Last night I attended a reception at the beautiful residence of the German Ambassador to Singapore to mark the ties between Germany and Singapore in the life sciences. It gave the recent THE world rankings of universities some real world context, in the sense of showing the rise of Asia in some of the new growth sectors and the link to higher education. One of the speakers was Dr. Andreas Schmidt, the CEO of Ayoxxa, a biotech firm based in Cologne and Singapore that just raised a round of investments to develop and bring to market its chip-based protein analysis technology. That technology was developed by Dieter Trau, a German bioengineering professor at the National University of Singapore. NUS, which didn’t break the top 50 best schools for the life sciences as recently as two years ago, is now ranked 33rd in the world.
Other speakers talked about ‘Singapore as the new US’ and ‘the East as the new West’, highlighting, if in a slightly hyperbolic way, the ease of doing business in Asia and the growing talent pool in the region. Singapore and Germany were touted as bridges on their respective continents, given their central location, and thus natural partners to bring these two zones together.
Is there a new era dawning where Asia represents a new frontier for European entrepreneurship? It’s hard to say. The Economist’s recent coverage of the difficulty of starting businesses in Europe laments the continent’s lack of entrepreneurs, thus migration elsewhere where the conditions are better makes sense, though Berlin, London and Stockholm are seen as hubs of innovation. Asian investment in creating leading universities is also an important factor: young scientists are being attracted because the quality of the labs surpasses what they are offered in Europe and North America.