What was last year a small sales office here with a staff of 15 is now the Biopolis-based Asia-Pacific headquarters of a multinational pharmaceutical and food ingredient manufacturer.
The opening of Roquette Group's expansive new offices and research facilities comes on the back of a consumer boom in Asia, said Mr Jean-Marc Gilson, chief executive of the family-owned French company.
Moving the hub to Singapore from Shanghai "will help to anticipate and respond to the increasing demand for Asia-specific products in the food and health sectors".
Roquette's operations include developing plant-derived food ingredients such as sugar substitutes and creating pharmaceutical excipients, or the inactive components in drugs.
Mr Gilson was speaking at yesterday's opening ceremony for the new headquarters, which is also home to the company's first full-fledged research facilities outside France.
"Singapore is highly connected and this will allow us to extend our operations into key markets in the region by being closer to our customers," he noted.
Roquette employs about 50 people here - a number set to grow to between 70 and 80 over the next two to three years, with half the headcount in technical roles.
The company hosted seven undergraduate interns from the National University of Singapore this year, Dr Rajeev Gokhale, its Asia head of research and development, told The Straits Times. It aims to take on five interns next year and plans to expand recruitment to other educational institutions.
Research partnerships with public bodies are also in the works.
Mr Lim Chuan Poh, chairman of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, announced at the launch that Roquette has teamed up with two of his agency's institutes.
A collaboration with the Clinical Nutrition Research Centre will investigate how Asians react to dietary fibre, while the Bioprocessing Technology Institute will work with Roquette on culture media.
Said Mr Lim: "It is our ambition that, through such partnerships, we can accelerate innovation to meet nutrition and health challenges."
He also said that government agencies are working to nurture an ecosystem for private-sector research and development from multinational corporations, noting that other global firms, such as consumer giant Nestle and yeast maker Lesaffre, have opened research facilities here in the past two years.
He later told The Straits Times: "We started the Clinical Nutrition Research Centre precisely to create the kind of public platform that all companies in the food and nutrition, and in fact in the healthcare area, can leverage upon.
"The addition of Roquette speaks to this capability: leveraging on a public sector platform to generate a lot of industry interest and therefore economic activity, and also create opportunities for good jobs in Singapore and for Singaporeans."
While Mr Gilson did not share a specific investment amount, he said that the company is looking at potential acquisitions and building new manufacturing plants in the region.
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