French aerospace firm Thales expands Singapore operations with new digital lab

SINGAPORE – French aerospace company Thales has added a new ‘digital factory’ to its stable of research labs in Singapore, with the aim of producing high tech data-based solutions for the region using local expertise.

The research lab, which opened on Thursday (Nov 29), will next year house around 30 experts drawn from a mix of nationalities, including Singaporeans.

The Parisian company entered Singapore in 1973 and has around 700 employees here but aims to grow this figure to around 2,000 after it completes its acquisition of digital security firm Gemalto in the first quarter of next year.

The new lab at 8 Cross Street is the start of a 20 million euro (S$31 million) investment over the next five years, and staff numbers there are expected to increase in that time.

The group hopes to draw from a talent pool of data scientists, software engineers, designers and cyber security experts from the region.

These specialists will produce digital solutions, using technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence and cloud computing to solve problems faced by Singaporean firms and test them to see if they can be deployed worldwide.

Thales’ vice-president of digital transformation Olivier Flous said: “What we want to do is to work with our Singapore customers to test these original products, and then to implement them worldwide to serve a global market.”

The company’s customers include Singapore Airlines, SMRT, Changi Airport and the Singapore Armed Forces.

Singapore was not a surprising choice for the group to place its third digital factory due to its heavy presence here and its proximity to its Asian customers, according to its senior executive vice-president of international development Pascale Sourisse. Thales’ other digital factories are in France and Canada.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said the new Thales factory adds to the country’s digital capabilities and is a microcosm of what he hopes Singapore will embark in future.

“We see exactly the model that we will be embarking on,” he said on the sidelines of a tour of the factory. “In this factory, we see Singaporeans working with talented people from overseas and around the world as part of a wider network. There are a lot of opportunities for Singaporeans to participate in such learning and the finding of solutions.”

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