S Iswaran, Singapore's Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry. Credit: SID
Public sector efforts need to be effectively complemented by private sector initiatives and partnerships for innovation to flourish in Singapore, asserted S Iswaran, the republic's Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry. He was speaking at Singapore Institute of Directors' (SID) Conference 2015 yesterday (16 September 2015) at Marina Bay Sands.
In this era of knowledge-based economy, "innovation is the only sustainable competitive advantage", said Iswaran. Singapore has thus "invested significantly and consistently in research and development (R&D)" through the Agency for Science Technology and Research (A*STAR), a government agency that spearheads economic-oriented research. The republic has even "maintained its level of public investment in R&D during the financial crisis in 2008-2009" as it understood the long-term benefits of innovation, he added.
Since it is not sustainable to solely depend on public R&D for innovation, the Singapore government is encouraging companies to partner with A*STAR to co-develop new technologies, said Iswaran. For instance, the A*STAR Growing Enterprises with Technology Upgrade (GET-Up) programme provides small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with A*STAR researchers to help them develop and innovate products to enhance their competitiveness.
One company that has benefited from the GET-Up programme is Moveon Technologies, a local firm specialising in optical design, simulation, assemblies and illumination engineer. Through the programme, the firm was able to improve its capabilities in LED-illumination and optical navigation, which is used in finger tracking devices such as touchscreen phones. This ultimately led to attracting business partnerships with global multinational corporations such as Philips Lumileds and Blackberry.
To further support innovation, the Singapore government is collaborating with the private sector to provide infrastructural and institutional support for local startups. This includes providing capital and connections, as well as facilitating knowledge creation and sharing, to help startups bring their ideas to market, said Iswaran. "Our Technology Transfer Offices and Centres of Innovation provide laboratory facilities, technology consultancy and assistance for startups to test and develop prototypes, as well as commercialise intellectual property. In addition, we are working with 40 incubators to provide a conducive environment for innovation and collaboration."
"We have also been building links with entrepreneurs and incubators [out of Singapore], such as Block 71 in San Francisco, or the Co-Foundry in the Philippines, to help local startups connect with the expertise there and gain a better understanding of those markets. This will plug them into international networks [and help them expand their business into those markets.]"
It is hoped that these initiatives will "help Singapore companies harness innovation for growth", concluded Iswaran.
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