.

    Ocean freight rates are up 5-10x due to the Container imbalances caused by longer turnaround times of containers at the destinations: from 2-3 weeks to 6-9 weeks due to Covid restrictions resulting in less truck drivers, less staff at the warehouse and other delays. Another factor are the vessel delays due to longer berthing time at the ports, which are causing schedule interruptions.

    This situation could well continue into 2022 and might only go back to normal in late 2022 or 2023. We expect freight rates to stay on a higher level compared to pre-pandemic rates. This will result in more regional sourcing in the future and more regional/local stocks. Companies will hold more buffers in order to be less affected by delays and rate increases. The warehouse demand will grow in the coming years.

  5. How important do you think your business in Asia will be for Noatum Logistic in the medium-long term?

    Our presence in Asia will continue to play an important role. The still rapidly growing consumer base in the region will still present great opportunities for years to come.  

  6. Would you like to make a recommendation to someone thinking about coming to Singapore?

    Singapore is a great and interesting place to be. Anyone who is presented with the chance of staying here longer, should not hesitate to come and be a part of this vibrant, multicultural, and fascinating island.

  7. Where do you like to go in Singapore when you have free time?

    The East Coast Park offers many activities like walking, running, cycling, swimming, having a picnic, dining, wakeboarding, and stretching from the busy City Centre all the way to Changi Airport.

    Gracias Timo!

     

    For more information:

    www.noatumlogistics.com

ASEAN, EU conclude the world’s first bloc-to-bloc Air Transport Agreement

ASEAN, EU conclude the world’s first bloc-to-bloc Air Transport Agreement

JAKARTA, 4 June 2021 – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) and its Member States have concluded the negotiations on the ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (AE CATA) at the Extraordinary ASEAN-EU Senior Transport Officials Meeting held virtually on June 2.

The AE CATA is the world’s first bloc-to-bloc air transport agreement and will bolster connectivity and economic development among the 37 member states of ASEAN and the EU. Under the agreement, airlines of ASEAN and the EU will have greater opportunities to operate passenger and cargo services between and beyond both regions. Airlines of ASEAN and the EU will be able to fly any number of services between both regions. In addition, airlines will be able to fly up to 14 weekly passenger services, and any number of cargo services via and beyond to any third country.

The Agreement will help rebuild air connectivity between ASEAN and Europe which has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic and open up new growth opportunities for the aviation industry in both regions. Both parties expressed the intent to maintain close discussions and coordination to minimize disruptions to air services caused by the pandemic.

The pace-setting Agreement reflects the latest policy thinking in air transport regulation, including robust fair competition provisions and business issues. More importantly, the AE CATA provides a foundation for closer cooperation between ASEAN and the EU in areas such as aviation safety, air traffic management, consumer protection, and environmental and social matters. This deeper cooperation builds upon existing initiatives such as the Enhanced ASEAN Regional Integration Support from the EU (ARISE Plus) programme on technical assistance and capacity building; the EU-South East Asia on Cooperation on Mitigating Climate Change impact from Civil Aviation: Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (EU-SEA CCCA CORSIA), which supports CORSIA implementation; and the EU-South East Asia Aviation Partnership Project (EU- SEA APP).

Dato Lim Jock Hoi, the Secretary-General of ASEAN, said “With US$10.5 billion of Foreign Direct Investment inflows and US$226.2 billion of trade in goods in 2020, the EU is already the third largest source of investment and the third largest trading partner for ASEAN. The AE CATA would significantly strengthen air connectivity between ASEAN and Europe and bring both regions even closer together. This would allow them to reap further economic benefits.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Adina Vălean, the European Commissioner for Transport, said: “The conclusion of this first-ever ‘bloc-to-bloc’ air transport agreement marks an important milestone in the EU’s external aviation policy. It provides essential guarantees of fair competition for our European airlines and industry, while strengthening reciprocal prospects for trade and investment in some of the world’s most dynamic markets. Importantly, this new agreement also provides us with a solid platform to continue promoting high standards on safety, security, air traffic management, environment and social matters going forward. I am grateful for the constructive approach of all parties involved, which made this historic deal possible.”

Mr. Sun Chanthol, Chair of the ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting and Senior Minister and Minister of Public Works and Transport of Cambodia, said “ASEAN applauds this significant achievement. The Agreement would result in significant greater connectivity between ASEAN and the EU, benefitting a population of 1.1 billion people and enabling greater business, trade, tourism and people-to-people links between both regions.”

ASEAN and the EU will now submit the AE CATA for legal scrubbing in preparation for signature at a later date to be confirmed.

Source: ASEAN Secretariat News

KNOWING YOUR MEMBERS…XAVIER PAVON

Xavier Pavon

 

Xavier Pavon is the Managing Director of Fluidra Asia. Fluidra, a Spanish multinational listed group, is the global leader in the pool and wellness industry.

 

  1. Hello Xavier, could you please introduce yourself?

    Hello, I am Xavier Pavon, I’ve been in Singapore since October 2007, getting close to 14 years already! Previously my wife and I lived in Shanghai for two years. What a vibrant city! Like night and day from Singapore. We have a daughter of 13 and a son of 11, both born here. I am the Managing Director of Fluidra Asia. I manage the subsidiaries we have in Asia, i.e., China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

  2. How could our readers know a bit more about Fluidra?

    Fluidra became part of the prestigious IBEX 35 index on March 29 of this year. Since then, the Company has increased its visibility and we are better known. 

    Fluidra is the global leader in the Pool & Wellness Industry. Founded in 1969, Fluidra has a long-standing experience in developing innovative products and services in the global residential and commercial pool market.

    We operate in more than 45 countries through our subsidiaries. We have more than 135 sales branches and more than 35 production centers around the world, and a team comprised of 6,000 employees of multicultural background.

    We closed 2020 with our best results ever. With sales of 1,488 million euros, up 11.0% compared to 2019. Net profits stood at 96 million euros; more than 11 times higher than in 2019. The EBITA was up 19.3% to 321 million euros.

    For this year we are confident and we further improve our outlook with sales expected to increase between 25% and 30%.

  3. How would you briefly explain the company’s business strategy for Asia?

    In Asia our go-to-market strategy is different than other continents, where the market is more mature and sophisticated. Here there is a lack of specialized distributors, thus the majority of sales are through pool contractors and servicers.

    Our value preposition includes providing turnkey projects and design services. We develop relationships with aquatic design specifiers to gain share in the commercial segment.

    We have the most extensive on-ground support in Asia. As mentioned earlier, we have physical branches and operational staff in HK, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. We also have sales offices in Taipei and Manila.

  4. Which are your main clients in this part of the world?

    Our main customers are pool specialist or main contractors that work for the commercial space. The most active subsegments are hospitality—we supply equipment to high-end Hotel & Resort brands; Recreational—we build Olympic aquatic centers FINA-certified to host national and international competitions; and non-landed properties, mainly condominiums.

  5. How do you deal in Fluidra to commit with sustainability and a positive environmental impact?

    As a matter of fact, Fluidra recently has been assessed for its performance in Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) by S&P, which awarded us a rating of 69 out of 100 based on quantitative analysis of our sustainability strategy.

    In this regard, Fluidra has converted its syndicated line of 130 million euros, which was signed off in 2018, into green financing, also called ESG-linked loans, in a process in which BBVA acted as sustainability coordinator.

    Given the products we sell and the very nature of the company’s business, sustainability and environment protection are top priorities.

    In this regard, one of Fluidra’s goals is to be the market leader in HSE, and as such we strive to act responsibly, building a business that will be sustainable in the long term.

    We view sustainability as a competitive and differential advantage. The product we market for the construction and maintenance of swimming pools require less energy and reduce use of water and chemicals.

  6. Would you like to make a recommendation to someone thinking about coming to Singapore?

    Be open-minded. You are coming to a country with very strong laws, which are strictly enforced. Depending where you are coming from, this could be a great challenge. In fact, we are experiencing this with the way Singapore government is managing the covid-19 pandemic.

    Other than that, update your skills to navigate through cultural differences. Although personally I don’t have communication issues with citizens from Singapore, without the right degree of empathy you could fall into cultural traps.

    You need to consider as well the cost of living. Singapore offers an excellent standard of living but this comes at a very high price.

  7. And last, what is your favourite place in Singapore?

    Bukit Timah Natural Reserve and MacRitchie Reservoir. For nature lovers, these are beautiful parks, nice green spaces to get a break from the busy city. I go often for mountain biking and running, a good time to spend with friends.

     

    Thank you for your time Xavier!

     

    For more information:

    www.fluidra.com

Knowing our members… ÁLVARO GONZÁLEZ

Álvaro González and Cosentino

 

Álvaro González is the VP for APAC at Cosentino, a Spanish and Global family-owned Company that produces and distributes high value innovative surfaces for architecture and design. With the involvement of its customers and partners, this leading company imagines and anticipates design solutions that offer value and inspiration to people’s lives.

 

Cosentino is also one of the founders of the Spanish-Singaporean Chamber of Commerce.

 

  1. Hello Álvaro, could you please introduce yourself? 

Hello, I have just arrived to Singapore after 8 years in the company where I have been in 3 different roles (Strategy Director, Regional Director of Middle East and North Africa and Regional Director of South East USA). The last 4 years, I was living in Miami, where we have our headquarters for our main market (North America). I am 40 years old, married, I have one daughter and 2 sons and I love sports (running, swimming, tennis).

 

  1. How could our readers know a bit more about Cosentino?

Cosentino is a Spanish, family-owned company that produces and distributes innovative surfaces focused on architecture and design.

We offer different kinds of stone solutions, from our line of natural stone Sensa, to leading quartz brand Silestone and to our highly-engineered ultracompact surface Dekton. Each of them unique in characteristics.

With our stones, we cover a wide spectrum of applications and channels. Applications are almost endless with Cosentino’s fully customisable surfaces – kitchen countertops, flooring, wall cladding, facades, cabinetry, shower trays,  and bespoke furnitures. Our market channels include retail, projects, builders and national accounts.

At Cosentino, we are also passionate about innovation, our commitment to the environment, and our people whom we call the “Cosentino Family”. Although 100% of our production is done in Almería, Spain, 95% of our sales are out of Spain, North America being our main market. The total revenue in 2020 was over €1.1 billion.

 

  1. Where are your main clients in this part of the world?

We see Asia as a growing market and, we are building up our presence in this region. Some of our great partners include China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Korea, Philippines, Maldives and Indonesia. Apart from that, we have offices in Japan and Indonesia and Hub-Centers in Malaysia and Singapore. In this last country is where our APAC headquarters is based, we have a good number of partners and clients in each market and a strong sales team to support the region.

 

  1. You will now have to lead and manage teams and distributors in many different countries, how do you plan to do it amid the travel restrictions?

We need to adapt to this new reality. We all love to have face to face meetings, business lunches, events…but now it is a time to do all of this virtually. We still can give them good support without meeting them in person and we are lucky to have good teams and good partners in this part of the world.

 

  1. How do you deal in Cosentino to commit with sustainability and a positive environmental impact?

The health and safety of our employees, sustainability, and the whole value chain are top priorities in our business plan. Our policies and actions are aligned with the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.

In terms of sustainability, Cosentino have invested on initiatives to achieve greater efficiency in its factories in terms of energy, consumption of resources, use of renewable electricity and sustainable mobility policies. We have achieved tremendous milestones in that field – we are recycling all the water used during production, we are using solar energy to run our plants, we are reducing the amount of crystalline silica in our products, and we have optimised the way we package and transport our products to reduce carbon emissions. In Europe and USA, we run programmes to reforest and clean the ocean. We are also pioneers in our sector in digitalisation, reducing the amount of paper documentation by 98% in 5 years.

 

  1. Is the future of interior design also in Asia?

The future of interior design is everywhere. In every country, there are plenty of great professionals that can provide you great inspiration for your home and business. Asia is going to be one of the trend makers for the future and that is why Cosentino is investing in new showrooms, warehouses and increasing his team in this part of the world.

 

  1. And last, even having being here for only 2 months, do you already have a favourite place in Singapore?

As I mentioned, before, I love running and going from Elgin Bridge to the end of East Coast Park is one of the nicest runs that I have ever had.

 

Thank you for your time Álvaro!

 

For more information:

www.cosentino.com

 

Last October, 2020 Cosentino launched a new series of 5 colours called Silestone® Loft, and inspired by industrial style.  The origin of this style dates back to the mid-20th century. In those days, abandoned factories, large workshops and warehouses in several New York neighbourhoods were turned into open-plan housing, or what became known as loft apartments. It was during those period that concrete, cement, beams, pipes and the deliberately unfurnished look became a central and popular look within many homes, turning the industrial appearance into a trend that is still very much evident today.  

One of the significant new features of Silestone® Loft is the use, for the first time, of the innovative and exclusive HybriQ+ technology. HybriQ+ is a qualitative leap in the evolution of Silestone® brand. It is a new breakthrough production process that will change the paradigm of the quartz surface category.  

HybriQ+ technology significantly reduces the presence of crystalline silica in the production of Silestone® Loft surfaces, creating a new hybrid formula made up of mineral and reused raw materials, such as recycled glass. This new composition provides the material with modern aesthetic and design features, while maintaining the quality and beauty of Silestone®, as well as its 25-year warranty. Reducing the presence of quartz in the composition of Silestone® latest colours creates a safer work environment for professionals handling and working with the surfaces. 

Singapore startup Taiger earns its stripes with AI technology

SINGAPORE — Signing up a small business as a new customer would often take Banco Santander several days. As at other financial institutions, validating identity documents and corporate paperwork was time-consuming and costly for both bank and customer.

But today Spain’s largest bank can typically get this customer “onboarding” done in just 15 minutes.

The secret? The bank uses an artificial-intelligence-based document processing system deployed throughout its branch networks in Spain and Mexico. And unlike many AI tools, it comes not from an American tech giant but a young startup based in Singapore.

Taiger, named after the big cat but with a nod to AI in the spelling, specializes in document processing solutions, expert search engines for companies and industries, and conversational AI, typically in the form of chat bots. All are based on its ability to decipher written language. Taiger’s products are winning plaudits from customers.

“We tested AI products from some of those big tech houses but none of them has worked as accurately as we had expected,” a person at Santander told Nikkei Asia. “But Taiger is delivering over 90% average accuracy.”

Here, “accuracy” means the rate at which the system recognizes bits of data in a document. If a document contains 100 pieces of information that need to be found, Taiger’s system correctly identifies more than 90 of them on average, in Santander’s case.

Recently Taiger also won work from a large Spanish paralegal service provider that had been using a system based on IBM’s Watson AI engine, but decided to replace it with Taiger’s document extracting system.

“We are typically beating big guys in new project wins,” said Sinuhe Arroyo, Taiger’s founder and chief executive. Arroyo, 46, was born in Spain and recently naturalized as a Singaporean citizen.

Taiger also handles life insurance policy application processes at AIA Group’s Singapore unit; retail and small-business customer onboarding at Bank Otkritie Financial, a Russian commercial bank; and some legal documents at Citibank’s New York headquarters.

DealStreetAsia, a Nikkei-affiliate covering Asian capital markets, categorizes Taiger as a “soonicorn.” That is, a startup approaching the $1 billion valuation that marks “unicorn” status.

If Taiger succeeds in becoming globally competitive, it will not only have a good chance of growing into a unicorn but also of being counted as a world leader in an emerging field of hybrid AI technologies. That would set it apart in Southeast Asia, which is lagging in nurturing deep tech startups.

CEO Sinuhe Arroyo founded Taiger in Austria in 2009 and reincorporated in Singapore in 2016. (Photo by Akira Kodaka) 

Extending its reach, Taiger entered a global co-marketing partnership with Microsoft last fall. Now Taiger’s products are on the list of business applications available on the Azure cloud-computing platform, where Microsoft acts as a sales agent.

And at home the Singapore government is a big fan of Taiger, originally founded in Austria in 2009 as a search engine provider and reincorporated in the city-state in 2016.

Singapore’s Housing & Development Board, which builds and provides housing for tens of thousands of citizens every year, uses Taiger’s chatbot to communicate with customers. A few dozen other ministries and agencies use its chatbots, search engines, document processing or other solutions.

Taiger’s methods highlight two contrasting approaches to developing AI tools.

Arroyo believes big-tech products today often fail to meet customer needs because they are too dependent on a mainstream methodological principle of AI called machine learning or statistical AI, which tries to find meaningful patterns in a large amount of data.

Interest in machine learning accelerated in the early 2000s, due in part to the availability of ever faster logic chips, AI systems using deep-learning algorithms started beating humans in such games as Jeopardy and Go. That led to a boom in the development of commercial applications using deep learning — to the extent that many people treat AI and machine learning as synonyms. After the AlphaGo system developed by Google-owned DeepMind of the U.K. defeated the European Go champion in 2015, the public started associating “deep learning” with AI.

But machine learning, including deep learning, is only one AI methodology and has some weaknesses. It typically requires a massive amount of uniformly formatted, carefully curated data to find meaningful patterns. For businesses this is hugely time consuming and often makes AI impossible to put to practical use.

“Automation [based on machine learning] tends to be incredibly labor intensive today, in a way that really just doesn’t work for the problems we want to solve,” said David Cox, director at MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, in an online seminar last summer. “And for the vast majority of the problems we face, actually, we don’t have those giant rivers of data.”

Even if a machine learning program can be fed with vast amounts of data, it often fails to “understand” the meanings of specific types of information it is looking at because it lacks basic knowledge or common sense.

For example, a machine learning system is very good at finding commonalities in hundreds of facial images of a single person. But it is not good at working with documents where there are no standardized formats and where the same word can have different meanings in different contexts.

In terms of what a bank might need from a new business client, for example, some companies will put an invoice number at top left corner of a page, while others will put it top right. The format of a letter granting power of attorney can vary wildly, even within one organization. Passports and ID cards vary greatly from country to country.

The list of potential snags is endless: Some automation systems cannot distinguish telephone numbers from invoice numbers; tell Paris, Texas, from Paris, France; or work out whether “carpenter” is a surname or a job title.

This is where Taiger takes a different tack. Arroyo believes the core strength to its technology lies in its ability to understand words and other data points based on the other main approach to AI, which is symbolic. “Combining those two major methodologies, ours is a hybrid AI,” says Arroyo, who has a doctorate in an AI subfield called semantic technologies.

Symbolic AI treats data as inputs to be processed using rules or programs determined by humans — just like other computer software — and written with mathematical and linguistic symbols, hence the name.

That is the opposite approach to machine learning, which first looks at data and then finds patterns.

Programs in a symbolic AI system can be designed to refer to various libraries of information — common words in various languages, different meanings of a word in different contexts, technical terms and jargon, names of people and places, or relationships between concepts and words — to determine the meaning and nature of a piece of data.

For example, when we say, “There are two teachers in the classroom,” the word “teacher” represents an individual, who works as a teacher. But when we say, “Tom wants to become a teacher,” the word represents a profession, not an individual. In a symbolic AI program, knowledge of these different meanings in different contexts can be pre-taught before looking at the data.

Taiger builds a template for the specific documents used in a particular industry, such as powers of attorney, incorporation registration certificates, invoices and so forth. Users then customize those templates by inputting words and concepts frequently used by their company or industry.

At the heart of such models is a field called Knowledge Representation and Reasoning, which deals with how to equip machines with knowledge and common sense about things, concepts and their relationships.

One subfield is semantic technology, which uses what is known as ontology engineering to build machine-readable sets of knowledge, or ontologies, about a topic, be it dogs, computer languages or Spanish commercial law.

A typical ontology distinguishes between categories of things. For example, an ontology of dogs would classify poodles and bulldogs as subcategories of dogs, which are a subcategory of mammals, which are a subcategory of animals.

There are open-source ontology collections on the web, including Linked Open Data. Taiger’s products are deployed using both publicly available and locally built ontologies.

Of course Taiger is not the only company that develops hybrid solutions combining symbolic and statistical AI methodologies. In fact, a growing number of top AI experts advocate this approach.

The MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab itself is advocating the hybrid approach, which led IBM to develop a new technology platform dubbed “neurosymbolic AI,” in which “neuro” represents the machine learning approach.

Rodney Brooks, who co-invented the Roomba cleaning robot, Gary Marcus, founder of Geometric Intelligence, which Uber acquired to develop driverless cars, and other star AI scientists founded a new Silicon Valley startup, Robust.AI, last June to develop a smarter hybrid-AI-based cognitive platform for multipurpose robots. Markus is a vocal critic of overhyping the deep learning approach to AI.

“The number of vendors in the natural-language market has exploded in the last few years,” said Anthony Mullen, a senior director analyst at Gartner, which listed Taiger as a vendor in its “Hype Cycle for Emerging Emerging Technologies” report last summer. He said the consultancy is aware of more than 3,000 companies operating in the field of “conversational AI,” which builds chat bots and similar interactive communication tools.

He noted a growing common understanding in the industry that “the hybrid AI approach is the more complete approach to natural-language automation.”

In a landscape that is rapidly growing more competitive, Taiger is ready to go global. In its previous Series B funding round the company raised $25 million, achieving an estimated valuation of $110 million. It is now in working on Series C fundraising, hoping to pull in “a significant amount,” said Arroyo, “in order to tackle the U.S., Japan and other major markets.”

In October, Taiger released a Japanese-language plug-in so that its products can handle documents written in Japanese-language scripts, ahead of its entry into the Japanese market, where demand for digital transformation in government agencies and companies alike is surging amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arroyo chose the name of the company because he was born in the Chinese year of tiger. While 2021 might be the year of the bull, the animal he prefers to associate with the optimism he feels for his company is the rabbit — jumping ahead as AI continues to develop.

“We are ready to leap across the globe,” he said.

Source: Nikkei Asia

Amadeus’ First Travel Tech School Will Open Soon on Spain’s Canary Islands

Many university students who seek to work in the travel sector confront jobs transformed by new technologies and operational practices. Yet traditional educational programs for degrees in hospitality, tourism, and computer science often aren’t up to date about “real world” business realities.
 
Riding into the breach is Amadeus. The Madrid-based travel tech giant is creating a kind of travel career education program to supplement instruction at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) on Spain’s Canary Islands.
 
Travel Tech School (TTS) by Amadeus will operate starting in March within the top-ranked university, which has several tourism- and technology-related majors. The school will supplement the academic portions of undergraduate and graduate programs. The aim is to teach the current expectations of both travelers and travel companies.
 
“In 2021, we hope to have 1,000 students,” said Eduardo Williams, co-founder of the Travel Tech School and adjunct professor of marketing and innovation. “Companies in the Canary Islands see TTS by Amadeus as their talent factory for digitization.
 
”Many students will want to work for travel providers, but some will want to work with technology companies like Amadeus, Williams said.

DIGITAL TEACHING METHODS

The travel tech school has received about $6 million (€5 million) of funding to invent a new pedagogical system called NeuroTalentour. The system will use virtual reality to simulate challenges such as a negotiation or job interview.
 
“We want to become part of a new, digital way of training that’s really different from the traditional university lecture,” Boutin said. “We want to bring students very close to the business realities and issues that we are facing today in the tourism industry.”New biofeedback tools can help instructors measure explicit behavior, such as how a student responds or acts, and implicit behavior as measured by “biomarkers,” such as tracking eye movements, sweating, and tone of voice.
 
“The school’s system will use technology to detect how the student is communicating, such as if your attention has wandered off, if you’re sweating, or if you need to calm down,” Boutin said. “The tech will be used to train the students better.”Coursework will focus on building student “autonomy” in a tech-led career by training them in soft skills. Workshops may cover skill-building topics, such as programming, robotics, and machine learning, and business lessons about topics such as revenue management, customer relationship management systems, and operational systems, Williams said. Cultivating a responsibility for climate change is also a goal.The university will offer credits in the master of tourism program for some of the classwork.
 
Coursework will begin at the general library of the university’s Tafira campus. The travel tech school’s managing company in the Canary Islands is The Wise Dreams, a project led by regional companies and organizations, including the Lopesan Hotel. The Gran Canaria Turismo Innova Cluster, the Gran Canaria Tourist Board, and the Canary Islands Government also support the Travel Tech School by Amadeus.If it’s successful, the effort could lead to other travel tech schools, said Boutin. Universities elsewhere in Spain or Latin America might want to create similar efforts, Williams agreed.

Source: Skift

Acciona to lead OceanH2 project

Spanish renewable energy producer Acciona said it is leading an industrial research project that seeks to build the world’s first offshore green hydrogen plant powered by floating wind and photovoltaic technology.
 
Dubbed OceanH2, the project will study different implementation scenarios for an offshore hybrid power generation system, evaluating the design alternatives along the whole hydrogen production, storage and distribution chain to identify solutions that have the greatest development potential based on the proposed new materials.
 
Following the study, Acciona said it will conceptually validate the solution at laboratory scale, as well as its integration into an IoT (Internet of Things) platform, which will facilitate the plant’s operation, maintenance and management using smart monitoring.
 
In addition, the challenges thrown up by its potential construction and scaling-up will be examined using an innovation process that enables the initially proposed design to be optimised.
 
The project will be simultaneously developed in six Spanish autonomous regions (Madrid, Canary Islands, Andalusia, Cantabria, Navarre and Catalonia), bringing about technological synergies and national scientific capabilities.
 
Companies such as Redexis, Ariema, TSI, Wunder Hexicon and BlueNewables, together with 12 Spanish research centres, are collaborating with Acciona to develop OceanH2, which was selected by the Spanish Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) together with 23 other projects.
 
The OceanH2 project has the backing of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation through the “Science and Innovation Missions” programme, which has allocated €70m to finance major business R&D projects aimed at solving important societal challenges.
 

Source: H2 View

A New Milestone Awaits Spain’s IE Business School

IE University will welcome students to its new IE Tower campus in September, one of the few vertical college campuses in the world

Ever since its founding as a business school in 1973, IE University has been one of the most innovative institutions of higher education in the world. The school was the first to launch a truly international MBA in 1983, the first to market for a blended international Executive MBA in 2001, as well as the first to partner with an Ivy League university on a unique Executive MBA at Brown University in 2011.

And in September, IE University will open the doors on a new and incredibly novel campus in its home city of Madrid, one of the few high-rise university campuses in the world. The vertical campus will stand 180 meters tall (591 feet), with 35 floors covering 50,000 square meters and 7,000 square meters of green space. The new IE Tower, in the north of Madrid in a complex of five new skyscrapers, will vastly expand the school’s capacity, adding space for some 6,000 undergraduate students.

The new building will provide IE with an additional 64 flexible classrooms as well as 30 unique spaces that will favor interaction, innovation, and creativity, as well as open areas on various floors to promote social and cultural experiences. Among the main spaces will be a Venture Lab to accelerate the creation of startups, a FabLab to develop architecture and design projects, and an auditorium with the capacity for 600 students. There also will be a host of sports facilities, including a heated swimming pool, gymnasium, and sports courts, art exhibition areas, rehearsal and micro-concert spaces, and reading and meditation areas.

“It’s going to be a big step for us,” IE University Executive Vice President Diego del Alcázar Benjumea tells Poets&Quants in an interview. “This is going to be something quite impressive, one of the biggest and tallest vertical campuses in the world.”

The addition of the tower will allow IE to double its undergraduate enrollment over the next three to four says, adds Benjumea. “Our bachelor level students have been growing in double digits for the last ten years,” he says. “We want to be the size of a small Ivy League university. Brown has about 7,000 students at the undergraduate level. This would be our target size. This year we will enroll about 1,000 students. We have around 3,500 total undergraduate students, and our aim would be to have around 7,000. Demand is very high.”

The school’s expansion will not change the global nature of its students, says Benjumea. Currently, 80% of IE’s undergraduate students are from outside Spain. “This is the percentage we find perfect, though in our MBA only of the students are Spanish. With 80% of international students, IE is the most international university in the world. We don’t want to have more than 10% of the students from any one country except for Spain.”

A KEY MILESTONE IN THE HISTORY OF IE

Benjumea views the opening of the IE Tower as one of the university’s milestones that include its founding as a business school in the 1970s and its expansion into a university with five schools spanning business, law, the social sciences, architecture and design, and human science and technology. “It is a big thing but there have been many. When we were founded it was a big decision to be an open agnostic, international university from our dictatorship. Having entrepreneurship as a core value was a big thing. Teaching online in the beginning of 2000 was a huge decision and a painful one because we invested a lot of resources to be successful. At the time, our students probably weren’t prepared for learning online and our faculty had a learning curve that was super steep. Integrating from being a business school to a fully fledged university was a very tough decision and it has been a huge success story. This decision is a consequence of the legacy of many tough decisions from the past. The world is exposed to strong forces of change so our purpose as an institution is to help with these changes through education and innovation.”

IE is also pressing forward on an online strategy that it has called “liquid learning.” “The main point of our future strategy is online learning, but also the social experience of our students. Different STEM degrees will have a main role in our future studies because there is a need in society to navigate the huge complexity and disruption that technology is causing.”

The school intends to retain its two other campuses, María de Molina in Madrid in the Spanish capital’s nearby financial district, where MBA students study, and also in Segovia, a campus housed in the Convent of Santa Cruz la Real, a historic building declared a national historic site.

ORIGINAL OPENING DATE WAS LAST SEPTEMBER

The new campus was originally expected to open last September but the pandemic and construction delays postponed the opening. IE expects the tower to be a benchmark for innovation and technology in education, and has also been built with sustainability criteria and maximum energy efficiency in mind. Over the course of 2021, IE University will promote the development of social impact initiatives as part of its sustainability strategy within the framework of its ‘Ten-Year Challenge’, which sets annual goals to promote sustainability within the institution between 2020 and 2030. With this objective, IE University endeavors to train resilient people, aware of their potential for change and capable of having a positive impact on the community.

From its new headquarters, IE University plans to promote urban and social transformation initiatives, energize the capital’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and develop new collaborative projects with international companies. IE Tower classrooms will be equipped with the technology to simultaneously deliver face-to-face and online sessions. Students will experience technological immersion, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence applied to their programs.

Though a specific date for the September opening has yet to be set, Benjumea is promising a wide range of events to celebrate the new milestone for IE University.

Source: Yahoo!Finance

Knowing our members… JAVIER HERNÁNDEZ

Javier Hernández and KENDU

 

Javier Hernández is the APAC Director at KENDU, a Spanish company specialized in in-store visual solutions. KENDU assists retail brands in improving the relationship with their customers through positive in-store experiences and innovative communication solutions for the retail sector.

 

1. Hello Javier, could you please introduce yourself?

I am from San Sebastián, Spain and I came to Singapore in 2015 to set-up the regional branch of an Spanish-Australian digital marketplace. Before that, I spent 8 years in London working in digital, mostly marketplaces and eCommerce. I am now leading Kendu’s growth in the region and I am super excited about the industry, despite the challenges brought by COVID19.

 

2. You have been living in Singapore for some years already, what is your point of view in regards to making business here?

It is a great place to set-up a business. Firstly, many of our customers regional headquarters are either here and you can see that the government is actually investing heavily to further attract more companies and talent. Second, everything works and people pay. It sounds trivial but it is not. If you do business in neighbouring countries, collection of invoices can be a major issues, specially now. Third, and probably what matters to most, its regional set-up- There is an inherent attraction to capture the entire region. It has made Singapore extremely appealing, and we will see even more VCs and companies setting up shop here. Nobody knows how the future will evolve and we know for a fact that we will travel less but having a solid base will be critical and we are pleased to have chosen Singapore over other cities such as Hong Kong.

 

3. How could our readers know a bit more about KENDU?

Our promise to our clients is to ‘Make Retail Simpler’, simpler for the brand and simpler for the consumer. Since 2000 we have been innovators in visual communications to create unique shopping experiences. We design, manufacture and manage in-store experiences and through our in-house team of designers and creatives we have a customisable solution for every store.

We manufacture products like Flowbox, a dynamic LED lightbox designed to create the best retail experiences. Clients like Adidas, Timberland, Disney or Nespresso are already using it.

 

4. Which are your main clients in this part of the world?

We work across the region with Dyson, Boggy, Inditex, Mango, Desigual, Marks & Spencer, Nespresso, IKEA, off-white, Penthaligons, OnTheList, Al-Futtaim, Tag Heuer and All Saints, amongst others.

 

5. How is KENDU preparing for the future?

Nobody is having it easy at this time and the trading situation is obviously going to remain difficult for quite some time. But we’re very confident about the future – we think we’re in a very good place, both structural-wise inside the company and to capitalise on the opportunities that are sure to emerge in the marketplace post-COVID.

The retail future is going to be one of faster change; there will be less stores, for sure. But I think they will be better quality and I think experience will certainly come back into stores, bigger and stronger than before. Retail is a very cyclical business, and it will keep changing, which makes it very interesting.

We have launched a new digital platform for clients and with Flowbox, with have created a new category that did not exist 5 years ago so we are confident we can continue innovating and staying ahead of our competitors but looking at the next 10 to 15 years.

 

6. Would you like to make a recommendation to people thinking about coming to Singapore to start a new business?

I cannot offer advise on industries I do not know so I would stick to the cliché – the sooner you come to Asia the sooner you will understand it, make whatever mistake you have to make and profit from such an exciting region. Setting up a company in Singapore is inexpensive (for a medium-size company in Spain) so I’d say there are no excuses to do it. Hire a senior person you can trust and test the waters for 2 – 3 years.

 

7. And last, what is your favourite place in Singapore?

Kok Sen Restaurant, at Keong Saik Rd.

 

 

Thank you for your time Javier!

 

For more information:

www.kendu.com

Singapore to start Phase 3 of COVID-19 reopening on Dec 28

SINGAPORE: The long-awaited Phase 3 of Singapore’s reopening will start on Dec 28, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Monday (Dec 14).

Social gatherings of up to eight people will be allowed in public, up from five currently. Similarly, households can receive up to eight visitors. 

“So eight people can dine out together, or visit someone’s home. This will make it easier to hold family get-togethers during the festive period,” said Mr Lee in a televised address to the nation. 

He added that Singapore will also ease capacity limits in public places like malls, attractions and places of worship. 

“Because of your efforts, we are now ready to progress to the next phase,” said Mr Lee. “Phase 3 will begin in two weeks’ time, on Dec 28, so we will end the year with some good news.”

“Each of us needs to play our part. By all means make use of the higher limits and reconnect with friends and family, but please do not abandon your mindset of watchfulness and caution,” Mr Lee said.

“This is absolutely not the time to relax and let our guard down or to hold a big party, imagining that the problem is has disappeared.”

Mr Lee said that progressing from Phase 2 to Phase 3 is a “calibrated, careful move”, and the Government is easing restrictions in a controlled way to keep the COVID-19 situation stable. He urged everyone to continue to cooperate with the authorities, and comply with the rules and restrictions in Phase 3.

More details on Phase 3 will be given by the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force after Mr Lee’s address.

After exiting from a two-month-long “circuit breaker” on Jun 1, authorities said Singapore would reopen in three phases. 

Phase 2 started on Jun 19, and the COVID-19 task force had said in October that Phase 3 could begin before the end of the year. 

“BATTLE FAR FROM WON”

In his address, Mr Lee cautioned that the “battle is far from won” around the world, with many countries seeing second, third or fourth waves of infections. 

Mr Lee said that international borders remain largely closed, but as trade and travel are Singapore’s “lifeblood”, its only option is to reopen borders in a controlled and safe way. 

“As we do so, we will see more imported 19 cases, and there will be some risk of these cases spreading to the community,” he warned.

Singapore already had a few of these cases, noted Mr Lee, pointing to an infected airport employee who likely came into contact with passengers with COVID-19, as well as a marine worker who picked up the virus after boarding ships for repair and resupply. 

“This is a calculated risk we have to accept but the Government will take every precaution, and do our best to prevent imported cases from triggering a new outbreak,” he said.

Singapore’s situation, however, has improved since March and April when there were more than 1,000 coronavirus cases a day. Now on most days, there are no locally transmitted cases, he said.

Bringing the pandemic under control took “a tremendous effort and some good luck”, said Mr Lee, adding that defences against COVID-19 are now much stronger. 

“I am very grateful that Singaporeans have complied with the spirit, and not just the letter of the rules. We stayed united, kept up our guard, and did not allow ourselves to become complacent over time,” he said. 

“We can be proud of how far we have come.”

“LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL”

Mr Lee also announced that the first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected to arrive in Singapore by the end of the month, and other COVID-19 vaccines in the coming months. 

Everyone who wants a vaccination should be able to get one by the end of next year, the Prime Minister said.

Concluding his address, Mr Lee said Singapore has reacted quickly and comprehensively to the crisis, marshalled resources to solve its problems and stayed resilient.

“Our situation is now stable, but only because everyone has worked so hard and sacrificed so much. Now that vaccines are becoming available, we can see light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

“As vaccinations become widespread not only in Singapore, but also in our region and the world, we can look forward to resuming more normal lives.

“Let us keep up our efforts in this final stretch, to cross the finish line together, and complete our mission to defeat COVID-19.”

Source: ChannelNewsAsia