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Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the company visit to Illumina Singapore

Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the company visit to Illumina Singapore

1          Good morning. Last week, we shared about the manufacturing 2030 plan. Today, we are at Illumina to illustrate one aspect of the plan which we had shared with you. We had talked about attracting frontier companies that will help to entrench ourselves in the global value chain. Illumina is one of those examples that we thought will be useful to share with Singaporeans on how we do this, and what more we will do in the coming years, in order to entrench ourselves in the global value chain and make Singapore an attractive location for high-quality manufacturing investments, so that we can provide better jobs for Singaporeans.

 

2          We have a vision for manufacturing, particularly advanced manufacturing, to continue to form about 20 per cent of our GDP in the coming years. We have given ourselves a stretch target of growing the manufacturing sector by about 50 per cent in the next 10 years.

 

3          What does it mean to entrench ourselves in the global value chain? To give you an example of the work done by this company. Illumina came to Singapore more than 10 years ago in 2008. Since then, it has grown from strength to strength, not just increasing its production capacity in Singapore, but very importantly, also helping us to grow the ecosystem of the supporting SMEs working with Illumina to grow their business.

 

4          Very interestingly, they have also grown their R&D presence in Singapore. Today, by rough order of magnitude, the facility in Singapore produces almost 50% of Illumina’s global topline revenue. It is a tremendous achievement over the last 12 years. Some of the interesting things that Illumina does that illustrates this point of how they entrench Singapore's position in the global value chain. Today, with more than 1,300 employees, it produces 95 per cent of the global demand for microarray bead chips, 85 per cent of the global core sequencing consumables and commands about 75 per cent of the next generation sequencing market share. All this equipment is used for the rapid and accurate diagnosis of diseases. This is a tremendous achievement by the company.

 

5          I must give credit to the company’s management team and also the team of researchers and workers who have been able to do this. This is what we mean by having the sort of companies in Singapore that will make us harder to be displaced from the global production and supply chain. We are not here in the mass market, whereby we are competing on price. They are competing on the quality of their ideas, the quality of their research, and the quality of their production.

 

6          Let me touch on another aspect of their operations that has benefitted Singaporean companies and also Singaporeans – which is how they have worked with local companies to grow the ecosystem in order to support their operations. Many of the companies have worked closely with them, including Venture Corp, Sunningdale Tech, and many others, including a particular dry ice manufacturer. They form the supporting ecosystem that enables Illumina to do what they do. This helps us to catalyse a generation of supporting industries that can help to grow our manufacturing sector – particularly advanced manufacturing – for the years to come. As these frontier companies and investments continue to grow, they will also bring along a wave of small and medium enterprises in Singapore to grow with them. That is very important.

 

7          The third aspect that Illumina has contributed to the Singapore system is the development of our R&D ecosystem. From their own demand for talent, they have been able to help us aggregate talent from all across the world, develop our local talent to form a formidable talent team that can compete with the best in the world. When I heard some of the stories just now, I was very inspired because many of the products, many of the ideas that they produce out of the operations in Singapore, are now being proliferated across their global operations. This is the kind of value-add that we can do for our own advanced manufacturing system, in service of the world.

 

8          When we walk through the production floor in Illumina, you can see the kind of technology, the kind of working environment a new generation manufacturing plant is about. It is no longer about working in a dirty, dangerous, repetitive environment. In fact, that concept is totally passé. What we are seeing now are people who are working at the cutting edge of technology in clean rooms, and each and every one of the machines that they produce are so high-tech that many people will be very impressed with what we are able to do in Singapore.

 

9          The kind of consumables that they are able to produce, from enzymes to chemicals, are all “secret recipes”, of which many are developed in Singapore. These are the kinds of work that we are able to create for fellow Singaporeans. And even in manufacturing today, it is not just about repetitive work. It is about constantly trying to look for new solutions and new products, that require people to have an agile mindset to combine R&D with production. People with the cross-disciplinary skills that can combine hardware, software, firmware, chemistry, physics, infocomm knowledge, to combine all these different views of knowledge, to produce the product that we offer to the world. When we look at some of the machines and reagents and chemicals being produced here, it is not easy to be replicated anywhere else. The kind of challenges that companies like Illumina provide for fellow Singaporeans is indeed at the cutting edge of what anyone in the world can do and will want to do.

 

10        We have done well in attracting the companies here, build up the ecosystem of the small medium enterprises to support them, build up the R&D capabilities in tandem, and upskill our workers. These are all the necessary things that we have done and we will continue to do.

 

11        Why has Illumina chosen Singapore? The reasons are still the same. The ability for us to aggregate talent, the ability of us to protect intellectual property, a superior connectivity system including both physical connectivity and data connectivity. All these are taken as basic 101 that we will continue to provide for the companies. Over and above that, what else are we going to do to strengthen and reinforce our position, reinforce our competitive edge in this advanced manufacturing sector?

 

12        Today, I will share three things that we will do going forward in order to complement and reinforce our existing competitive advantages. The first thing is that we are going to continue to strengthen the entire ecosystem to support this advanced manufacturing sector. A key piece to this will be our effort in the Jurong Innovation District (JID), whereby we will be able to bring many more of these leading edge companies to come together to provide that mutually reinforcing ecosystem. For example, we have been able to attract Hyundai Motor Group, which will set up its innovation facility in JID, as well as a cluster of advanced manufacturing companies such as Makino, DMG MORI, Konica, Minolta, and so forth. They join existing players such as Bosch, Siemens, Sodick Singapore Techno Centre, Shimano, to strengthen the JID ecosystem further. Another day, I will visit JID and I will explain more about how all these different players come together, reinforce one another and help us build up the necessary ecosystem.

 

13        The second thing that we are going to do is that we are going to build up our research ecosystem to encourage innovation. Singapore has established Centres of Innovation (COIs) to develop new Industry 4.0 technologies and solutions across advanced manufacturing and new growth areas such as Agrifood. We have just announced as part of our RIE 2025 plan that we will be investing another S$25 billion over the next five years in basic and applied research.

 

14        One of the four priority areas will be in advanced manufacturing, and we will test bed many of these new opportunities in areas such as autonomous vehicles. Our intellectual property regime will continue to be strengthened to entrench our position as one of the leading lights in the world. In this area, we have established the Advanced Manufacturing Training Academy (AMTA), a centralised national-level entity, to identify new skills and knowledge that the industry needs, and to coordinate the training and skills and development efforts required for advanced manufacturing. So with these insights, the Advanced Manufacturing Training Academy will work with our Institutes of Higher Learning providers to develop programmes for our workforce to support the future industry needs. This institution is not looking at what to do to provide for today's workers only. More importantly, they are constantly scanning the horizon to see what else needs to be done, what are the new skillsets that need to be acquired by our workers ahead of time, in order for us to be ready to support the industries of the future.

 

15        We will also work with employers to train and deepen their skills base for their workforce in emerging areas such as robotics, automation and analytics, through the company-led training. For example, Bosch Rexroth Training Centre will co-develop the training content with Singapore Polytechnic in areas such as Industry 4.0-related business modelling, as well as provide mentorship and skills training to enterprises as part of the proof-of-concept projects.

 

16        The third thing that we want to roll out is to continue our efforts to support firms to embark on Industry 4.0 transformation projects, such as through the Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI). Singapore has established SIRI to provide a data-backed snapshot of the Industry 4.0 maturity levels. The purpose of this is for firms to use this framework to benchmark themselves. Having benchmarked themselves, they can then use the framework, work with consultants to see how they can use the processes to strengthen their product development, and upgrade their production system in tandem.

 

17        This is a standard that Singapore is proliferating across the world, through the WEF-EDB SIRI Internationalisation Collaboration. This WEF-EDB partnership will establish SIRI as an international benchmark to advance the pace of transformation in the manufacturing industry. We can use it to assess and motivate transformational changes for large and small medium enterprises alike. To give an example, Shine Precision Engineering Private Limited used SIRI to evaluate the current state of their factory and plan out a holistic transformation roadmap to generate their largest ROI. Through the digital transformation, Shine Precision was able to increase output, achieve significant improvements in their operational efficiency, and upskill their workers to take on higher value-adding jobs.

 

18        To conclude, these are the three things that we will do. Build the ecosystem, with the Jurong Innovation District as one of the key planks of this particular track of work, by attracting enough companies at the leading edge to form the ecosystem there. The second is to make sure that we continue with the training of our workers ahead of time with the Advanced Manufacturing Training Academy. The third part is to proliferate the use of the index like SIRI for us to evaluate ourselves, and to help our companies to upgrade their facilities.

 

19        These are three new things that we will focus on, over and above what we will continue to do to strengthen our traditional competitive advantages, which include a pro-business environment; intellectual property protection; a superior connectivity network, in both the physical and the data dimensions; a skilled workforce; and harmonious tripartite relationships.

 

20        These are all the things that we will continue to do, but we will not be complacent. We have to keep advancing our work to make sure that we keep pace with the latest demands for the industry in the future.

 

21        Thank you.

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