Italian Startups in Singapore

With a growing innovation ecosystem and a key role in global trade, Singapore offers unparalleled opportunities for Italian companies

Italian innovation puts one foot in Asia. By way of Singapore. Nov. 7 marked the return of the Global Startup Program to the city-state, which aims to be a catalyst for innovation and collaboration between Italy and the Southeast Asian region across ASEAN countries. Organized by the Italian Trade Agency (ITA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the program is an opportunity for eight Italian startups from various areas, including fintech, healthtech, blockchain, health & fitness, sustainability and hrtech. The event, hosted by Accelerator Tenity Singapore, offers startups the chance to strengthen their technical, organizational and financial capabilities during the incubation process. The eight Italian innovative startups, including Brain & Fitness Italy, Carchain, Coffeefrom, Fairtile, Hacking Talents SRL SB, iWise, Sensosan Sell and Wibiocard. Dante Brandi, Italy's ambassador to Singapore and Brunei, stressed the importance of this participation, describing the program as a catalyst for innovation and collaboration and the strengthening of ties between Italy and Singapore. Brandi highlighted Singapore's key role in Italy's global trade strategies in the ASEAN region, with significant Italian export and investment figures. Singapore, chosen as an ideal location, represents a crucial springboard for Italian startups. With a growing innovative ecosystem and a key role in global trade, Singapore offers unparalleled opportunities for Italian companies. Ilaria Piccinni, deputy trade commissioner for Singapore and the Philippines at the Italian Trade Agency, emphasized the synergy and energy in Singapore's startup ecosystem, highlighting the potential for Italian startups to thrive and make a significant impact. With a wide range of activities planned through Dec. 1, 2023, the program aims to further consolidate the presence and influence of Italian startups in the global innovation landscape. Singapore and ASEAN represent a pivotal hub to achieve the goal.

More and more wealth in Singapore

 The number of family offices - companies that manage the lives and assets of the wealthiest clans - rose to 1,100 at the end of last year, from just 400 in 2020

Article by Tommaso Magrini

Singapore is getting richer. The assets managed by the city-state asset management industry have doubled in just six years, reaching about 4,000 billion dollars and about 80% of these assets are foreign. Blackrock Inc. is expanding into Singapore, as is the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. Swiss banks are also expanding: UBS Group AG’s offices dominate an entire block in a prominent shopping district, with a staff of 3,000, a private gym and a cappuccino bar. The rapid rise of money management is the result of a very specific project. In 2020 the government introduced a new type of legal structure, called a variable capital company, which provides tax and legal incentives to hedge fund, venture capital and private equity companies that settle in Singapore, similar to offshore hub programs. Since last October, more than 600 companies have benefited from the new program. Some of the world’s largest money managers have settled in Singapore, including Marshall Wace, Citadel Enterprise Americas of Griffin and D.E. Shaw. Billionaire Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management has expanded its Singapore team by over 50%, reaching 100 people. Overall, hedge fund assets grew by 30% in 2021, reaching $191 billion. The number of family offices - companies that manage the lives and assets of the richest clans - rose to 1,100 at the end of last year, from just 400 in 2020. Among the incentives to have contributed are the 2019 tax changes and a program that provides a fast track to residence for the ultra wealthy. Singapore is also benefiting from the willingness of several companies seeking diversification in the region or a basis for wider Asian operations beyond mainland China and Hong Kong.

A center of shared aspirations

We publish here an excerpt from the inauguration speech of Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore's new president

I have dedicated my life to serving Singapore, our home. Nothing could be more meaningful to me. My greatest privilege has been to work actively on the ground, week after week, for more than two decades. Listening to people's hopes and concerns, helping them overcome life's difficulties and sharing their joys. (...) An equitable and inclusive society goes far beyond government policies. It is about all of us. It is about the respect and friendship we bring to one another. Regardless of our background and educational achievement. Regardless of race, religion or any other differences. And it's about knowing that if one group of our people loses hope, all of us will have less hope as Singaporeans. Now more than ever we need to deepen our solidarity as Singaporeans so that we can lift each other up. (...) The challenges facing our country will increase. We are in a time of transition, both in Singapore and internationally. We are entering a new, more difficult and more complex era. The world is increasingly divided and unstable. Global crises-economic, geopolitical and environmental-are erupting more often. They will test all countries, especially smaller ones like Singapore. At home, in Singapore, we are becoming a democracy with more diverse opinions. I see this as inevitable and healthy, and I have said it many times. But our real challenge as Singaporeans is to ensure that this diversity of opinion does not lead us to a more divided society, like many others. We need to be a democracy with more room for diverse opinions and a thriving civil society. But to be confident in our future, we must also be a society with a strong center of shared aspirations and respect for all citizens.(...) We can and must strengthen a culture of respect for all Singaporeans in the years ahead. We must never become just another small country. I have been flying Singapore's flag internationally for many years and will actively work to strengthen existing partnerships and build new ones. (...) In my many years in government as a minister, I have remained true to my ideals of social justice and inclusion and have worked continuously, year after year, to build consensus on practical and sustainable ways to improve the lives of ordinary workers and citizens. Although the president is distinct from the government and does not engage in politics, I will never give up this purpose in my life and mental independence in the performance of my duties. We will go through ups and downs. But we are still one place where we can work together to make the future better for all.

Who is the new Singapore’s President?

Former vice-premier Tharman Shanmugaratnam, 66, got 70.4 percent of the vote

Article by Tommaso Magrini

Singapore’s presidential elections took place on Friday 1st September. over 2.5 million Singaporeans went to the polls at 1,264 polling stations across the island. According to the final results, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, 66, garnered 70.4 % of the vote, while his fellow candidates Ng Kok Song and Tan Kin Lian, both 75, obtained 15.72% and 13,88%. The margin by which the former deputy Premier Tharman won, was surprising and unexpected to some analysts, given the recent scandals that have plagued the People’s Action Party (PAP) in recent weeks and which, they argued, could have invalidated his candidacy. this was not the case. The winner has a deep relationship with the party that has always dominated the city-state scene. If the election was seen as a barometer of public sentiment, then the PAP has confirmed its grip. Tharman was a popular politician, having won several parliamentary election victories, including the largest margin of votes in the 2020 general election as a member of the PAP. Tharman resigned from the party and his government posts in July to run for president after 22 years in politics. The President’s role is largely ceremonial in Singapore, although the office is supposed to provide checks and balances on the government. The President has veto powers over any specific budget or transaction that may draw on the national ‘grand reserves’. The president can also veto the appointment or removal of key public officials and instruct the anti-fraud office to investigate specific cases even when the Prime Minister disagrees. Premier Lee Hsien Loong said he called Tharman to congratulate him. “I assured him of my government’s full cooperation”

Ambassador Mario Vattani bids farewell to Singapore

The diplomat is leaving the city-state. We publish here an excerpt of his farewell to the Italian community, made in a video on YouTube 

As I prepare to leave this office, I would like to say goodbye to the members of our Italian community in Singapore. Your support and presence have been essential in developing this dynamic partnership with Singapore. I believe that we have indeed succeeded in making the opportunities offered by Singapore better known in Italy, and the proof of this are the many agreements signed, the many visits by senior officials we have welcomed, from those responsible for foreign affairs and transport to those for infrastructure, as well as the missions of our Ministry of the Interior, the Bank of Italy and many academics. With this government, Italy is increasingly looking to South-East Asia as a region of great growth for our companies, and the commitment will increase in Singapore given its geopolitical and economic centrality. You will recall that right here, on 1 May, the very first phase of the Indo-Pacific campaign of our most modern navy ship, the Francesco Morosini, began. For us Singapore is an important showcase, a country able to anticipate trends that will be followed by the rest of a region with 600 million inhabitants, and for this reason since I arrived I have tried in every way to increase our visibility with popular events such as the Italian Festival, which totalled something like 300,000 visitors this year. We have also increased our presence from a structural point of view. Since September last year, we have been able to move the Embassy to a new prestigious and central location that also houses a showroom for our companies. We know that one characteristic of Singapore is the high concentration of capital, which is why we launched the Global Sorta last year, successfully bringing our start-ups here. It is no coincidence that our Minister of Foreign Affairs President Antonio Tajani chose Singapore along with San Francisco and Tel Aviv to create an Italian Innovation Hub. Singapore has ambitious plans for the future and we can work together to realise them. Now my appointment as Commissioner General for Italy at Expo Osaka 2025 is a new challenge and I am sure that we will be able to create an exceptional showcase in Osaka for companies, creating new challenges for the future.

Singapore flies with free Wi-Fi for all

As of July 1, Singapore Airlines becomes one of the first international airlines to offer free and unlimited Wi-Fi to all passengers

Article by Tommaso Magrini

Surfing the Internet has become increasingly important, even while in the air. Singapore Airlines, reports the South China Morning Post, has joined the handful of carriers that offer free in-flight Wi-fi to all passengers and, starting July 1, customers will be able to surf without the usual charges or data limits. In-flight Internet has long been an inconvenient and messy add-on cost that is usually more trouble than it is worth, if available at all, and usually remains exclusive to those paying for a first or business class seat. Although time spent online has declined since the Covid-19 pandemic closures, in 2022 the 5 billion regular Internet users still spent more than six hours a day browsing and scrolling, according to We Are Social, a British company that tracks web and social media use. At the same time, air passenger numbers are on the upswing. According to the International Air Transport Association, global passenger traffic is back to 90 percent of its pre-Covid level in April 2023, meaning the world is on track to return to the 4.5 billion passengers carried in 2019, the year before the pandemic began and travel restrictions were imposed.

Hence, carriers like Singapore Airlines are banking on free Wi-fi to persuade passengers to choose the airline to fly with. Air New Zealand is the best airline in the world; Singapore ranks first in first class. "In today's increasingly hyper-connected world, in-flight high-speed Wi-fi connectivity is one of the most important requirements for our customers," said Yeoh Phee Teik, Senior Vice President Customer Experience at the airline. To access Wi-fi, passengers will have to sign up for the airline's free loyalty program, similar to how some of the few other carriers that offer free Wi-fi, such as Qatar Airways and Delta Air Lines, operate. Singapore Airlines said the offer will apply to 129 of its 136 aircraft, with the exception of seven Boeing 737-800 NGs that it says "are not Wi-fi enabled."

No to protectionism and arrogance

We publish here an excerpt from the speech at Chatham House of Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister of Singapore

The United States and China should abandon the “hubris” of claiming superiority of their respective political systems and instead should focus on collaborating to advance their self-interests. There are no saints in the relationship between the superpowers. Both of them need to make adjustments. Both of them need to avoid a sense of hubris with regard to the superiority of their own systems. And both of them need to recognise that there’s actually a great deal in common in the way they go about trying to improve lives and grow incomes.Those are huge grounds for seeing eye to eye and developing rules to make sure that trade is fair, investment is fair and intellectual property is protected. These are rules that can be developed. The absence of a strategy of interdependence would not necessarily mean that China gradually withers away. It eventually rises anyway but when it finally gets there it will know who made it extremely difficult for it to get there. That makes for a dangerous world. There was a “step change” in the threat perception about China in the US in 2016. I don’t think that step change in the curve was occasioned by any new strategy on the part of China or any new development in China’s market share or China’s actions in any regard. It was domestic politics. Politics matters, and I think we are trundling down a road where we are in the politics of pessimism and grievance and it has to be redressed. China doesn’t yet feel it is ready to be an equal with the US at the centre stage but wanted to play a more major role in rule setting in the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, in trade and other areas, On Taiwan, no serious observer, including those who are very close observers and who are engaged in this believes that China wants war with Taiwan. Neither does the US. And it’s extremely important to preserve prior understandings on Taiwan, and preserve the constructive ambiguity on Taiwan that has lasted for decades on the part of both the US and China. About global trade, if we go for a system that is protectionist, that imposes restrictions and where your actions domestically have negative spillovers on the rest of the world, you might be able to preserve relative superiority, at least for some period of time. But it is almost certainly at a cost of absolute performance everywhere.

The fintech race in Singapore

More and more regional and international players look to the city-state to launch digital banks

Singapore gears up on digital banking. Deregulation in the city-state is encouraging large regional tech companies such as Grab (the ubiquitous superapp in Southeast Asia) to enter the market, hoping to attract younger customers and small businesses. Although this is expected to boost banking competition, virtual retail banks have yet to bring their operations fully online due to persistent regulatory restrictions. Meanwhile, incumbents such as Standard Chartered are digitizing their services at an accelerating pace. GXS, a digital bank majority owned by Grab, has expanded services since its opening in September. "We are a bank created by digital natives for digital natives," CEO Charles Wong told Nikkei Asia. GXS targets so-called gig economy workers, such as those who deliver meals or give rides to commuters via the Grab app. The bank also seeks to attract those just starting their careers. There are no minimum balance or account maintenance fees. Meanwhile, Standard Chartered, one of the UK's largest banks, has begun operating a digital bank called Trust Bank, which in four months has attracted more than 400,000 users. Trust Bank was co-founded with FairPrice Group, operator of Singapore's largest supermarket chain. Meanwhile, Ant Group, the fintech affiliate of Chinese tech giant Alibaba Group Holding, has obtained a digital wholesale license, allowing it to conduct transactions for businesses. Ant's Anext Bank, a digital-only bank, allows Singapore-registered companies to open a business account online in an instant, even from abroad, a first for the city-state. The trend looks set to continue. In a survey conducted by Visa, 88 percent of SMEs in Singapore said they plan to conduct at least some of their transactions digitally.

Italian military ship Morosini in Singapore

The state-of-the-art military ship Morosini is currently in Singapore. A move that increases Italy's presence in Southeast Asia, an area that is increasingly strategic economically and diplomatically

Article by Tommaso Magrini

Italy is projecting itself into Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific. Not only commercially and diplomatically, but also with the state-of-the-art ship Francesco Morosini. The ship arrived in Singapore on Monday, May 1, and remained there until Saturday, May 6. Stopped at Changi Naval Base, she participated in the International Maritime Defense Exhibition-Asia (IMDEX), a prestigious international showcase where global excellence in the defense sector, particularly naval defense, converges.

The Morosini, 143 meters long, 17.5 meters wide, 6400 tons in tonnage, is the second Unit of the Thaon di Ravel Class and the last among the ships delivered to the Navy. It represents the spearhead of the national naval shipbuilding industry, which is known to be at the top of the world. The unit, delivered on Oct. 22, 2022, to the Italian Navy at Fincantieri's Muggiano shipyard, moreover, represents the cutting edge of Italian technology in the naval and electronics sector. 

His presence was also an opportunity to participate in the opening event of the Italian Festival Singapore was the stage to promote Italian excellence in other fields, including culture and scientific research. From May 2 to 5, a jazz concert, tours of local schools and lectures in collaboration with Singaporean universities will give participants a chance to touch on cutting-edge technologies and innovative systems. The Patroller also hosted several promotional and open-to-the-public events, including several shipboard tours.

This is an important step for the Italian presence in Singapore and Southeast Asia in general. On Tuesday, May 2, the Ambassador of Italy in Singapore and the ship's Commander held a press conference on board in which the ship's special features and its commitment to the Indo-Pacific Campaign, in promotion of Italian excellence in the world, were explained. Ambassador Mario Vattani explained the significance of the presence of the ship Morosini in this quadrant, its importance in Italy's relations with Singapore and countries in the area, and presented the events organized by the Embassy on the sidelines of this event.

"The geopolitical and economic relevance of the Indo-Pacific," said Ambassador Vattani, "leads Italy today with foresight to increase its presence in the area. For some time now, Italy-which has been an ASEAN development partner since 2020-has been implementing activities in various coinciding with the seven pillars of the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific." Indeed, Italy is engaged in the implementation of the Development Partnership with ASEAN. Within this framework, various capacity building activities have been carried out for ASEAN countries in multiple areas: protection of civilians in UN peacekeeping missions, fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime, cybercrime, protection of cultural heritage, sustainable coastal management, anti-piracy and law of the sea. New initiatives are planned in the areas of environmental protection, agricultural mechanization, training of magistrates, and combating transnational organized crime. "We Italians regarding this region of the world have an inclusive vision," Vattani explained, "which aims to collaborate with all actors in the area and Regional Organizations. Today we are doing this in Singapore by bringing our technological excellence with the Nave Morosini, the Navy's youngest unit that represents an instrument of exceptional operational flexibility, capable of carrying out a multiplicity of tasks both military and civil protection".

Singapore, more and more women in management roles

The number of women in top positions in Singapore's business world continues to increase. According to an annual study by the Council for Board Diversity, 36 percent of appointments to the boards of the 100 largest Singapore-listed companies were women in 2022, a record high and an increase from 23 percent in 2021. The influx of women follows new rules requiring Singapore-listed companies to say more about their board diversity policies. According to the CBD report, 21.5 percent of director roles were held by women at the end of 2022, up from 18.9 percent at the end of 2021. The report notes that Singapore's female "talent pool" is growing. Among all directors appointed to the top 100 companies for the first time, women account for 45 percent, up from 25-30 percent previously. Very relevant and significant numbers, but wide room for improvement nevertheless remains. More than 90% of Singapore's boards are chaired by men. In addition, only 7% of the top 100 companies have gender-balanced boards, defined as having 40-60% men or women. The influx of women on boards shows that Singapore is moving in the right direction, Mak Yuen Teen, a professor of corporate governance at the National University of Singapore, told the South China Morning Post. But the fact that there are still relatively few leadership positions for women on boards "suggests that relatively less experienced female candidates are being appointed to boards at the moment." But certainly the path Singapore and its business community is taking to ensure greater representation for women is the right one.

Singapore, a calm island in turbulent waters

The latest rankings record the advance of the city-state, whose government has introduced new tax breaks. It is the preferred destination for the super-rich, from China to Thailand, for depositing their assets.

For the first time since leading corporate service provider and fund administrator Vistra launched its jurisdiction rankings in 2010 — asking hundreds of business services executives to rate the importance of global financial centres based on creditor-friendliness and rule-of-law risk — Singapore has leapfrogged Hong Kong.

Over the past twelve years, Hong Kong has consistently been the dominant of the two Asian jurisdictions featured in Vistra’s top ten. But in 2022, Singapore qualified third, behind the UK and the US, while Hong Kong claimed fourth place.

This is a marginal advantage: 46 per cent of respondents rated Singapore as a very important financial centre for their organisation, while ‘only’ 43 per cent said the same of Hong Kong. However, conditions do not seem to favour yet another turnaround.

“Singapore is a calm island in very turbulent waters,” said a UK-based private solicitor in response to the Vistra questionnaire. The remark seems to refer to the political turbulence afflicting Hong Kong in recent years and the increasingly invasive erosion of the 'one country, two systems' principle governing its relations with Beijing. 

Indeed, a worrying wind is blowing from the capital of the People's Republic of China (PRC) for the so-called super-rich. Xi Jinping's drive to consolidate his leadership by promoting allies who are known for their tough stance against the private sector, as well as the prospect of possible new inheritance taxes, have prompted some particularly wealthy Chinese citizens to at least partially sever financial ties with their own country, in what could be described as an ‘exodus of wealth’. In fact, Xi's push for "common prosperity" would appear to be driving investors — who once embraced Deng Xiaoping's dictum that ‘getting rich is glorious’ — to flock to more wealth-friendly places, such as Singapore.

Away from China

"The private sector in China is really in decline," notes Drew Thompson, a visiting senior researcher at the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in an interview with Bloomberg. "This accelerates efforts to migrate and secure one's wealth abroad".

It is not clear whether Xi is intent on stopping the outflow of people and capital from China. Investment migration consultancy Henley & Partners estimates that in 2022 alone, a cohort of around 10,000 wealthy residents sought to withdraw USD 48 billion from the PRC, which represents the second-largest outflow of wealth and people worldwide, after Russia.

Anti-Covid regulations also played a key role in Singapore's advance. While the city-state quickly returned to normal in 2022 — including lifting the indoors mask requirements (one of the last remaining restrictions) in August — Hong Kong remains, like the rest of China, one of the territories with the most stringent anti-Covid regulations in the world. This has also led to an ‘exodus’. According to the European Union Office for Hong Kong and Macao, around 10 per cent of EU citizens residing in Hong Kong left the city this year, and a growing number of employees have requested to be relocated elsewhere. Large companies, such as American multinational investment banking and financial services firm Citigroup, as well as the CEOs of JP Morgan, have also quietly moved a string of equity bankers to Singapore and other markets.

However, Singapore's rise should not be entirely attributed to recent turmoil and Covid-related restrictions in other places. The government of the city-state also has merits of its own, for the benefits of the ‘super-rich’.

Singapore's reputation as a bastion of low-tax security and stability has made it a regional hub for the wealthy, from Thailand to Indonesia. The city-state has been effective in establishing itself international in activities such as fund management and estate planning.

For example, in order to increase its attractiveness as an alternative fund venue, Singapore introduced the Variable Capital Company (VCC) in 2020 — a new corporate entity structure under which several collective investment schemes (whether open or closed-ended) can be brought together under the umbrella of a single corporate entity and yet remain separate from each other. The VCC challenges major fund domiciles such as the Cayman Islands or the UK by offering investors greater flexibility, operational cost savings, and tax benefits.

Singapore's favourable legislation

In recent years, Singapore has also been trying to attract a larger share of Asian clients with rising net worth. Its trust laws offer privacy and tax exemptions to settlors and beneficiaries. With its introduction of the Overseas Networks and Expertise (ONE) pass — a visa that will allow its holders and their partners to work in the city-state for five years — Singapore furthermore became a global talent hub.

Singapore does not provide detailed statistics on where its wealth flows come from. However, according to Bloomberg, the explosive rise of ‘family offices’ — service companies that manage the wealth of one or more wealthy families by acting as coordination centres for financial and administrative management — is symptomatic of the arrival of multiple new tycoons, especially Chinese. At the end of 2021, the number of these offices almost doubled compared to the previous year. Michael Marquardt, whose firm IQ-EQ Asia helps set up family offices, said the number of inquiries from Chinese clients had increased by 25 to 50 per cent from before, to after, the last Chinese Communist Party Congress. Vikna Rajah, head of tax and trustee at law firm Rajah and Tann Singapore LLP, said last June that more than 30 per cent of the clients she has supported in applying for tax exemption were from China, including from Hong Kong. These newcomers choose Singapore not just as a base for business but for real relocations. For instance, Sean Shi Yonghong, co-founder of Sichuan hot pot chain Haidilao International, paid USD 50 million for a so-called Good Class Bungalow (GCB) in the city-state last September. His business partner, and CEO of Haidilao International, Zhang Yong already established himself in Singapore a few years ago and took up citizenship in 2018. Sun Tongyu, one of the co-founders of Alibaba, also bought a USD 51 million penthouse in the city-state. Other notable Chinese entrepreneurs who have settled in Singapore include Zhang Yiming, founder of ByteDance Ltd, cryptobillionaire Jihan Wu, and Cindy Mi, the founder of VIPKid (a formerly successful edutech company in China until Beijing cracked down on online tutoring). Such newcomers have generated a variety of knock-on effects, from increased sales of luxury cars to skyrocketing prices for villas, and… golf memberships.

Interview with Mario Vattani, Ambassador of Italy in Singapore

The Ambassador of Italy in Singapore talks about the activities of the diplomatic office in the city-state, illustrates the results achieved and the potential to be exploited

Interview by Lorenzo Lamperti

Ambassador Vattani, how has the impact with Singapore been and how has the Embassy's activity evolved in these months?

Now that a year has passed since my arrival I can draw a first balance. We took advantage of the first months when, due to the anti-Covid restrictions, it was difficult to have meetings and carry out outward activities to work on structural projects. In particular, we moved headquarters. This is not a simple relocation, but a symbol of Italy's recognition of Singapore's growing importance in the region. South-East Asia will play an increasingly strategic role in the next 20 years and Singapore has a special importance. Previously, this was a small office with few staff, in contrast to the international companies that have long used Singapore as a gateway to the region. The opening of the new Embassy office is part of a dynamic of increased presence in which there has been the opening of the defence office and that of the Bank of Italy.

What are the factors that are making Singapore more and more central?

There are several factors. Certainly, the dynamics of recent years in Hong Kong have also contributed. There is also a constant flow of professionals and companies from China, especially from Shanghai. When I arrived, this process had already started, so we were able to expand. The advantage is that we can now show Singaporeans that there has been a change of pace and the result is that Italy has greater visibility. Both the offices of our representation and the companies themselves. 

What initiatives have been launched since the easing of pandemic restrictions?

We have started a visible action on the ground. For example, the first Italian Festival was organised, a formula I had already used in Japan where I worked as head of the Commercial Office. The basic idea is to multiply a whole series of activities under the same logo without limiting ourselves to the more classic areas of Italy's presence, from food to fashion to tourism. We have also worked on events on science, technology and research. We are trying to make these sides of Italy known as well. Since Singapore is not a manufacturing hub, there is no intimate knowledge of our production system and mechanics, unlike other countries. Japan has been importing high technology made in Italy for decades, while in Singapore they are mostly familiar with our products. Yet here we have large companies present in important infrastructures such as Mapei in the construction of the port. Italian technology is also present in Gardens by the Bay and the underground. We took advantage of the recent Formula One Grand Prix, which really represented Singapore's return to the international scene after the pandemic. We as Italy made a showcase in the Embassy of all the most important companies that are linked to the world of Formula One. Not only Ferrari, but also those who do infrastructure or tires. Even whoever did the lighting was an Italian company. 

How important is it to steer the action on the host country's agenda?

The mistake that is sometimes made in Asia is to arrive here looking at one's navel, instead you have to use the opposite route: look at the other person and adapt to what they do, to make them understand that what I do works for them too. Singapore then is a country with a ruling class that is proud of what it is doing, you have to make them understand that we are the right partner. For example, during design week Italy was the only country present with an exhibition on new materials and Italian start-ups that recycle intelligently. We were the only partner country of the Singapore Design Centre during Design Week. Now thanks to the Farnesina we have the tools to have a more proactive attitude: we have a showroom, the venue is in the centre of the city's Financial District. There is a space called Sala Italia where exhibitions will be held. In fact it is already in operation: Giordano Bruno Guerri just came here for a meeting on D'Annunzio, Pirelli also had its exhibition here. I have signed two decrees making both the residence and the Sala Italia available to companies. 

The bilateral scientific and technological cooperation agreement has also recently come into operation. What benefits can it bring?

The agreement was signed in 2016, but the executive protocol was missing. Since we arrived, we have been scrambling to reactivate it. Now it is finally up and running. There will be several projects also related to startups on which we have ground to make up. The advantage of Singapore is that there is a vast talent hub here and it is a research laboratory with great potential. 

Singapore also plays a significant role politically in the region, as well as economically and financially. 

Absolutely, the ruling class is at a very high level and the local government is listened to and respected everywhere. Singapore plays a very complex game, thanks to its stability and strategic position it plays a role of guarantor for everyone. I would add that there are also interesting lessons for Italy in managing a multi-identity society effectively. Just as one can observe Singapore's experience in the fight against terrorism. These are also issues on which it is good to deepen the bilateral dialogue.