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Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the Official Opening of PlanetSpark Innovation Centre

Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the Official Opening of PlanetSpark Innovation Centre

Chairman and Group CEO of Excelpoint Technology, Mr Albert Phuay,

Managing Director of PlanetSpark, Ms Phuay Li Ying,

Distinguished guests, 

Ladies and gentlemen, 

Introduction

1 Good morning

2 First, let me congratulate Excelpoint Technology on the official opening of PlanetSpark Innovation Centre. 

3 For the past 33 years, Excelpoint Technology has played a vital role in Singapore’s electronics manufacturing supply chain by providing engineering design services and supply chain management solutions in the Asia Pacific region.

a. Their continual investments into research and development have helped them to develop a robust Quality and Standards infrastructure, and given the company a strong competitive advantage to support the technology manufacturing supply chain in over 40 cities around the world.

b. The opening of PlanetSpark Innovation Centre is yet another step forward in the company’s journey. 

i. It will enable Excelpoint to move beyond trading and distribution to capture new opportunities with innovative solutions. 

ii. As technological developments are changing how we trade, Excelpoint’s commitment to work with partners to strengthen technical capabilities positions it well for the future. 

4 The opening of the PlanetSpark Innovation Centre is also timely. It complements our efforts in Singapore to address two key emerging global trends:

a. First, transformations in the electronics and advanced manufacturing sectors; and

b. Second, the growing need to enhance our supply chain resilience;

5 Let me elaborate further.

First, transformations in the electronics and advanced manufacturing sectors.

6 Today, electronics is a key sector in Singapore’s economy.

a. In 2019, Singapore exported more than US$84 billion worth of electronic components, which is approximately 10% of global electronics exports.

b. As a global trading hub for electronics components, Singapore is a key node in the global supply chain for products ranging from semiconductors, storage and memory products to microelectromechanical systems.

c. We enjoy the presence of major brand products, some of the world’s biggest pure-play foundries, as well as top global component distributors in Singapore. These distributors and manufacturers are supported by a rich ecosystem of leading materials and equipment, and electronics manufacturing services players.

d. Despite COVID-19, we remain optimistic about the electronics distribution industry.

7 The nature of manufacturing is also undergoing a transformative change, propelled by artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), and huge amounts of computational power.

a. For example, the global IoT industry, which was valued at US$151 billion in 2018, is forecasted to grow to US$1.6 trillion by 2025.

b. Overall IoT adoption within ASEAN is expected to be even greater than global averages due to the growth of Smart Cities and Industry 4.0 efforts.

8 With COVID-19 accelerating digitalisation trends, we have seen a growing demand for hardware innovations.

a. The digitalisation momentum will continue as firms seek to overcome manpower shortage and mitigate against future supply chain disruptions.

b. The competitiveness of our electronics and manufacturing sector will depend on the speed at which we can innovate our products and production systems with technologies such as AI and IoT.

9 This is where initiatives such as the PlanetSpark Innovation Centre will significantly enhance the competitiveness of Singapore’s electronics and advanced manufacturing sector.

a. Developed in collaboration with Enterprise Singapore, PlanetSpark is the first of its kind in Singapore that will nurture Singapore-grown hardware and technology startups and SMEs in the AI and IoT sector. As a hardware accelerator platform, PlanetSpark will catalyse their product development and innovations.

i. For example, through PlanetSpark, companies can accelerate their product development journey and deliver a proof-of-concept within 6 months.

b. PlanetSpark will also connect start-ups to a network of key semiconductor partners and manufacturers such as Analog Devices, Xilinx, Qualcomm, NXP and more. Through these partnerships, startups can access expertise and tools to build demand-driven applications for better commercialisation opportunities both locally and internationally.

c. Additionally, PlanetSpark will also have a panel of mentors from the private and public sectors to share expertise and experience. It will also establish partnerships with venture capital firms to provide the necessary funding to grow high potential startups.

d. In addition, Startups and SMEs can also work with PlanetSpark for market access, via Excelpoint’s distribution network. Excelpoint will also provide deep channel networks to collect market intelligence and commercialise products that are relevant to the marketplace.

10 The opening of PlanetSpark complements our efforts to grow the electronics industry, and develop Singapore as a resilient base for advanced manufacturers in the region.

a. As we are planning to transit Singapore’s manufacturing sector to advanced manufacturing in the future, we have made advanced manufacturing a core focus of Singapore’s R&D efforts, and a prominent part of our Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2025 plans.

b. The Singapore government has also developed the Electronics Industry Transformation Map (ITM) to grow the sector, boost the electronics value chain, and deliver innovative digital technologies and electronics components.

11 We are confident that if we continue to invest and build up our companies’ capabilities in these sectors, Singapore will be able to stand out as an electronics and advanced manufacturing hub in the region and globally.

Second, the need to enhance supply chain resilience to keep our trade links open

12 Over the last year, we have seen how natural causes and COVID-19 can disrupt our supply chains. These were compounded by man-made factors such as export restrictions.

a. This has led countries around the world to seriously examine how to ensure their countries’ supply chain resilience. 

13 As a trading hub, Singapore believes that it is important to stay connected to the world and keep our trade links open. This will provide certainty and assurance that critical supplies would not be disrupted, ensuring that supply chains continue to work even in times of crisis.

a. For example, amidst COVID-19 supply chain disruptions, Singapore worked with like-minded countries including Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Japan and India to ensure essential supplies continued to flow without tariff, quota or trade restrictions.

b. We also ensured that our seaport and airport continued to operate; and maintained flights to key global cities and hubs to ensure the flow of essential supplies, including electronics, were not disrupted.

14 To enhance Singapore’s supply chain resilience, we are also looking to boost local production to strengthen our supply chain across our portfolio of needs.

15 Within the global manufacturing sector, there has been an increased premium on resilience as companies rethink their production and supply chains.

a. For example, in the semiconductors space, there has been stronger impetus for the reshoring, regionalisation and diversification of production bases and supply chains partly due to geopolitical tensions.

b. While Southeast Asia and Singapore are in a good position to capture part of this reconfiguration of supply chains, we must demonstrate our ability to keep pace with innovations and remain competitive to do so.

16 However, we cannot do this alone. We look forward partnering with our Singapore companies to drive the growth and development of the sector through continued innovation.

a. Excelpoint is a good example of a company that has continued to innovate, evolving from a pure distribution model to a distributor with value-added services in order to remain competitive.

i. I encourage distributors of electronics and adjacent verticals within the wholesale trade sector to take similar steps, as what Excelpoint has done, and chart new paths of growth through innovation.  

b. We also need our local hardware technology startups to continually innovate and develop new technologies, participate in our overall growth and boost the resilience of our manufacturing sector.

c. Only then will we be able to successfully capture the new economic opportunities brought about by technological innovations such as AI and IoT.

17 Today’s launch anchors two innovation centres within Changi Business Park. Kajima’s first Asia Pacific headquarters and overseas innovation centre was also set up here recently. Having more innovators in the estate’s ecosystem will catalyse new innovations and more partnerships between companies. 

a. We encourage more Singapore start-ups and SMEs to leverage such innovation centres through the Partnerships for Capability Transformation, otherwise known as the PACT programme.

b. The PACT programme was recently enhanced to encourage partnerships among large enterprises, startups and SMEs. 

c. By working together, companies can share resources, drive innovation and enable market access. 

18 In the longer-term, these technology innovations can augment Singapore’s technology capabilities and even be marketed overseas.  

a. For example, our innovations can be exported through a wide network of existing free trade agreements that we have developed with 65 trading partners, as well as the newer Digital Economy Agreements we have pioneered with like-minded trading partners to set new rules for digital trade flows.

Conclusion

19 Much of Singapore’s economic success has been founded on our ability to identify global trends, adapt to evolving situations and seize upon opportunities.

20 The PlanetSpark Innovation Centre will contribute to Singapore’s ecosystem in developing the electronics and advanced manufacturing sectors, and to strengthen the resilience of our supply chains.

21 The story of Excelpoint is also the story of Singapore’s electronics and advanced manufacturing sector. 

a. We started as a distributor doing arbitrage, where we tried to buy cheap and sell high to make the margins. We then started producing some parts ourselves and became a production centre for others. Over time, we developed our own products where we broke new ground, beyond just distribution and production for others. That is why the PlanetSpark Innovation Centre is important.

22 Going forward, it is not enough to just engage in arbitrage or production for others. If we do not have our own products, Intellectual Property (IP) and value add services, it will be difficult to survive the harsh competition. 

a. Today, many distributors are being disintermediated and the role of pure arbitrage, without value-add, will be gone. 

b. If we neither have IP nor value-add, we will be displaced by others. But with these, we will be able to transcend and make full use of AI and IoT technology to provide value-add services and innovative products to distinguish our manufacturing sector. Only then will we be able to entrench ourselves in the global value chain.

23 In investments today, we are no longer looking at just the money or jobs created. Instead, we examine how the new investments entrench us in the global supply chain so that we will not be easily bypassed by others. That is what we need to do in our advanced manufacturing sector. 

24 Congratulations once again to PlanetSpark Innovation Centre. I wish you every success. 

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