Five MNCs Marking Milestones in Singapore

Multinational companies have always been important drivers of Singapore’s economic growth. Here’s a closer look at five pioneers.

By EDB | 31 Oct 2023

Multinational corporations (MNCs) have been an important driver of Singapore’s economic growth.

Singapore’s pro-business environmenttalent policies and commitment to innovation continue to be attractive to global companies and founders seeking to invest in Asia.

Here’s a look at five MNCs – Makino Asia, Proctor & Gamble, Shimano, Thales and Applied Materials –  that are commemorating milestones of their own this year, and their contributions to our local ecosystem.


Applied Materials

Above: Applied Materials performs R&D and product development activities for 3D chip packaging in its Singapore lab (pictured above), enabling chips and end-user devices that are smaller, faster and more power efficient.

Over more than three decades, Applied Materials’ presence in Singapore has transformed from a small sales and service office into the company’s regional headquarters (RHQ). The company, commonly referred to as Applied, now employs over 1,000 people here, with most of them supporting the company’s manufacturing activities.

Applied’s Singapore RHQ also houses the company’s largest manufacturing facility outside of the US, accounting for about half of its annual production of semiconductor equipment globally. Applied also ranks as one of Singapore’s top employers in the precision engineering sector, and is a key contributor to the local semiconductor equipment industry.

Applied has been a key player in Singapore’s R&D ecosystem, establishing successful partnerships with local research institutes such as the Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*STAR) Institute of Microelectronics and the National University of Singapore.

These collaborations have led to the development of innovative materials and process technologies, further enhancing Singapore’s value as a hub for developing new products and ideas for the region and beyond.

The company was also conferred the Distinguished Partner in Progress Award from the Singapore government in 2019, in recognition of its outstanding contributions and commitment to the country.

Above: Applied Materials’ executives, led by Mr Gary Dickerson (centre right), Applied Materials’ President and Chief Executive Officer, receiving the award for the Distinguished Partner in Progress (DPIP) Award in 2019 from Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Heng Swee Keat (centre left), standing in front of Dr Beh Swan Gin, Former Chairman of EDB. Photo: EDB

Last year, Applied announced ambitious plans to expand its Singapore operations by 2030. It held a groundbreaking ceremony for an expansion of its regional hub in Singapore, and announced plans to strengthen its R&D capabilities here with a focus on accelerating the commercialisation of new technologies and services that improve chip power, performance, area, cost, and time-to-market (PPACtTM).


Makino Asia

Above: Former Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Lim Boon Heng, and Former President of Makino Milling Machine Co Ltd — the parent company of Makino Asia, Jiro Makino, unveiling a plaque marking the opening of Makino Asia’s Jurong plant in 1992, which costed S$16 million to build. Photo: Newspaper SG (National Library Board) and The Business Times

This year marks Makino Asia’s 50th anniversary in Singapore. The prominent provider of machine tools also has its Asia-Pacific headquarters here — a diverse talent hub with about 500 staff from China, India, and ASEAN countries. Makino Asia is a key player in Singapore’s manufacturing sector – which makes up about 20 per cent of the economy – especially in precision engineering. It supplies key components to industries such as semiconductors and MedTech.

In 2019, Makino Asia launched its Advanced Machining Factory and Internet of Things Centre in Singapore. The factory continues to play a vital role in enhancing efficiency — achieving a 60 per cent increase in output per employee by streamlining processes and automating repetitive tasks.

Its Singapore operations have also continued drive business growth, contributing more than 40 per cent to the group’s consolidated revenues and achieving a milestone of S$1 billion in annual revenue in 2022.  In May, Makino Asia launched its new metal-based additive manufacturing solutions business in Singapore.

Above: An engineering team of nine men, led by Chao Tian Kong (centre), toasting to the launch of Makino Asia’s FX 650 system, which was designed, developed, and produced in Singapore in 1992. The streamlined vertical machining centre is designed for precision manufacturing. Photo: Newspaper SG (National Library Board) and The Business Times

The manufacturer has also continued to work closely with Singapore’s educational institutions such as Institute of Technical Education, Polytechnics, Universities, and local and global industry players, to nurture and develop Singaporean talent.

Above, from left: Makino Asia’s CEO, Neo Eng Chong, and Minister for Trade and Industry, Gan Kim Yong. Photo: Makino Asia Pte Ltd

For instance, Makino Asia’s close partnership with the Singapore Manufacturing Federation and Singapore Precision Engineering & Technology Association, yielded the Precision Engineering Master Craftsmen course at Nanyang Polytechnic. Since 2013, the industry certification course has become a well-recognised scheme elevating the standard of precision engineering craftsmanship in Singapore.


Procter & Gamble (P&G)

Above, left to right: US Ambassador to Singapore, Jonathan E. Kaplan; P&G President Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa, Stanislav Vecera; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Lawrence Wong; Senior Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, P&G Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa Karthik Natarajan; and Vice President, Global Government Relations & Public Policy, P&G Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa Cecilia Tan. Photo: P&G

In June, Procter & Gamble (P&G) celebrated its 35th anniversary of operations in Singapore. It announced an investment of over S$100 million to establish a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Singapore.

The consumer giant’s journey in Singapore began in 1987 with a small sales team of fewer than 100 individuals. Today, P&G Singapore employs about 2,300 individuals from more than 40 nationalities. Singapore is home to the company’s Asia-Pacific headquarters and global headquarters for SK-II, and its Skin & Personal Care businesses respectively.

P&G’s Singapore Innovation Centre (SgIC) was launched in 2014 at a cost of S$250 million. One of the largest corporate research facilities in Singapore, SgIC continues to be a key innovation lab for its global megabrands such as Pantene, Head and Shoulders, Ambi Pur, Vicks and Pampers, among others.

Above, from left: Former Managing Director, A*STAR Raj Thampuran; Former Chief Research, Development & Innovation Officer, P&G, Kathy Fish; Former Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam; Former President of APAC & Indian Subcontinent, Middle East and Africa, P&G, Magesvaran Suranjan; Former Assistant Managing Director, Singapore Economic Development Board, Thien Kwee Eng. This was taken at the 5th Anniversary of P&G’s Singapore Innovation Centre (SgIC), held in 2019. Photo: P&G.

P&G has also been able to drive meaningful change through its Singapore operations. P&G’s Pioneer Plant in Tuas is also home to P&G’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water (CSDW) manufacturing. The CSDW program, started in 2004, has provided 21 billion litres of clean water to communities in need around the world.

P&G also partnered EDB to develop GrowthWorks, a venture-building programme that supports the company’s staff in creating new brands, new technology platforms and new business models.



Shimano Singapore started out with a single plant, located at the Jurong Industrial Estate, in 1973, and through the years leveraged Singapore’s skilled talent pool to transform itself into a full-fledged manufacturing plant with design, engineering and manufacturing capabilities (Above). The Shimano Singapore sales office, established in 1996, continues to enable the company to serve its Southeast Asian customers with efficiency. Photo: Shimano Singapore.

The Japanese manufacturer of cycling and fishing equipment first established its presence in Singapore in 1973 with a plant at the Jurong Industrial Estate — the company’s first overseas manufacturing facility outside of Japan, and in Southeast Asia; and its third global site. It did so to meet increased demand for its products and chose Singapore for its stability, connections to trading routes and geographic location in the heart of Southeast Asia.

In the 50 years since, Shimano Singapore has risen to become a key contributor to the manufacturer’s production and technology pipelines and have enhanced its operational efficiency to rival that of its Japanese operations, according to the company.

In May this year, Shimano unveiled its “Factory of the Future” — a significant investment of approximately JP¥20 billion (S$250 million) — in Jurong Innovation District. Construction of this new factory began in 2018.

Above: The opening ceremony of Shimano Singapore Intelligent Plant happened on 12 May 2023. From Left to right: President, Shimano Singapore Chia Chin Seng; President of Shimano Inc. Taizo Shimano; Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling; and Chairman and CEO of Shimano Inc. Yozo Shimano; Honorary Chairman, Takenaka Corporation Toichi Takenaka. Photo: Shimano Singapore

This new factory will utilise digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things, in addition to robot-based automation. The site will also house the company’s R&D centre with plans to develop special materials for cycling apparel products and research into the use of wearable technology.

Shimano’s staff will be trained in operating in a smart manufacturing environment, with additional job openings for researchers, scientists and engineers.

The company’s chairman and chief executive Yozo Shimano is also Singapore’s Honorary Consul-General in Osaka, Japan. Appointed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Shimano safeguards the interests of Singaporeans visiting, living and working in Osaka and promotes bilateral, political, economic and cultural links between Singapore and Japan.

For his contributions to Singapore, he was one of four foreign business leaders recognised with a Public Service Star at the 2022 National Day Awards.



Above: Mr Heng Swee Keat (Centre), Deputy Prime Minister and Former Finance Minister, with the Thales team during his pre-Budget engagement in 2020. Photo: Facebook.

Thales marks its 50th anniversary in Singapore this year. In the last five decades, the global leader in advanced technologies has grown its footprint and operations significantly to support its business activities in the areas of aerospace, defence and security, and digital identity and security, among others.

Thales further expanded its Changi facility in 2017, making it the largest of the company’s three global repair hubs; the other two are in France, and US. The Changi facility houses the company’s avionics production and Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul services. Key systems for the Airbus A320, A350 and Boeing 787 fleets are also produced here, with avionics equipment supplied to major regional airlines.

Thales further expanded its Changi facility in 2017, making it the largest of the company’s three global repair hubs; the other two are located in Chatellerault, France, and Piscataway, US. The Changi facility houses the company’s avionics production and Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) services. Key systems for the Airbus A320, A350 and Boeing 787 fleets are also produced here, with avionics equipment and in-flight entertainment (IFE) supplied to major regional airlines.

In 2020, Thales noted that the repair volume at Changi has increased by 30 per cent since it began operations.The company has also signed several agreements with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, one of which paved the way to establishing a S$30 million joint Aviation Innovation Research Lab — or AIR Lab — to drive air traffic management innovation and adoption of new technologies.

The company has also played an active role in working with GovTech and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority to provide authentication solutions for Singpass, and biometric passports and systems.

Above, from left: Professor Antoine Petit, President of CNRS; Professor Luke Ong, Vice President Research, NTU; and CEO & Country Director, Thales Singapore, Emily Tan. Photo: Thales

Thales has established Centres of Excellence (CoE) in radars, naval drones, and space, an Engineering Competence Centre for Digital Identity and Security, as well as the regional Innovation Hub and Digital Factory in Singapore.

In July, the Centre Nagtional de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) International or the French National Centre for Scientific Research, Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and Thales Research Alliance renewed their partnership in the CINTRA laboratory for the fourth time. The lab focuses on researching carbon-based materials, nanostructures and nano-photonics to develop solutions from Singapore.

This is just one of the many ways Thales continues to partner Singapore’s educational institutions to to support skills and research development. Most recently in 2021, the manufacturer inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to mark the start of a two-year partnership to jointly develop and test quantum technologies for commercial applications with the National University of Singapore (NUS).

This article was first published by the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB). Connect with EDB here to get the latest insights on how companies are growing in Asia.

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