Rakuten Institute of Technology launches in Singapore


13 August 2015

Rakuten has recently announced the opening of Rakuten Institute of Technology, a think tank focused on R&D that drives innovation, in Singapore and Boston.

Asia is very important to Rakuten especially as more and more markets are showing high growth potential, said Masaya Mori, Global Head, Rakuten Institute of Technology, Executive Officer, Rakuten, Inc. "The institute will complement our Rakuten Asia headquarters in Singapore by leading the research and technology to deepen our understanding of consumer behaviour, enabling us to drive innovation in growing markets".

Led by Head of Research, Dr. Ewa Szymanska, the Rakuten team in Singapore will be focused on consumer psychology, behavioural science and the field of mobile and social innovations to pilot solutions in Asia.

The Institute has also embarked on a partnership with the Economic Development Board (EDB) to create the Rakuten Data Science Training Programme, a programme that is a part of the Strategic Attachment and Training (STRAT) programme, an initiative supported by EDB.

According to Rakuten, the training programme is designed to provide Singaporeans with the skills and knowledge they need to excel in emerging sectors and activities in Singapore. It will offer researchers in Singapore the opportunity to build their portfolio of practical skills and knowledge, across different internet services.

Participants, Rakuten said, will work out of Rakuten Institute of Technology’s global offices with field experts to solve real business problems. They will be trained to use cutting edge tools, and learn to apply the latest technologies in their research. At the end of the programme, the researchers will return to serve a two-year bond with Rakuten, or another Singapore company.

The Institute will be instrumental in the development of new capabilities to shape the future of internet services and e-commerce globally from Singapore, said Kiren Kumar, Director Infocomms & Media Division, Singapore Economic Development Board. "It will also be an important partner to help train Singaporeans in relevant analytics skills and prepare them for exciting new career opportunities as applied analytics becomes an increasingly important capability for companies.”

The Rakuten Institute of Technology also said it will proactively collaborate with industry and academia, hold personnel exchanges with educational institutes to bring in academic knowledge while carrying out its research.

Additionally, the Institute is hosting the Rakuten-Viki Global TV Recommender Challenge, a contest aimed at data scientists in the countries and regions of Asia with the goal of solving a problem utilising the data of the global video streaming service provider and Rakuten Group company Viki.

According to Rakuten, participants in the Challenge will be tasked to develop a personalised recommender system for Viki fans world-wide while following a set of business and consumer considerations. With access to over 7 million lines of anonymised data, participants will get a sense of viewers’ demographics, preferences and popular content features, the company said.

Interested applicants are to submit their models by 31 August 2015 to be in the running to win attractive incentives of a total of SGD$12,000 awarded at the grand presentation and award ceremony on 16 September 2015. The team that emerges top also stands to potentially deploy and test their model real-time in collaboration with the Rakuten Institute of Technology and Viki’s engineering talent.