A few months ago, I visited Hong Kong and Singapore where I met with a number of senior business and IT executives from various industries such as the Public Sector, Energy and Utilities, Financial Services, Automotive, etc. I also had the opportunity to present our Applied Innovation methodology and the Applied Innovation Exchange (AIE) to an audience of over 75 executives including 55 CIOs in Singapore during the official launch of the IT industry publication “SG50”. Businesses in Southeast Asia, from the perspectives of buyer sophistication and “digital activity” are for the most part, on par with most clients and markets in North America and Europe. Overall market knowledge, leadership fluency, experimentation, innovation, start-up activity, etc. are consistently strong. There is much to be observed and learned, and potentially leveraged, from this market. Governments in the region are profound advocates of digital and emerging technologies and a major catalyst in driving businesses, government agencies, and the population to new market domains (very notable in Singapore).

The above observations and challenges from the Asia trip served to strongly reinforce our interpretation of the global market and the need for continued alignment, focus, and acceleration in addressing it, lest we remain fighting for the crowded, commodity end of the service portfolio and being only tangentially considered as our clients’ strategic partner for the “new” and supporting their journey into new markets or expanding existing ones. What came to mind again during this trip was our opportunity to be the “global partner for where our clients are going, not for where they’ve been”.

This was one of the key factors that led to Singapore as the choice for our newest and 10th Applied Innovation Exchange. With the right introductions and upon hearing our points of view, our capabilities, and our experiences in the new, clients in this dynamic region can quickly change perceptions and grant us access to opportunities.

So what makes Singapore an interesting place to build an AIE?

Aside from the obvious interest to bring the Applied Innovation methodology to our clients in the Asia Pacific region, Singapore has a unique ecosystem of startups, and is ranked 10 in the list of the 20 hottest startup hubs in the world, according to the last Compass report. According to the report “Singapore’s geographic location and deep business relationships with booming Asian markets means local startups benefit from access to affluent consumers and multinational corporations to scale their business”.

Capgemini Consulting in a recent report, “The Spread of Innovation around the World: How Asia Now Rivals Silicon Valley as New Home to Global Innovation Centers,” also demonstrated the growing importance of Asia, which has for the first time overtaken Europe in its number of innovation centers built and operated, and may soon overtake the US as the biggest hub of innovation centers if it continues to grow at the same rate. Singapore together with Bangalore, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Tel Aviv (which is treated as Asia for purposes of this study) is driving Asia’s rise; these five cities in the report’s global top 10 rankings together account for 36% of all Asian innovation centers.

How can the new Applied Innovation Exchange help attract and retain talents in this very competitive environment?

First, to stay relevant and remain part of our clients’ strategic agendas, we must move faster and more aggressively and credibly toward the new.

Attracting and retaining talent is an essential mission for our Applied Innovation Exchanges around the world and definitely something that we will be pushing in 2017. By building these centers, we want to demonstrate to potential and current employees, our responses to, and activities in new market domains and the opportunities Capgemini can provide them (versus only being able to pursue these in start-ups and other external alternatives). As presented in the Capgemini Consulting report I mentioned above, the availability of talent is a key driver for growth. For example, of the 14 new Fintech innovation centers established globally between March and October 2016, five of these were in Asia as organizations look to tap into the region’s talent pool to meet changing customer needs. Four out of the nine new artificial intelligence (AI) focused innovation centers in the March-October 2016 period were opened in Asia.

I am hopeful that this new addition to our innovation network will contribute to and strengthen our position in the Asia Pacific region to better serve our clients, collaborate with the local ecosystem, and attract and retain the best talents. Additional geographies will be covered this year so stay tuned for new announcements.

To know more about our Applied Innovation methodology, and how it can benefit you, visit the Applied Innovation Exchange page.