Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Good morning. I am pleased to join you today at SME Day 2021@SWITCH.
2. The theme of this year’s event, New World, New Rules: Innovate & Thrive, is apt. The pandemic has upended traditional businesses and created new norms. To thrive and succeed, we must innovate and develop new ways of doing things.
3. In the near term, we will continue to see changes and disruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we must not lose sight of the emerging opportunities as well. The Chinese word for crisis is “危机”, which is made up of the two words, “danger” and “opportunity”. It reminds us that even in the midst of danger, there are opportunities.
4. For businesses that have been hit hard by the pandemic and are looking to make a strong comeback, now is the time to uncover and seize these opportunities.
5. I would like to suggest a few ways for us to work together at the company level, consortium level and ecosystem level, to leverage Science & Technology to help our companies emerge stronger.
TOOLKITS TO HELP COMPANIES IN THE POST-COVID ECONOMY
6. First, the government provides comprehensive programmes and toolkits for companies to plan their tech needs, facilitate their innovation journeys, and advance their business interests.
7. Companies can tap on the Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) administered by Enterprise Singapore (ESG) to meet their growth and transformation needs. As announced at Budget 2021, the enhanced maximum grant support level of up to 80% will be extended to end-March 2022.
8. Through A*STAR’s Operation and Technology Roadmapping (OTR) programme, companies can receive assistance in mapping out their future tech needs to support their mid to long-term business strategy. Since the programme started in 2002, A*STAR has supported close to 750 companies, of which 60 per cent are SMEs. I am heartened to see companies following through with the programme, even during the pandemic.
a. One of these companies is Far East Flora, a company that has grown from a little van selling flowers and eggs in 1965, into one of Singapore’s largest plant nurseries selling horticultural products and services today. Far East Flora embarked on the OTR programme in December 2019 to create a five-year roadmap to streamline their subsidiaries, adopt technologies to improve their business efficiency, and identify new market opportunities. Although Far East Flora has focused on staying afloat over the past year, it did not lose sight of its long-term strategy and persisted in the implementation of the roadmap.
9. A*STAR’s Tech Access initiative provides companies with easy access to A*STAR’s installed base of advanced manufacturing equipment, specialised biotech equipment and biomedical services. This initiative allows companies to experiment and prototype without the need to purchase the technologies or equipment upfront.
a. For example, Synergy 4 Tech, a local technology company that specialises in niche security products and X-ray test equipment, wanted to develop test kits that can evaluate and verify the image quality of X-ray screening systems. Through Tech Access, they were able to use A*STAR’s High-energy 3D X-ray Computed Tomography (HECT) equipment, allowing Synergy 4 Tech to improve the design of their test kits, and even use the results as supporting material to demonstrate the products’ reliability to their clients.
10. Companies can also tap on innovation support offered by ESG’s Centres of Innovation. The nine Centres cover a range of sectors such as aquaculture, supply chain management and precision engineering. They support SMEs and startups on their innovation journey through the provision of technical consultancy services, access to specialty equipment, and IP translation services.
COLLABORATING VIA PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS
11. Beyond company-specific innovation, I would like to encourage all of you here to consider consortium-type public-private partnerships. When companies within the same sector come together and collaborate with public agencies, we can better identify industry needs and work on solutions that can achieve economies of scale, to uplift the sector as a whole.
12. The Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC) has brought together over 80 companies, from MNCs to SMEs, to codevelop new technologies and co-create new solutions in the advanced manufacturing sector. By pooling resources and sharing best-in-class knowledge, like-minded companies have been able to collaborate in a synergistic value chain to develop and adopt Industry 4.0 technologies in manufacturing, assembly, maintenance, supply chain and many other adjacent applications.
13. A*STAR and ESG also launched the pilot Innovation Factory @ SIMTech in 2020, where A*STAR scientists and engineers help local SMEs to transform their ideas into commercially viable products ready for market adoption. This initiative helps companies move up the value chain and become more competitive. The Singapore Precision Engineering & Technology Association and the Singapore Manufacturing Federation have joined the initiative as strategic partners to encourage more industry players to innovate with A*STAR. To date, 38 local SMEs have joined the Innovation Factory and have embarked on more than 20 product cocreation projects.
14. I am glad to see many representatives from our Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs) here at this event. You play a critical role in supporting our SMEs and facilitating industry transformation and business growth. I would like to encourage our TACs to form meaningful consortiums as well, to co-create solutions with our public agencies, institutes of higher learning and research institutes.
15. TAC consortiums can consider the Consortium OTR (COTR) programme. The COTR programme involves the development of a technology roadmap to help companies within the same industry sector ideate and co-create technologies that can uplift the sector.
a. The Facilities Management sector, for example, has benefited from this programme. The Singapore International Facility Management Association (SIFMA), Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) worked with A*STAR on a COTR roadmap in 2018. The roadmap enabled the adoption of advanced technology solutions, such as AI-assisted management systems, 3D printing solutions, and improved service deliveries, to help the Facilities Management sector increase productivity. This effort has also catalysed several follow-on initiatives. BCA launched the Smart Facilities Management Proof-of-Concept Grant in September 2020, to accelerate the adoption of new technologies within the sector. SIFMA also launched its own Certified Facilities Management Company progamme in July 2021, to raise professionalism and improve the competencies of Facilities Management companies in Singapore.
CREATING PLATFORMS AND PROVIDING PEOPLE TO ENABLE SCALE-UP
16. The government will also continue to provide platforms that can help our SMEs scale up their businesses.
17. An example is the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (NAMIC) [“nah-meek”] which helps companies to harness additive manufacturing technologies for their business needs.
a. Osteopore [“aus-tee-o-pore”], a local medtech startup, formed a strategic alliance with NAMIC in 2020 to establish a pointof-care model that leverages on the company’s leading regenerative implant solutions. Most recently in January 2021, Osteopore leveraged on this partnership with NAMIC to develop 3D printed implants that could enhance the bone healing process in patients.
18. Another useful platform for SMEs is the A*STAR Collaborative Commerce Marketplace (ACCM). The ACCM is an e-platform for businesses to collaborate and find solution providers, distributors, or partners. Through the ACCM, MNCs and large enterprises can easily match with potential tech collaborators, suppliers, and distributors to support their business needs. Similarly, SMEs can find new opportunities by collaborating with other companies, research institutes, tech consortiums and trade associations. Since its launch in 2016, the ACCM has garnered more than 2,000 unique companies as members, of which 73 per cent are local SMEs and startups.
19. SMEs that require specialised science and tech expertise can tap on A*STAR’s scientific talent via the Technology for Enterprise Capability Upgrading (T-Up) programme. Under this programme, A*STAR’s researchers and scientists are seconded to local SMEs to work hand-inhand with the companies on product innovation, the improvement of processes and the development of in-house research and innovation capabilities. Since T-Up started in 2003, more than 950 A*STAR research scientists and engineers have been seconded to over 850 SMEs.
a. As announced during SWITCH 2020, the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) partnered with A*STAR to give their final year students opportunities to work with seconded A*STAR scientists under T-Up. As of October 2021, 15 SIT students have participated under the T-Up programme as interns. I am glad to hear that this collaboration has given SMEs additional talent support and some of them could even employ these final year students subsequently.
20. This leads us into the next segment of our programme, where we recognise the good work and contributions from the seconded A*STAR scientists and engineers.
21. Today, three A*STAR research scientists and engineers will receive the T-Up Excellence Award for their exceptional contributions to the SMEs during their secondment. They have helped the companies to strengthen their R&D capabilities, developed innovative products, and achieved significant business outcomes. Another three will receive the T-Up Emerging Talent Award for having shown great potential in meeting industry needs and having helped local enterprises grow.
22. Congratulations to all our T-Up award recipients.
23. As we continue to help our SMEs grow their presence overseas, I am also pleased to announce that with effect from 1 April 2022, qualifying costs for the T-Up scheme will be extended to include the overseas cost of living allowances and airfare costs, in addition to the secondment and manpower cost. This will support our SMEs in their overseas R&D projects.
24. The Singapore government will continue to support our SMEs to innovate and internationalise.
25. Let us work together to leverage research and technology opportunities to enhance our local companies’ products and offerings.
26. I also look forward to more intensive collaborations between our SMEs, TACs and the larger research innovation & enterprise ecosystem.
27. Thank you, and I wish everyone an engaging and fruitful SME Day.
Speech by Minister Gan Kim Yong at SME Day 2021@SWITCH
Speech by Minister Gan Kim Yong at SME Day 2021@SWITCH