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Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at the launch of the LaunchPad Robotics Centre

Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at the launch of the LaunchPad Robotics Centre

SPEECH BY DR KOH POH KOON, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE, MINISTRY OF TRADE & INDUSTRY AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AT THE LAUNCH OF THE LAUNCHPAD ROBOTICS CENTRE ON FRIDAY, 23 MARCH 2018, 1400 HRS, JTC LAUNCHPAD @ ONE-NORTH

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

INTRODUCTION

Good afternoon. I am delighted to join you today for the opening of the LaunchPad Robotics Centre, an initiative by the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) and the Advanced New Technology Incubator (ANTI), the corporate venture arm of Precision Bearings and Automation (PBA) Group.

We are happy that this is a collaboration that will hopefully bear more fruits and energise the ecosystem for robotics and entrepreneurship in Singapore.

ROBOTICS AS AN ENABLER FOR INDUSTRY TRANSFORMATION

Robotics has been identified as a key area to enable Singapore to leverage advances in technologies to enhance the competitiveness of our economic sectors, address challenges of an ageing population and seed new growth industries.

While robots have been around for several decades, they have been largely confined to well-defined tasks in structured environments and in cages, for example in the automotive industry. Recent advances in technologies have led to the development of new robots that are versatile, affordable and safe enough to work alongside human beings. This presents new opportunities for Singapore to deploy these robotics technologies for our own needs: for example, in healthcare and manufacturing.  

Robotics can potentially help to free up resources through enabling our workforce to take on higher value, more productive jobs.  According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, adoption of robotics can raise output per worker by 10% to 30% over and above productivity gains that typically come from other measures. This will help alleviate manpower constraints and enhance the competitiveness of our economic sectors. The global robotics industry is projected to grow from US$20 billion today to US$80 billion by 2025, largely due to the potential of advanced robotics.

We are encouraged to see an increasingly vibrant startup ecosystem for robotics in Singapore. For instance, there have been a number of new entrants such as Red Dot Robotics, which focuses on the development of autonomous vehicles for industrial commercial use, and Aerolion Technologies, a spin-off from NUS which develops Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for stock-taking in warehouses, and they are already in collaboration with some of the enterprises here. Overseas startups such as Savioke, Doog and Open Robotics have also established a presence in Singapore. So we see the ecosystem becoming more vibrant and more robust. There are growing synergies as more SMEs move into the development as well as adoption of robotics solutions. For instance, Aerolion Technologies has partnered with YCH Logistics, one of our larger local enterprises specialising in logistics, to implement UAVs for more efficient and automated warehouse stock-taking. The UAVs now fly up the shelves to take stock rather than to have someone to climb up and down the warehouse. Indeed, this is a more productive and safer way to do things.

We therefore see great potential for robotics technologies to be leveraged for new economic value creation, and to turn disruptions faced by traditional business models into opportunities for industry transformation.

THE GOVERNMENT IS COMMITTED TO SUPPORT COMPANIES IN THEIR EFFORTS TO SEIZE GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES

The Government is committed to driving the adoption of robotics technologies in Singapore. In 2015, the National Robotics Programme (NRP) was launched to promote the adoption and development of robotics solutions in Singapore. Since then, sectors such as Healthcare, Environment and Built Environment have set forth to identify problem statements that can be addressed through the introduction of robotics. The Government provides a variety of support for companies to scale up their deployment of automation solutions, such as the Automation Support Package (ASP) and Capability Development Grant (CDG). As announced at Budget 2018, the CDG will be merged with the Global Company Partnership (GCP) Grant to form an integrated Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) in 4Q 2018.

The new EDG, the streamlining of two grants together, will give companies more holistic support for their capability development and internationalisation needs, to increase their competitiveness locally and abroad. In addition, the new Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) has also been introduced to support productivity solutions in line with our efforts for industry transformation. As of a couple of weeks ago, all our 23 Industry Transformation Maps have been launched completely. So with these grants and measures coming up, we hope that it will help to transform the various industry sectors. An example is the pre-qualification of the robot arms for use in material handling and transfer of metal and plastic parts in the Precision Engineering sector.

To encourage the adoption of robotics in Singapore by companies which often have high-mix-low-volume production operations, EDB and SPRING have been working with the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), system integrators and IHLs to develop modular robotics applications catered to the needs of our SMEs in both the industrial and service sectors. So far, companies such as Universal Robots, ABB, Omron, PBA and Kawasaki have developed various unique robotics applications such as pick-and-place solutions that hopefully will help to address the needs of the industry. Local service robotics solution providers such as Otsaw Digital and OneBerry Technologies have also developed robots to perform security and patrol functions.

INDUSTRY PARTNERSHIPS ARE NECESSARY FOR SECTOR TRANSFORMATION

To successfully transform, it is imperative that key stakeholders from the industry, especially from the startup and the manufacturing sectors, do their part as well. In this vein, I am heartened to see the proliferation of industry collaborations, such as this ACE-ANTI partnership.

The LaunchPad Robotics Centre is a much welcomed addition to advance the growth of our robotics landscape and also to enhance Singapore’s startup ecosystem. This will support our efforts to develop robotics as an enabling technology under the RIE2020 Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Domain. This is also in line with our strategy to encourage SMEs to partner startups in harnessing emerging technologies for innovation and to increase value capture. For example, in the Precision Engineering sector, such partnerships and collaboration could have the potential to help SMEs move up the value chain from being contract manufacturers to become product owners.

I hope that the Centre will help to jumpstart the growth of startups in the robotics space, and contribute to our plans under the manufacturing cluster Industry Transformation Maps in the longer term. Startups in the robotics space today face significant barriers to entry. Like most deep tech startups, robotics startups typically incur higher setup costs and require longer runways for product commercialisation. There is also a lack of access to facilities for research & development. The Launchpad Robotics Centre will help to reduce these barriers by providing access to facilities and incubation support. Specifically, the 1,600 sq foot space will have three main features. 

  • First, a Robotics Display Area, which is a showcase of robotics and automation solutions, including those developed by local startups, to promote awareness amongst themselves, but also amongst adopters, larger enterprises and possibly MNCs.
  • Second, a Co-Working Space, for hardware, robotics and automation startups. The co-location will also facilitate the exchange of ideas among the startups and hopefully the pollination of ideas will lead to even more innovative products.

I am happy to learn that the space is starting to buzz with several interesting startups, including Moovaz, which collaborated with PBA Group to develop a new robotics product called Golden Retriever. Golden Retriever is a mobile robot and proprietary racking platform for use in logistics and warehousing goods-to-man applications. It can be seen at the robotics display area today. And finally, a Maker Space, which contains various on-site tools and equipment supporting early hardware prototyping needs.

In addition, the Centre will facilitate access to off-site equipment and services at PBA and a range of fabricators and prototyping houses with more sophisticated facilities. Aside from the physical setup, ACE and ANTI will be supporting selected startups in the robotics, hardware and automation space with incubation services as well as business mentorship and potential funding opportunities. This will help plug another gap in our robotics ecosystem. Through this collaboration, ACE and ANTI aim to nurture the growth of these deep tech startups and drive greater awareness and interest in the robotics space in Singapore.

I am happy to see ACE and ANTI leveraging on each other’s strengths, expertise and networks to make this meaningful initiative possible. And I hope that many more of our industry partners will come on board to work together and bring forth much more synergy and collaboration.

CONCLUSION

To conclude, I would like to congratulate ACE and ANTI on the opening of the LaunchPad Robotics Centre. I am confident that the collaboration will be of great value to enhancing Singapore’s robotics landscape. I look forward to seeing the next generation of robotics startup entrepreneurs nurtured by the Centre, leading to greater vibrancy and persity of Singapore’s startup eco-system. And hopefully we will have many more unique robotic products to call our own, and to turn Singapore into a real high tech, advanced manufacturing hub.

Thank you.  

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