Opening Address by Mr S Iswaran, Minister (Prime Minister’s Office) and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade & Industry at the Launch of the Technology Adoption Programme on Wednesday, 12 November 2013, 10.10am, Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel
Mr Lim Chuan Poh, Chairman, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
Dr Tan Geok Leng, Executive Director, Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC)
Ladies and gentlemen
I am happy to join all of you this morning for the launch of A*STAR’s Technology Adoption Programme (TAP). Announced at Budget 2013, this $51 million programme aims to help our SMEs raise their productivity by improving their accessibility to technology. This is going to be a very important part of our collective effort to raise productivity and capabilities for the industry in Singapore.
SMEs are a key part of our economy
2 Our SMEs play an important role in our economy, and the Government is fully committed to work with our SMEs in their growth journeys. Today, 99 per cent of enterprises in Singapore are SMEs. They employ about 70 per cent of the work force and contributing around 50 per cent of the national GDP. As the business operating environment continues to become more challenging, whether it is because of domestic constraints or increasing competition in the market, it is imperative that our SMEs leverage on technology to raise their productivity and sharpen their competitive edge. This is the heart of our effort.
3 Technology can help our enterprises reduce time-consuming manual processes, improve planning and operational efficiencies, and create new business opportunities. The Government has invested heavily in developing our R&D capabilities in the public sector and making different types of technology available for use by our SMEs. These range from basic solutions like wireless point-of-sales systems to customised solutions such as RFID for tracking of inventory and to very complex solutions like robotics. Yet, some of our SMEs may perceive that such technology is only for the large companies and not avail themselves of such opportunities.
4 Recognising the difficulties that SMEs may face in finding the technological solutions that best meet their needs, we have established a framework to make technology more available and accessible for SMEs. The Technology Adoption Programme aims to make the technology adoption easier for SMEs. A key and unique element of this programme is the introduction of a team of intermediaries who match companies to technology solutions in both the public and private sectors, through one-to-one consultations and large-scale outreach events conducted through the SME Centres, Productivity Centres as well as Trade Associations and Chambers. A*STAR aims to reach out to 9,000 SMEs and to facilitate 1,150 technology adoptions through this programme. I am pleased to note that the programme has yielded encouraging results in the four months since its introduction, with 110 adoptions being taken up so far.
Technology adoption helps raise productivity and competiveness of our SMEs
5 One retailer who has benefited is Ngee Soon Jewellery. The company was facing issues with managing its jewellery inventory as its employees had to conduct time-consuming manual stock-takes. The TAP team will be linking Ngee Soon Jewellery with a private solution provider to explore the adoption of an RFID system to track its inventory. Once the system is implemented, Ngee Soon anticipates a 50 per cent reduction in the manpower needed for the stock-take.
6. Another example is Long Tech Engineering. This local precision engineering company has adopted “Dynacut”, which is a computer programme developed by SIMTech to upgrade machining competency. The company has enjoyed a reduction of machining time by 35 per cent and reduced material wastage with better surface quality by 50 per cent.
7 Recognising the potential of “Dynacut” as a broad platform technology that can benefit other SMEs in the industry, the TAP team is now partnering SIMTech to package this technology as a ready-to-go technology platform. There are already 16 companies enrolled for the training phase of this package. The TAP team will continue to identify more of such technology, and work with the researchers to customise them for wider adoption by SMEs. I encourage as many companies as possible to work with the TAP team to identify and customise technology solutions for your industry or company.
MOUs with I2R and A*STAR’s SERC
8 I am also pleased to announce today two important collaborations that will be formalised, in which the TAP team has played a significant role. The first is between Paragon and A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R), which aims to promote research and development collaborations to increase productivity in the retail sector. This is a sector which we have invested significant effort to enhance productivity and such industry collaboration is critical if we have to achieve tangible and significant outcomes.
9 The second Memorandum of Understanding is between the Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC) and the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies (SIRS).
10 SIRS recently commissioned a survey on understanding technology adoption habits amongst local retailers. A total of 417 retailers took part in the survey and the results have been heartening. The survey reflected that a significant majority of the retailers (more than 90 per cent) agreed that technology would help them improve their productivity. Their top three priorities are – the inclusion of point of sales (POS) technology, customer loyalty programmes and inventory management systems. The Government will do its best to assist these SMEs with their priorities. With this MoU, there will also be more outreach events to promote the use of technology within the retail sector and the creation of technology showcases to future retail professionals.
The Government is committed to helping SMEs leverage on technology and innovation
11 Beyond TAP, which is a broad-based effort that provides platform solutions to companies across many sectors, the Government will also continue to ensure that individual SMEs can access technology with ease and affordability as they embark on their productivity improvement journeys.
12 For example, A*STAR’s GET-Up and T-Up Programmes will continue to help companies upgrade their technological capabilities in a targeted way. Façade Global Master is one such company that has tapped on A*STAR’s technology and talent through the T-Up Programme, where researchers are seconded to local industries for a period of time. Ms Joanne Teoh, a research engineer from SIMTech, was seconded to the company for nine months. Together, they collaborated and developed capabilities in designing modular lighting using printed lighting technology. The technology has the potential to create patterns of irregular shapes in the area of façade lighting. This gives the company a competitive advantage when designing products. The technology was also on display during the F1 season this September.
13 To ensure that SMEs are able to grow as well as leverage the network of public knowledge institutions to spearhead technological innovations, the Government has put in place a range of schemes. Recently, SIMTech initiated a Collaborative Industry Project (CIP), with the support of SPRING Singapore, to develop four initiatives offering manufacturing SMEs an integrated approach to boost productivity in various phases of the manufacturing process.
14 In particular, the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) initiative aims to increase productivity by improving machine utilisation, performance and quality as well as adopting advanced manufacturing technologies developed by SIMTech. Production staff are trained to assess the overall equipment effectiveness to pin-point key losses, and to improve productivity through manufacturing procedural changes. One of the participants adopting this initiative, Microcast, is expected to benefit from an estimated reduced machine idle time of between 30 to 70 per cent.
15 Today, I have shared with you a range of efforts that are undertaken by many of our government agencies. The one message that I want to leave you with is that we are committed to working with our SMEs to adopt technology in order to enhance their competitive edge and productivity. However, we are also relying on the industry associations that are represented here and the SMEs themselves. We need this message to be spread so that more SMEs understand what is possible, what is available and take advantage of it.