“This is your home”, said Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan to the Dutch business community on Tuesday evening at the inaugural Winsemius awards. “There will always be a place in Singapore for Dutch companies and people from the Netherlands.” The Dutch Chamber of Commerce business awards, which celebrate the long-standing commercial ties between the Netherlands and Singapore, are named for Mr Lee KuanYew’s dear friend and long-time economic advisor to Singapore, Dutchman Albert Winsemius.
Over forty companies submitted nominations for the awards, spread over seven categories showcasing the sectors where the Dutch and Singapore business ties are strongest: Water, High Tech, Maritime, Collaborative Innovation, Singapore-Dutch Cooperation, Rising Star SME and Sustainability. The winners were NUSDeltares in Water, VDL-ETG in High Tech, Damen Shipyards in Maritime, Singapore National Eye Centre in Collaborative Innovation, Singapore Delft Water Alliance in Singapore-Dutch Cooperation, eG Innovations in Rising Star SME and Akzo Nobel Marine Coatings in Sustainability. The joint winners of the Netherlands Singapore Water Challenge, ‘Urban Water Rebels’, were lauded at the same event; David Gintin, Rayina Rukmina Binol and Tri Handayani for their virtual water campaign to create awareness of consumer water usage, and Ms Nishtha Manocha for her mobile app that gives consumers in developing countries insight in their water quality (through the phone camera) and the ability to feed back to the relevant organisations.
The gala was attended by Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan, His Excellency Mr Jacques Werner Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, former Minister Professor Dr Pieter Winsemius, his sister Ms Ankie Aeyelts Averink-Winsemius and Ynse de Boer, Vice President of DutchCham, as well as the CEO’s and representatives of the nominated companies and members of DutchCham.
Minister Balakrishnan spoke at length of the special relationship between Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Albert Winsemius, reminding all those present of the similarities and strong bonds between our countries. Dr Pieter Winsemius followed his example, and presented the Minister with a statue of a grandfather and grandson fishing, which had once belonged to his own father, Mr Albert Winsemius. “This is a tribute to Singapore, and it belongs here”, he said, recalling the famous story of how Mr Winsemius had caught a fish in the formerly heavily polluted Singapore River. “I have a suggestion to add yet another award: To give this statue every year to the most sustainable government agency.”
Ms Ankie Aeyelts Averink-Winsemius took the stage with a heartfelt thank you: “We have been moved by this special week, because my father has felt very near to us.” She reminded the attendees of the shared passion of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Albert Winsemius to make Singapore a better place and to work for a brighter future. She told the attendees: “You are part of all that. You are the future. You are the younger people to whom Singapore is given now. You are the brighter future my father and Mr Lee had in mind.”
The award winning companies were surprised and honoured with their victories. “Of course, we had hope, but with inaugural awards you never know which way the jury verdict will go”, said Mr Maarten Jongen, Managing Director of Maritime award winning Damen Shipyards. The shipbuilders have recently set up a research facility at the regional headquarters in Singapore. “Singapore has the right climate for high quality knowledge work.”
Singapore Delft Water Alliance (SDWA) received an award under category Singapore-Dutch Collaboration, whereas NUSDeltares which grew out of the SDWA collaboration was recognised under category Water. Professor Vladan Babovic spoke of the truly exciting journey of the two organisations, to jointly work on the problems the world faces today, with climate change and ever more densely populated cities. “We are in the position to pursue something that is truly meaningful to society. With NUS, Deltares and the PUB we have a strong line up to explore and implement solutions.” He alluded to Ms Ankie Aeyelts Averink-Winsemius speech when he said : “It’s a long journey, and we have to keep on working. We pool all this together, and we have students in the mix too. We are grooming the next generation, isn’t that wonderful?”
VDL-ETG won the award for High Tech, which Managing Director Mr Wu Yong Lin received. “It’s recognition for hard work”, said Mr Patrick Smit, senior manager sales and programs of VDL-ETG. “Mr Wu is the first Singaporean MD in the history of the company. He started at the machines and worked his way up. That is typical of the VDL-ETG spirit: no-nonsense, reward growth.” He spoke of customers from Europe and the US who find their own way to VDL-ETG’s Asian operations: “We are leading in producing precision machinery. There are few suppliers who could manage our portfolio.”
The Singapore National Eye Centre, part of the SingHealth Group, won the award for Collaborative Innovation. Mr Dirk de Korne, Deputy Director Health Innovation at the SNEC, was enormously chuffed with the award. “There has been close collaboration between the Rotterdams Oogziekenhuis and the SNEC from the late nineties”, he said. “It is enormously rewarding to be able to provide bridging support between two cultures, both for companies and government institutions.” Most of the collaboration is in health management, he pointed out, as medical collaboration is internationally well-established through academia and conferences. “One thing Singapore took from Rotterdam is the security protocol to ensure there is no mix-up between right and left eyes during surgery. And a thing Rotterdam picked up from Singapore is valet parking! Such a small thing, but the Rotterdams Oogziekenhuis was the first hospital to provide this service in the Netherlands.”
Rising Star SME was eG Innovations, a home-grown Singapore company which recently set up an office in the Hague. “That is our Dutch connection”, said Mr Anand Sampath, Chief Financial Officer at eG Innovations. The software developer has produced a way of finding the source of malfunctions and fixing these in record time. “Our software is often used in mission critical applications. In the Netherlands the latest technology is used so it is a logical base for us.” In addition, he lauded the ease of setting up business, and the help from the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency, NFIA. “So far we have kept a low profile”, said Mr Sampath. “But these awards are a chance for us to talk a bit more about our success. I am very proud of our entire team’s efforts.”
AkzoNobel Marine Coatings too is happy to have a platform to speak about one of its core values: sustainability. “I was happily surprised at the number of applicants for this award, which makes winning it even more special”, said Mr Oscar Wezenbeek, Managing Director Marine Coatings. “Singapore is home to Akzo Nobel’s Marine Coating business. Sustainability is at the core of our company, but we are not leading in making sustainable coatings – we are also seeking collaborations with other organisations in sustainability. For this particular coating we are working together with carbon credit company Gold Standard. We have developed a model to measure the impact of our coating on the carbon emissions of vessels. The credits earned will be sold and the profits returned to the vessels using the coating.”
Vice President of Dutch Chamber of Commerce Ynse de Boer followed the long view from the history of Albert Winsemius and Singapore into the future: “There is a special connection between the Netherlands and Singapore, ever since the days of Albert Winsemius and Mr Lee Kuan Yew. I look forward to highlighting these strong business ties and collaborations annually in the years to come.”