Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Good morning. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Singapore Aerospace Technology Leadership Forum 2022, which will be held virtually.
2. The past two years have been difficult for the global aerospace industry. Due to travel bans and tightened borders worldwide arising from the COVID pandemic, the reduced demand for commercial air travel has had knock-on impacts on the global aerospace industry. Global aircraft production and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) spending both shrank by 40% in 2020. Likewise, Singapore’s aerospace industry was not spared, as output from our aerospace industry contracted by 26% in 2020.
3. Despite these challenges, the Singapore aerospace industry remains resilient, and is seeing signs of recovery. In 2021, our aerospace industry grew by 8.8%. Singapore continues to be Asia’s leading aerospace hub, contributing to 10% of the global MRO output, and home to a vibrant cluster of over 130 aerospace industry players. Aerospace companies including Pratt & Whitney, GE Aviation and ST Engineering in Singapore are also collectively planning to fill over 1,000 positions in the next two years, to capture the recovery and new growth areas as the industry emerges from the pandemic.
The Singapore Government will provide the needed support for workforce transformation through continuous upskilling and reskilling, positioning our workforce to seize future growth opportunities.
4. Early in the crisis, eligible aerospace companies were provided wage support of up to 75% from April 2020 to June 2021 through the Jobs Support Scheme. The scheme was further extended till December 2021 with the protracted downturn. Given the severity of the crisis, some job losses were inevitable. However, the early intervention meant that we were able to preserve our local core of skilled aerospace workers.
5. The Government has also worked proactively with unions and companies to provide targeted support towards transforming aerospace companies’ operations and workforce upskilling. For example, ST Engineering tapped on Workforce Singapore’s Career Conversion Programme (CCP) since August 2020 to reskill more than 200 aircraft maintenance technicians who previously performed conventional airframe maintenance tasks to take on more technically challenging passenger-to-freighter conversions. This allowed ST engineering to meet the increased demand for air freighters during the pandemic. Under the CCP, Pratt & Whitney has also reskilled 60 of its engine overhaul technicians and workshop engineers in its Eagle Services Asia (ESA) facility to service new-generation Geared Turbofan (GTF) engines since October 2020.
6. The downturn presented an opportunity for companies to train their workers in skills for the future. The Enhanced Training Support Package (ETSP) rolled out by SkillsFuture Singapore in September 2020 to support companies in upskilling its employees has provided training to individuals in areas that will grow in importance, such as Industry 4.0 and data analytics.
7. Beside upskilling our workers, we continue to invigorate our aerospace talent pipeline. The Work-Study Diploma in aircraft maintenance engineering co-launched by Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) in September 2020 will allow aspiring students to obtain a diploma fully sponsored by the Ministry of Defence while serving full-time national service as air force technicians.
8. These are just some of the workforce transformation initiatives that have been implemented to encourage continuous upskilling and reskilling of our aerospace talent, enabling our industry and workforce to be ahead of technology developments, and be well-positioned in seizing future growth opportunities.
Technology and Innovation are critical enablers for the aerospace industry’s recovery and growth.
9. The pandemic has underscored the importance of technology and innovation to help companies recover and emerge stronger, and to invest early in emerging areas to quickly capture opportunities.
10. Under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2025 plan, the Government will support various strategic research initiatives such as the Singapore Aerospace Programme managed by A*STAR, to leverage science and technology in addressing future challenges in areas of importance to the aerospace industry, such as advanced manufacturing and sustainability. I am happy to note that the consortium members of the Singapore Aerospace Programme will also be speakers at today’s forum, and the companies present are close partners of our research ecosystem.
11. R&D is an important enabler for companies to pre-position themselves for future opportunities. There are three key opportunities where R&D can contribute to growth in the industry. First is the area of digital services. As aircraft, engines and components become increasingly digitalised, there are opportunities to leverage the collected data to create new services related to optimisation of flight operations, workflow management, and intelligent systems health monitoring. This will help airlines and passengers save time and costs. One example is the launch of a new digital aviation corporate laboratory by the Singapore Airlines (SIA) and National University of Singapore (NUS) in January 2022. The digital corporate laboratory will allow SIA to tap on NUS’ expertise in deep-tech and multi-disciplinary research to drive traveller-centric digital services, as well as ensure security and safety in air travel.
12. The second area is autonomy. Autonomous technologies will help companies enhance pilot decision-making, and ultimately enhance reliability and safety of aircraft systems and flight operations. Building off a Singapore Aerospace Programme project, A*STAR has gone on to collaborate with our local enterprises to develop a Smart Autonomous Aircraft Visual Inspection System (SAAVIS), which will feature artificial intelligence capabilities for the detection of defects and flexible deployment on an autonomous platform. The trend towards higher autonomy also points to emerging market areas such as unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, which potentially represent lower barriers to entry compared to traditional commercial aerospace applications. These can serve as new entry points for technology startups and SMEs.
13. The third is sustainability. There is a growing interest of the aerospace industry as companies work together to reduce aviation’s impact on the environment, and one of the approaches is to explore alternative energy systems such as electric propulsion. For instance, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and Rolls-Royce have partnered to develop various technologies in the areas of power generation, power electronics and control systems. A*STAR’s Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences (ICES), Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) and SIMTech have been working on technologies that can potentially produce sustainable aviation fuel directly from carbon dioxide. Advancements in these areas are key to sustainable air travel and will contribute to the industry’s emissions-reduction strategy.
14. It is apt that the theme for this year’s forum is “Relaunching Aviation”, and I am happy to note that the thought leaders of the industry will share their insights on these key trends and opportunities of growth today.
15. Aerospace continues to be an important industry for Singapore. As we emerge from the pandemic, and demand for air travel grows, we are confident that the aerospace industry will rebound and thrive in the post-COVID recovery. Manpower and technology will be key for our industry to meet future industry demand and capture new opportunities as they arise. The Government stands ready to partner our companies and workers on this journey.
16. I hope that the panels offer valuable insights, and inspire the companies and attendees present to establish new areas of competitive advantage.
17. Thank you.