Ms Foo Mee Har, Member of Parliament of West Coast GRC: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) what incentive schemes have been put in place for researchers and academics tapping on the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 research funding to accelerate translation of research into industry applications and commercialisation.
- Since the launch of our first $2 billion National Technology Plan in 1991, Singapore has built up a strong base of R&D capabilities through steady and consistent investments. In 2015, Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD) reached a new high of $9.5 billion, an increase of 11.8% from 2014. Our Research Scientists and Engineers (RSE) talent pool similarly reached a new high of 35,000 in 2015, up 6.6% from 2014.
- We are now making several shifts under the $19 billion Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 plan to accelerate the translation of research into industry applications and economic value. This will ensure that Singapore is well-positioned to harness our RIE investments to drive the next phase of our economic growth.
- First, to tighten the linkages between our R&D capabilities and industry needs, we have increased the Industry Alignment Fund (IAF) from $1.61 billion in RIE2015 to $1.75 billion in RIE2020. This fund supports our public researchers for collaborations with companies, including MNCs, large local enterprises as well as SMEs and startups, on research projects with potential economic impact. Companies provide both cash and in-kind contributions to show that they value the R&D conducted.
- Second, we have enhanced support for public researchers to develop their upstream intellectual property (IP) into prototypes through Gap Funds, which support smaller, early stage projects with disruptive technological potential, as well as larger projects for market validation of technology. Such translational R&D projects help to de-risk the commercialisation pathway of our public sector IP, and facilitate the adoption of such IP by industry. One indicator of the increasing uptake of public sector IP by industry, is that A*STAR issued over 1,000 licenses to companies under RIE2015, four times the number under S&T2010.
- Third, public agencies are developing an IP Framework to harmonise the management and utilisation of public sector IP. This will enhance the speed and certainty of the licensing process to encourage companies to license public sector IP. The framework also incentivises public researchers to actively seek out commercialisation opportunities through the sharing of financial returns with the inventors of the IP.
- Finally, public researchers who wish to spin off their IP into startups can access a comprehensive spectrum of support. As a first step, Innovation and Enterprise Offices (IEOs) provide public researchers with mentorship and training in business development skills, advice on IP rights, and access to platforms and networks that link them to potential investors. Public researchers who go on to establish startups can tap on Startup SG grants and equity co-investments with private sector partners, as well as co-working space, lab facilities and mentoring support from public and corporate incubators such as A*StartCentral. An example of a local startup supported by A*StartCentral is MiRXES (pronounced MER-REXUS), which develops diagnostic test kits for the early detection of gastric cancer and breast cancer. Spun out by A*STAR researchers, MiRXES successfully secured funding through A*StartCentral's investment-onboarding programme to link up startups with committed investors. MiRXES is now planning to expand its manufacturing facility in Singapore to supply overseas markets.
- The Government will closely monitor these initiatives to promote the commercialisation of our R&D, and make adjustments or introduce new programmes based on the outcomes achieved and feedback from industry.