Asia-Pacific and Japan – A Hotbed of Innovation

Article submitted by Adam Sivell, Innovation Manager, SAP Innovative Business Solutions 

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, so it is no surprise that a region full of diverse cultures, languages, and climates is a hot house of innovation. People of Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) should celebrate the fact they are part of a community that punches well above its weight when it comes to great ideas and great minds. In fact, this is a region with a long and rich history of inventing and innovating and the exciting thing is that this is just the beginning.

New Zealand

New Zealand is one country in the region blessed with a long history of innovation – from the inventive spirit of its ancient Maori culture to modern day recreational activities like the bungy jump and jet boating. When it comes to science and technology there are many historic and recent stories but to name two:

  • Colin Albert Murdoch was a pharmacist and veterinarian who invented the disposable hypodermic syringe along with a multitude of other patents.
  • Ernest Rutherford was the first in the world to split the atom in 1919 and worked with great scientific minds such as Geiger. Rutherford helped and inspired many teams to win future Nobel prizes. 

SAP has also worked with many innovative businesses in New Zealand – from councils to power companies and everything in between. One fantastic example is a 2019 winner of an SAP Innovation award and one of New Zealand’s largest organisations, Fonterra. This innovative co-operative has collaborated multiple times with SAP Innovative Business Solutions. 

One such project combined both employee engagement and the process of innovation, the project dubbed in the media as the “Tinder” for jobs, is a great example of making innovation real. Put in simple terms, this project resulted in an application that allows employees to easily find exciting work across the business, develop new skills, and make better use of their time. In parallel, it helps project managers find the best internal candidates for exciting innovative projects. 

This project leveraged SAP Cloud Platform and included integration to SAP SuccessFactors and a true agile approach was taken to the implementation starting with a proof of concept, a pilot, and a Minimum Viable Product, before expanding scope and users. The project has a wide range of benefits including increased employee utilisation, job satisfaction, engaged learning plans, improved project change management, and a reduction in time and cost to staff projects. 

Australia

Australia is another land with a rich history and innovation culture thanks to its traditional owners. The Australian Aboriginal people innovated with agriculture, art, music, forestry management, and much more. More recent inventions include the Black Box Flight recorder, the pacemaker, wine in a cask, and of course Vegemite. In terms of science and technology, Australia has impacted the world with a couple of standout inventions including:

  • The cochlear implant: invented by Professor Graeme Clark, it was inspired by his deaf father. He persisted for years to successfully launch the first multi-channel cochlear implant.
  • Wi-Fi: The CSIRO developed and patented the internet technology that we all rely on today.

One great example of the power of innovation is the work that the Queensland Office of State Revenue has done using machine learning. Using SAP Leonardo, it can now tell when someone is likely to get behind on paying their debts. Its systems are now able to distinguish between people in financial difficulties and those not paying their taxes. Whilst saving the State money, it also helps its agents better understand taxpayer’s needs and can help them tailor a payment plan accordingly.

An ecological innovation example is the NSW Curl Curl Lagoon project. Nominated for an SAP Innovation award, it saw the collaboration of SAP, Friends of the Curl Curl Lagoon and the Northern Beaches Council to see how technology could improve the water quality of the popular community lagoon.

This project enabled continuous monitoring and visualisation of water quality parameters. It leveraged SAP Cloud Platform, IOT (Internet of Things) services, SAP UX and SAP Analytics, as well as sensors mounted on a raft connected to the cloud via mobile technology. Benefits of the trial included real-time public visibility of the findings, better understanding of the flow, cycles and patterns of the waterway, and the ability to baseline and measure the impact of changes.

Singapore

Looking further North to a country that is small in size but giant when it comes to trade and culture, is Singapore.  Being a multicultural melting pot ensures that Singapore has a diverse range of skills and points of view. Singapore is also responsible for technology like the thumb drive and continues to be at the forefront of innovation in areas such as water management. When it comes to science and technology, some interesting innovations include:

  • Infrared Fever Screening, developed by the Defence Science and Technology agency, enables large volumes of people to be quickly checked for signs of SARS.
  • The SoundBlaster, invented by Creative Technology, revolutionised sound for the PC and for computer games right back to the 1980s.

As the location for the head office for SAP across South East Asia and the entire Asia Pacific and Japan region, Singapore gives plenty of opportunity to collaborate with innovative organisations.  Take for example a blockchain use case in Indonesia. As a technology, blockchain can be a fantastic tool for the right circumstance. For instance, one consortium of SE Asian palm oil producers, NGOs, customers and technology providers is looking at blockchain with the simple aim of making every palm oil product traceable from farm to end consumer in a trusted and regulated way.

In Singapore, one the best known and loved attractions is Singapore’s Botanic Gardens. SAP provided the solution for mobile maintenance workers to keep the garden safe and looking its best. Leveraging the power of SAP C/4HANA, the cloud, and services processes meant that the project for SH Integrated Services could be realised quickly and efficiently. Now maintenance workers can spend more time getting on with the job and less time on administration; ensuring that maintenance is cheaper and more efficient.

Japan

Further North is Japan -country with a strong culture and a long history of innovation. Take for example tempura and the tea ceremony, both are great examples of innovating around products and ideas that came from external sources. Over the last few decades, Japan became well known for pioneering the now massive electronic entertainment market, from early arcade games and inventions, including the Nintendo Gameboy and Sony PlayStation. Japan was also responsible for home entertainment advances with VCRs, CDs, and DVDs. A couple of other interesting innovations include:

  • Lithium-ion battery invented by Yoshino and released a few years later by Sony.
  • Instant Noodles: you can even visit the Noodles museum in Japan and create your own flavour!

SAP is privileged to work with many innovative Japanese companies. One exciting example is an organisation leveraging intelligent technologies, such as chatbots and machine learning to move towards becoming an Intelligent Enterprise. Making springs for everything from hard-drives to cars, SAP Innovative Business Solutions collaborated with NHK Spring Co Ltd to quickly implement SAP conversational AI and SAP Service Ticket Intelligence. The solution optimises IT service management, streamlines IT incident handling, and keeps the focus on the customers.

South Korea

South Korea also has a long history and rich culture. People in Korea are credited with the earliest signs of net fishing and are responsible for innovations through a great many fields including agriculture, architecture, mathematics, and printing. South Korea is country that many say is at the forefront of innovation, with strong advances in areas including automotive, electronics, transportation, and many more. Korea is well known for K-Pop and pioneering e-Sports and looking back at recent tech history, thanks to Korea we have:

  • the first commercial MP3 Player released in the early 1990s.
  • the first touch screen phone thanks to LG.

SAP works with many innovative companies in Korea and many Korean companies are truly global entities. Working with a leading Korean organisation in the automotive parts industry, SAP was able to provide increased governance and visibility of manufacturing execution. Leveraging a ‘Design Lead’ approach ensured an empathic understanding of the business processes and goals. The project leveraged SAP Leonardo to reduce the time spent on data gathering and reporting, resulting in increases in productivity and efficiency.

India

Our final destination in this virtual innovation tour of the APJ region is across to India. A diverse land with a very long history. Everyday items like rulers, scales, counting, the zero, and even shampoo can be traced back to some of the earliest innovations from India. From a technology point of view, a couple of interesting examples include:

  • Sir Bose, who made the first public demonstration of radio waves for communication in 1895. 
  • The ubiquitous USB was invented by Ajay Bhatt

SAP has worked with many innovative companies in India, including a digital marketplace solution for one of the world’s greatest conglomerates. This organisation had a vision to personally connect with each of India’s 1.25 billion people, especially in remote, digitally-fragmented places, to offer them a customised online retail experience. To bring its vision to life, it collaborated with SAP Innovative Business Solutions and leveraged the power of SAP C/4HANA. Implementing the solution with an agile approach enabled regular smooth go-live cycles and delivered operational efficiencies, market differentiation, and a rapid growth in business.

Right across Asia Pacific from the Maori’s Kopa, the Australian first people’s boomerang, the trading hub of Singapore, the Japanese Tea Ceremony, Korean moveable type, and Indian yoga, the history of innovation across the APJ region is rich and full of wonderful creativity.  Recently, whether it is cloud-based employee engagement in New Zealand, IOT in the waterways of Australia, mobile technology in the gardens of Singapore, blockchain in Indonesia, intelligent process automation in Japan, manufacturing visibility in Korea, or a digital marketplace in India, it’s easy to see that the region has a bright future. SAP Innovative Business Solutions is proud to make innovation real and be part of SAP’s first 30 years in APJ.

Adam Sivell
Innovation Manager
SAP Innovative Business Solutions

Adam Sivell
Innovation Manager
SAP Innovative Business Solutions 

Adam Sivell has more than 20 years’ experience working in the SAP eco-system. Adam has provided solutions for organisations around Australia, the USA, Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. With SAP Innovative Business Solutions Adam concentrates on empowering visionary enterprises to achieve their greatest goals through unique, leading-edge software innovation.

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