GERMAN companies have been involved in Singapore for many years, taking advantage of the city's strategic location and good business environment.

Among them are companies such as Bosch, which has been in Singapore since 1923. Another German company that has set up here more recently is Continental Automotive, which established its Singapore operations in 1997 and has been a hub of research and development (R&D) activity for it to develop and test important technologies for Radio and Navigation, User Interfaces, Displays, Entertainment and Controls.

For both Bosch and Continental, location, strong government support and infrastructure were key factors in deciding to invest in the country.

"Singapore's strategic location, as well as its highly skilled and educated local workforce, makes the country ideal as the location for Bosch's South-east Asian headquarters. From our headquarters in Singapore, we have already driven business development in the 10 Asean countries, the most recent of which is the setting up of a representative office in Myanmar," says a Bosch spokesman.

"Singapore's excellent infrastructure, strong government support, and talented science and engineering workforce are the primary factors that drew Continental to set up its R&D operations here in Singapore," reveals Continental Automotive Singapore communications head Sim Toon Cheng.

These excellent conditions have made Singapore the location for Bosch's regional headquarters for more than 40 years. "Singapore has proven to be ideal for the business areas that Bosch is active in. The fact that Bosch has been active in Singapore has allowed Bosch technology to be critical components of many landmarks in Singapore, including the hydraulics for the floodgates in the Marina Barrage, the Crane Dance at Resorts World Sentosa, and the security systems in Changi Airport," Bosch noted.

Bosch has also found that Singapore has proven to be ideal for test-bedding technologies. One example is the successful completion of phase 1 of the Electric Vehicles Test-Bed, and the company is continuously on the lookout for new opportunities to apply its technical expertise across the business sectors it is active in. "In particular, the Infocomm Media Masterplan presents many potential scenarios that Bosch is in a competitive position to address," it added. "Bosch is very appreciative of the fact that Singapore readily embraces emergent technology, and we are keen to deploy our technology in Singapore that will establish the country as a showcase for the world at large."

In July 2012 Continental Automotive Singapore unveiled its new R&D centre in Singapore. The facility is one of the three largest Continental R&D centres in Asia.

"Our expansion plans in Singapore are part of Continental's ongoing efforts to invest in fresh knowledge and new ideas and, in turn, increase its innovative prowess with highly qualified staff," says Mr Sim.

Another key advantage of Singapore is that it is used by many German companies as an Asia-Pacific hub. They see many advantages of setting up operations here geared to reach out to the Asian market.

For example, Singapore is the Asia-Pacific headquarters for the Automotive Aftermarket, Bosch Software Innovations and Security Systems divisions while Bosch's Asia-Pacific Corporate Research and Advance Engineering Centre are also housed within the headquarters in Singapore and develops cutting-edge technologies in fields such as building-integrated photovoltaics, off-grid decentralised electrification, power electronics using a model-based design, and gas sensors for air quality and medical diagnosis.

"Singapore's pro-business regulatory framework has made it very advantageous for Bosch, especially in light of the fact that the national laws complement and enable the business practices within Bosch," says its spokesman.

"As an Asia-Pacific hub for Continental, the Singapore R&D centre strongly supports Continental's growth strategy of deeper engagement with its Asian automotive customers," notes Mr Sim.

The facility in Singapore is envisioned as a major R&D engineering hub for Continental, regionally and internationally.

Earlier this year, Continental, A*Star's Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R) and Technische Universität München (Technical University of Munich, TUM CREATE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to set up an Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Lab which will involve the research, study and test-bedding of a range of communications, information and automotive innovations and technologies that improve the safety, efficiency, and performance of transport systems in Singapore.

The partnership will boost Continental's ITS capabilities in Singapore and other parts of Asia, through a series of innovations by leveraging I²R's expertise in speech, multimedia, robotics and communication technologies, as well as TUM CREATE's interdisciplinary research for future transportation.

"We can see that Asia is the new frontier in the expanding growth of the global automotive industry. As the Asia-Pacific hub for Continental, we can focus not only on R&D but also in the engagement of business with customers, acquisition of new business, running projects in the global team and ensuring the successful launch of products in the manufacturing plants," says Mr Sim.

German and other European companies also find it advantageous to use Singapore as a base to expand into Asia. "The country's strong economic policies, the stable political and social environment as well as Singapore's pro-business and innovation-friendly environment, are especially conducive for businesses. Bearing in mind the country's high standards of education, Bosch has found little difficulty in finding local top talent. This in turn contributes to the diversity of our company, which is a proven key driver to the global success of Bosch," says its spokesman.

"As an Asia-Pacific hub for Continental, the Singapore R&D centre strongly supports Continental's growth strategy of deeper engagement with its Asian automotive customers," points out Mr Sim.

The involvement of German companies in the Singapore economy is reflective of how ties between the two countries have evolved over the years, in both commercial as well as other fields.

"The Singapore government has been very supportive of Bosch's business in Singapore. From the perspective of a multinational technology company, Singapore's stable, world-class business environment enables Bosch, and many other established multinational companies alike, to operate efficiently. The fact that many other multinational companies have chosen to locate their regional headquarters in Singapore is testament to the commercial attractiveness of the country," concludes the Bosch spokesman.