WITH all the emphasis on new industries replacing the old and going virtual, there are still a fair few traditional companies that serve as bridges between old- world experience and next-generation creativity.
Most people here probably think of tyres when they hear about the automotive brand, Continental.
The Hannover-based company was founded in 1871 and has rolled beyond rubber-and-road issues. They’ve taken the onramp to the superhighway, breaking into areas such as connectivity, autonomous driving and surface materials.
It has grown into a global company, employing 240,000 people in 61 countries, and last year generated E44 billion.
Singapore is a key centre and gateway to the East for the brand, evidenced by it the recent launch of its third R&D building, at Boon Keng. The company showcased its new seven-storey facility in the imaginatively named Third Building.
New-Age Building For The Future
Its 11,000sqm building houses one of Continental’s three largest global R&D facilities, which focuses on things to do with mobility — intelligent mobility, mobility services and urban mobility.
Hot desks, break-out spaces and clean laboratories strive to create that Google or Facebook environment everyone wants to operate out of these days.
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Lo Kien Foh, Managing Director of Continental Automotive Singapore, is hopeful that these touches will encourage creativity.
“How to motivate someone to give you innovative ideas? How do you build a desire to innovate,” he wonders aloud and hopes that today’s Singapore workforce of 1,300 at Continental will appreciate the new spaces created.
Lo has worked his way up through the company over 29 years, in the process experiencing a variety of company mergers and acquisitions. He has also seen the industry morph into quite a different sort of animal.
“Technology and innovation are not difficult to realise. It’s getting people to accept new technology that is the challenge,” Lo observes.
Perhaps it’s the pace of technology that has to be managed rather than technology itself. While it would be prudent to space out new products to maximise returns, the intense competition and the need to stay ahead of a sharp series of learning curves makes it near impossible to dictate the speed of change.
Continental has grown the business through its acquisitions, and to maintain its position as an automotive technology company. It acquired Singapore-based Quantum Inventionslast year to boost its mobility solutions arm.