Singapoere researchers have made significant contributions to new product innovations at Dutch paint firm AkzoNobel, said its global chief executive.

Mr Ton Buechner, who was in Singapore recently, told The Straits Times that locally based boffins in its labs were the principal brains behind the firm's new marine coating.

The coating is designed to loosen and dislodge algae, barnacles and shells that attach to a ship's hull when it is stationary.

AkzoNobel cited industry reports that said slime build-up on ship hulls could cost the shipping industry about $22 billion (S$37 billion) in additional fuel costs a year.

"We coat almost everything that drives, flies and floats," said Mr Buechner.

"The latest coating has been shipped and is well received by our customers from as far as China, South Korea, Dubai as well as North America."

He added that the firm's decorative paint business has also thrived thanks to Singapore, both because of the researchers and the intense sunlight and heavy rain here, which provide a good testing environment.

A roof on AkzoNobel House, which was officially opened at the Changi Business Park last November, serves as an ideal test site.

AkzoNobel's paints have been used to coat the "Supertree" structures at Gardens by the Bay, the Raffles Hotel and the Asia Square Tower office block.

While many firms here have raised concerns over a shortage of talent, Mr Buechner said AkzoNobel has policies in place to offset the difficulty firms have in finding talented staff.

These include having training and development programmes, flexible working hours and a policy that recognises a candidate's experience and skill over nationality.

AkzoNobel employs more than 550 people here, mostly locals, but it acknowledges that it has an ongoing challenge in attracting graduates and professionals in the engineering field.

Mr Buechner noted that the finance industry and consultancies have become attractive options for engineers over the past 15 years.

Geographically, he expects AkzoNobel to increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific region and work is under way to expand into Myanmar.