Georgia Institute of Technology is revitalizing its ties with the National University of Singapore through the creation of a new institute to study the future of logistics in the Southeast Asian city-state and its surrounding region.
Last month, the two schools launched the Center for Next Generation Logistics in Singapore at a ceremony that drew more than 150 government and business representatives.
The center is the latest step in a longstanding relationship with NUS, with which Georgia Tech established an Asian logistics institute in the late 1990s.
There were never Georgia Tech “boots on the ground” to manage The Logistics Institute – Asia Pacific, but the schools did conduct joint research, and Georgia Tech students could earn a double master’s in supply chain management from NUS.
The new center drive commercialization of research in logistics, provide business intelligence to stay ahead of the curve on trends impacting the Singapore economy and prepare the local workforce for the future of the industry that drives it.
Already, the hub city’s active government has good data on which sectors are driving the economy, but the center will take that a step further by gathering information from companies operating in the region, like logistics providers DHL and UPS and electronics giants Intel and IBM, which use Singapore as a hub, said Chelsea “Chip” White III, Schneider National Chair in Transportation and Logistics and professor in the Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering.
“What we’re trying to do is identify what are the key challenges that you see in the future for logistics in that part of the world, what is a research portfolio that could have the greatest impact on the development of innovations that would have the kind of impact — economic and societal impact — that Singapore would like to see,” Dr. White told Global Atlanta in an interview last year.
Georgia Tech and NUS are providing seed funding to the initiative over the first two years with the hope that the Singapore government will step in to help fund ongoing operations after the pilot phase. The head of logistics for the Singapore Economic Development Board, its inbound investment agency, is in Atlanta this week.
The case from Georgia Tech’s perspective is the same as its reasoning for putting facilities in Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico: while logistics provides the synapses for the global economy, it’s also a discipline that is extremely localized depending on national regulations and cultural norms.
“You can learn how to solve a differential equation anywhere in the world; it doesn’t matter where you are. But if you’re looking at the logistics industry, it invariably has a very local and regional flavor to it,” Dr. White said. “For us to understand the differences in Southeast Asia — where an awful lot of stuff comes from in the U.S. market — we need to be there.”
The center will also serve to provide broader exposure for Georgia Tech in Singapore, which in addition to having its own robust educational institutions is a funnel for elite students and academics from China, India and elsewhere in Asia.
At the same time, the hope from the Singapore government’s perspective is that the center drives collaboration between the universities and industry.
“We’re trying to anticipate the future needs and make sure university students stay relevant to the needs of the industry, so we feel that the center kind of bridges that, because it brings in industry involvement much more actively,” said Lee Eng Keat, head of logistics for Singapore’s Econoimc Development Board, told Global Atlanta during a recent trip to Atlanta. “The hope is that learning at the university level becomes less theoretical but really much more applied.”
As Singapore itself moves up the logistics value chain, he said, the EDB is helping recruit more Ph.D.-level data scientists to the country’s Institute for Infocomm Research with an eye toward helping shippers and companies make sense of massive arrays of data they’re gleaning across operations. This move toward supply-chain analytics is also embraced by the Georgia Tech/NUS center.
Georgia, which relies on logistics to fuel its growth, will also benefit from its new connection with Singapore, Georgia Tech Provost Rafael Bras said in a statement.
“The new generation of logistics must integrate supply chains, movement of goods, manufacturing innovation, data analysis for predictive logistics, and growth of urban regions and megacities. It represents the future, and we are thrilled to define that future together with our Singaporean partners,” Dr. Bras said.