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Speech by SMS Chee Hong Tat at the Opening of Singapore Design Week 2019

Speech by SMS Chee Hong Tat at the Opening of Singapore Design Week 2019

Dr Beh Swan Gin, Chairman of the Economic Development Board, 

Friends from the design and business community, 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. Thank you for joining us tonight at the opening of the Singapore Design Week, also known as SDW.

Importance of Design and the DesignSingapore Council to Singapore 

2. Sixteen years ago, the Economic Review Committee identified design as a key differentiating competency for businesses, and the DesignSingapore Council, or Dsg, was set up in 2003 with the mandate to champion the design industry. 

3. As the national lead agency for design, Dsg helps to raise awareness of design among the industry and the public through key initiatives such as the establishment of the National Design Centre where we are gathered right now, and the SDW.  And we are happy to have you here this evening to celebrate the opening of the sixth edition of the SDW.

Role of Design for business growth and innovation 

4. Over the years, we have seen the impact of design on all aspects of our lives. From everyday products to business strategies and public policies, design plays a critical role in transforming, empowering and inspiring individuals and organisations alike. In fact, a Dsg study found that companies are investing more in design and design training, and more are also giving in-house design champions a seat in the boardroom. 

5. Design can also improve service and user experience across industries, and a differentiated user experience will become more important in an increasingly competitive business environment.  I am therefore heartened to see a growing number of companies beginning to adopt design as part of their business strategy. 

6. That is why Dsg launched the Innovation by Design Programme in 2017 to help organisations transform through design. This programme, running for the second consecutive year, is a partnership between the Dsg and the Economic Development Board, EDB. It matches design advisers with organisations to explore how design can be used to put user needs at the heart of their business strategies.

7. Let me share an example of an ongoing project with the International Furniture Fair of Singapore or IFFS . Through the Innovation by Design programme, a more distinct value proposition for IFFS was developed, focusing on the theme of “Future of Urban Living” in ASEAN to promote sustainable solutions for urban dwellers. In addition, the programme helped IFFS to sharpen its curation of their exhibitors, with a focus on those who are innovation-driven, trade-driven, and design-led. 

8. At the sectoral level, Dsg has worked closely with the design industry associations to map out the landscape, identify global trends and business opportunities, and develop three-year plans to grow their respective sub-sectors. To date, seven associations have completed their transformation roadmaps, and two – the Singapore Furniture Industry Council and the Textile and Fashion Federation – have started to operationalise their plans.

9. This year, Dsg is launching a new Business of Design programme, which will support designers in their internationalisation efforts by connecting them to overseas markets, sharpening their brand positioning, and showcasing them at international platforms.  To kick start the first run of the programme, Dsg is launching an open call today, for interested Singapore-based furniture and lifestyle product designers.

Design education and talent development 

10. With increasing industry demand for design, the role of designers will expand. Hence, our design education and talent development programmes must adapt to help our designers tackle more complex challenges in the future.  With this in mind, we developed the Design Industry Manpower Plan to ride on growth opportunities for design talents and to address skills gaps for both designers and non-designers.

11. Later this year, we will also be announcing the key recommendations of the Design Education Review Committee which aims to develop a global and resilient workforce that is proficient in using design across disciplines, and learning more about the use of design skills through continuing education and training.

Transfer of Dsg to EDB

12. Recognising the important role that design plays in our economy, Dsg has worked closely with EDB over the years to drive greater innovation and growth in companies through design. This collaboration has worked well, which is why we intend to make the partnership a permanent one. Starting from 1 Apr 2019, Dsg will officially be part of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), as a wholly-owned subsidiary of EDB.  We warmly welcome our DSg colleagues to the MTI family.  

13. This move will enable Dsg to work more closely with economic agencies in the MTI Family, to scale up the adoption of design across all sectors, and to fully realise the potential of the design sector for the economy.

Design for everyone

14. Design does not only benefit businesses, it can also benefit each one of us. We hope to instil a deeper understanding and appreciation of design among all Singaporeans. 

15. This year, Dsg has aligned the SDW programmes with four themes that show the impact of design across different audience groups: Transform my Business, Empower my Community, Inspire my Everyday, and Reimagine my Future. 

16. This effort aims to help attendees be more targeted in their programme selection and, more importantly, drive home the message that design has a critical role to play in how we live, learn, work and play. 


17. We are committed to help more Singaporeans appreciate the importance of design as a core competency, and take another step closer to achieving Dsg’s vision for Singapore – to be an innovation-driven economy and a loveable city by Design.
18. I wish all of you an inspiring and enriching time at the SDW. Thank you.
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