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Speech by Second Minister Dr Tan See Leng at SME Day 2020 @ SWITCH

Speech by Second Minister Dr Tan See Leng at SME Day 2020 @ SWITCH

1. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning and a warm welcome to everyone. I am pleased to be here at this year’s SME Day.

2. Shifts brought about by COVID have fundamentally and permanently changed how business is conducted. To sail forward amidst the winds of change, SMEs must adapt, pivot and transform to thrive in the new environment.

3. As the Chinese saying goes “危机也是转机”, with a crisis comes opportunities. The Government is committed to help SMEs seize these new opportunities through continued investments in research, innovation and enterprise (RIE) initiatives that strengthen the innovative capabilities of local companies, so that they can develop innovative products to meet new demands.

The Government encourages companies to adopt ready-to-go technologies, leverage operation and technology roadmapping, partner with public agencies and private companies in the innovation ecosystem and upskill their workforce to transform their businesses.

4. Today I will highlight four ways in which SMEs can accelerate their innovation journey.

a) Adoption of ready-to-go technologies

5. First, companies can adopt ready-to-go technologies as the quickest and most straightforward way to improve business productivity. Since 2016, A*STAR’s Tech Depot has helped more than 635 unique companies, of which about 90 per cent are SMEs, adopt plug-and-play digital solutions.

i. For instance, Banshing Industrial, a local manufacturer of precision engineering components, implemented A*STAR’s ready-to-go solutions to automate their manual operations, leading to a 76% improvement in throughput.

ii. The automation of tedious and laborious work reduces human errors and allows employees to focus on higher value work. The solutions also helped the company reduce its machine idle time by 96%, saving the company more than $20,000 each month.

b) Operation and Technology Roadmapping

6. Second, companies can tap on A*STAR’s Operation and Technology Roadmapping (OTR) programme to develop longer-term business-to-technology strategy roadmaps. A*STAR will also link companies with relevant technology providers in the public sector and Institutions of Higher Learning. To date, A*STAR has assisted over 744 companies, of which 60% were SMEs, to identify the enabling technologies they need to support their business strategy.

i. Hakko Products, a local SME, invested half a million dollars in new technology development based on the OTR findings and saw their revenue grow by 30% within the first year of launching their new technologies. Through R&D investment, Hakko Products successfully diversified its product offering, creating a new revenue stream.

ii. Another example is Systemic Holdings Pte Ltd, an SME that provides commercial laundry and dry-cleaning services, is currently working with A*STAR to explore how it can leverage technology to recycle and save energy at its new central laundry plant. This will help the business to be more sustainable, reduce overall costs and improve profitability.

c) Partnerships with public agencies and companies in the innovation ecosystem

7. Third, SMEs can leverage partnerships with public research performers, national innovation and enterprise platforms as well as other companies in the innovation ecosystem to access expertise to co-develop technologies that are customised to their business needs.

8. The Diagnostics Development (DxD) Hub is a publicly funded national platform that helps MedTech companies speed up the design, development, and commercialisation of diagnostics. MiRXES, a local biotech firm, has co-developed several successful products with DxD hub, including a non-invasive blood test to detect gastric cancer, as well as the Fortitude COVID diagnostics test kit, which has been exported to over 40 destinations globally.

9. Open innovation platforms such as the National Innovation Challenges allow companies to share challenge statements and crowdsource for innovative solutions from the ecosystem of research institutes, start-ups and SMEs. Solution providers will benefit from funding and test-bedding opportunities provided by end users, while end users will benefit from access to the proprietary solutions developed, resulting in a win-win for both.

10. Another source of assistance that SMEs can tap on is the Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs). I would like to encourage all the TACs present today to continue bringing SMEs together, to consolidate and define common problem statements of the industry. The TACs can then bring these aggregated demands to the research institutes to co-develop solutions. This is much more efficient than having individual SMEs running from pillar to post looking for solutions themselves.

11. For example, the Container Depot and Logistics Association Singapore (CDAS) represented the interests of the container depot sector at the Singapore’s Trade and Connectivity Challenge launched in July this year. CDAS sought a solution for the automated inspection of shipping containers at depots to increase the sector’s productivity and reduce reliance on manual labour. The challenge statement attracted 18 proposals from Singapore and across the world, and CDAS will lead the adoption of the selected solutions.

d) Talent schemes such as AMTA and T-up

12. Last but not least, talent is a key piece in a company’s innovation journey. The Government will continue to invest in the upskilling the workforce and building a critical mass of R&D talent to meet the demands of our industries.

13. The Advanced Manufacturing Training Academy (AMTA) was launched in October to identify emerging skillsets and coordinate training and skills development across the manufacturing sector, to enhance the competitiveness of Singapore’s manufacturing workforce.

14. To access R&D talent, SMEs can leverage the Technology for Enterprise Capability Upgrading (T-Up) programme to embed A*STAR researchers with the appropriate expertise within the company to drive technology transfer, R&D projects, or build up in-house research and innovation capabilities. Since 2003, more than 900 A*STAR research scientists and engineers have been seconded to over 800 SMEs.

15. Today, four A*STAR research scientists and engineers will be receiving the T-Up Excellence Awards for their exceptional contributions to SMEs during their secondment under the T-Up programme. They have developed innovative, marketable products and improved the R&D capabilities of the companies, which resulted in significant business outcomes.

16. Three A*STAR research scientists and engineers will receive the T-Up Emerging Talent Awards for having shown great potential to meet industry needs and helping local enterprises grow. Congratulations to all our award recipients.

17. I am also pleased to announce that A*STAR and the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) are signing a Memorandum of Understanding today to establish tripartite relationships with local enterprises to develop an Innovation & Enterprise (I&E) talent pipeline for the industry.

18. Under this partnership, A*STAR’s T-Up secondees and SIT interns will team up to help companies solve problems through research and innovation. SIT interns will benefit from the mentorship of A*STAR secondees, gain R&D experiences and exposure to the entire process of technology translation and commercialisation. A*STAR and SIT have started piloting this collaboration with a fintech firm, STYL Solutions, in May this year.


19. Our local enterprises will need to embrace science and technology as a key competitive advantage in a global economy that has changed irrevocably. I encourage our SMEs to utilise all the resources available in our ecosystem to accelerate your innovation journey.

20. Thank you.

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