SPEECH BY MR S ISWARAN, MINISTER, PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE & SECOND MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS & SECOND MINISTER FOR TRADE & INDUSTRY, AT GLOBAL SPACE TECHNOLOGY CONVENTION 2013, 21 FEBRUARY 2013, 9:00 AM AT SHERATON TOWERS
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A good morning to all of you.
I am pleased to join you here at the fifth Global Space Technology Convention (GSTC). I delivered the opening address at the inaugural Convention in 2008 and I am heartened to see how this platform has evolved and grown in size and stature. This is indeed a reflection of the increasing global interest in the space industry as well as the growing awareness of the industry’s potential in Singapore.
Space - a new growth area for Singapore
In 2011, the global space economy grew to US$290 billion, at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 7 per cent since 2006.1 This was primarily driven by the growth of the satellite industry, which grew at an annual rate of close to 11 per cent to reach US$177 billion.2 And this trend is expected to continue as satellite-enabled applications become increasingly ubiquitous. Today, the development of high throughput satellites is already enabling higher bandwidth applications in the maritime and aerospace sectors. Companies are looking to deliver a similar performance and enable an even broader range of applications through more cost-efficient and smaller satellites.
Singapore too has good reasons to be excited by the promising potential the space industry can bring to our economy. First, space could ignite the interest of our youths to carve out their career paths in the fields of science and engineering. Already, this is evident in the strong participation from undergraduate students in satellite-related curricula in both the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). With its close nexus to science and technology, as well as research and innovation, space is a sector that is aligned with our vision to move towards a knowledge-intensive economy, as our workforce becomes increasingly educated.
Second, the growth of Singapore’s space industry will generate positive spill-overs to other existing industries in Singapore. Industries such as transport engineering, precision engineering, electronics and info communications & media could benefit from this growth as companies could leverage their capabilities to generate additional commercial and job opportunities, by developing relevant space applications and components. Such synergies have been observed in other countries where MNCs such as ST Microelectronics tapped on their expertise in semi-conductors and electronics to develop space-grade components. On the domestic front, local SMEs like Loop Electronics and Wizlogix have built upon their respective expertise in radio frequency technologies and printed circuit board design to develop satellite components. As a result, they were able to enhance their competitiveness through diversification of their businesses, as well as strengthening of their core technical capabilities.
OSTIn - Singapore’s commitment to developing our space industry
In order to seize opportunities and further our efforts in the space industry, I am pleased to share that the Government has established the Office for Space Technology and Industry (OSTIn), with a mandate to oversee the development of our local space industry. As a program office set up under the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), OSTIn comprises government agencies such as the Agency for Science Technology and Research (A*STAR), Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), Ministry of Education (MOE), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Ministry of Trade & Industry (MTI) and the National Research Foundation (NRF). By adopting an inter-agency approach, OSTIn will have the ability to plan and execute economic strategies, in a holistic fashion, for a thriving and sustainable space industry.
In the immediate to short term, OSTIn’s focus will be to work with the various industry stakeholders to help them realise their satellite business and innovation initiatives from Singapore. These stakeholders include companies involved in the manufacturing of satellite components and subsystems, satellite integration, and satellite-based services. Those who are keen to either expand their businesses into the space industry or strengthen their existing satellite capabilities could also tap on the financial resources that OSTIn sets aside in catalysing the growth of our satellite industry. In addition, OSTIn will champion the build-up of local public research capabilities and activities as well as talent pool to support the sustainable growth of our satellite industry. At an international level, OSTIn will seek to forge win-win collaborations with governments, space agencies and organisations to embark on various initiatives.
In particular, OSTIn has committed to supporting two R&D projects from our local universities to jump-start the build-up of our public satellite capabilities. The first project entails the integration of a 100kg environmental monitoring satellite by NTU. In addition to generating valuable data for institutions like the National Environmental Agency (NEA) and the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS), this project will build on NTU’s strengths in satellite integration to build and test new components and control algorithms, such as GPS occultation and Radio Frequency probe payloads, in space, for eventual commercialisation by the industry. The second project by the NUS involves the development of a commercial hyper-spectral imager for 50kg satellite. If successful, this project has the potential to revolutionise the industry through the deployment of cheaper and smaller cameras with a performance that is comparable to the larger and more expensive models that we see in the market today.
Collectively, these projects will also go a long way in building up the foundation of developing a skilled talent pool within our economy to sustain the space industry. The 23 Research Scientists and Engineers (RSEs) who will be directly involved in the projects will be able to use these projects as valuable experiential training opportunities for themselves.
Singapore as a compelling location to support satellite-related businesses, develop and export new solutions to the world.
Through the endeavours I have just mentioned, we believe Singapore will become a compelling location for satellite-related companies to grow their businesses, develop their technologies and export new solutions to the world. In view of the growing competition, many satellite companies are now looking to develop expertise that will enable them to maintain their competitive edge while finding new growth and market opportunities. In this context, these companies will be able to tap on Singapore’s strengths in adjacent industries, as well as our market connectivity, geo-political neutrality, pro-business environment, and R&D infrastructure to bring their business and innovation initiatives to fruition.
Today, many of the global companies are working with our local universities to jointly strengthen their expertise in space technologies. For example, Astrium has partnered NUS to study the potential impact of high-altitude and sub-orbital vehicles on the stratosphere. Such collaborations will serve to validate Singapore’s R&D capabilities and our value proposition for companies seeking to develop new solutions for the global market.
With OSTIn’s support, our public research entities such as A*STAR, NUS and NTU have also established their own space-related R&D programmes - each focusing on different parts of the value chain to support the industry. Companies looking to commercialise or conduct R&D in satellite technologies can partner these research institutions in areas ranging from components and sub-systems that enable the miniaturisation of satellites and development of commercial-off-the-shelf components, to downstream satellite-based applications for maritime surveillance, mining exploration, and aerospace communication. An excellent example of such a partnership model is ST Electronics (Satellite Systems). It has established itself as Singapore’s first local satellite integrator in 2011 after the successful launch of X-SAT, Singapore’s first indigenous satellite. The company has since partnered local research institutions for the continued development of its technologies at various stages. I understand that ST Electronics will be providing an update on its latest near equatorial orbit remote sensing satellite developments over the course of this conference.
Singapore’s satellite industry has come a long way since GSTC’s inauguration in 2008. The formation of OSTIn is a reflection of Singapore’s commitment to the growth and holistic development of Singapore’s satellite industry. I would like to take this opportunity to invite the international space community to join us in our efforts and build mutually beneficial partnerships.
I hope you will find new opportunities and forge good partnerships among one another over the next two days of the Convention. Thank you.
1 Source: Space Foundation, “The Space Report 2012”, 2012
2 Source: Futron, “State of the Satellite Industry”, May 2012