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Opening Address by Minister Gan Kim Yong at the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SWITCH) Appreciation Dinner

Opening Address by Minister Gan Kim Yong at the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SWITCH) Appreciation Dinner

His Excellency Priit Turk,

His Excellency Jamal Abdulla AlSuwaidi,

Her Excellency Eugênia Barthelmess

 

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

 

Introduction

 

1. Good evening. It is a great pleasure for me to be back again at the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SWITCH).  When I spoke at the conference last year, we were in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the event was held via a hybrid format. This year, SWITCH is back in full physical format, with an impressive turnout of over 300 speakers and 250 exhibitors, along with a series of exciting programmes over the four-day conference. I am happy to be able to join you today, to celebrate our achievements in innovation.

 

2. The past few years have not been easy, but both our local and global partners have continued to invest in growing our innovation and startup scene. Allow me to extend my appreciation to those who have contributed to the dynamism in the sector.

 

3. Innovation has been the cornerstone of our economy, and Singapore continues to be a destination of choice for companies and talents, both globally and locally. Many companies, in particular global tech startups, have set up offices here due to our thriving ecosystem and the access to the regional markets. According to the Global Innovation Index 2022, Singapore moved up a spot to become the 7th most innovative nation in the world.

 

4. These achievements did not happen by chance. Rather, it is the result of our sustained efforts in developing a conducive ecosystem for growth, and in establishing strong collaboration with our global partners.

 

a. For instance, since 2010, we have set aside about S$60 billion under our Research, Innovation and Enterprise, or RIE strategy, to deepen our research base and strengthen innovation capabilities of our enterprises across multiple domains. In 2021, EnterpriseSG supported close to 600 enterprises to embark on innovation projects, many of which benefitted from the RIE funding.

 

b. We also continue to provide opportunities for our SMEs and startups to partner global enterprises. Since 2021, EnterpriseSG organised 23 Open Innovation Challenges, where SMEs and startups collaborate with global enterprises to co-develop solutions in response to industry needs. To date, more than 100 challenge statements have been launched, and over 800 proposals have been submitted.

 

5. I am heartened to see that our efforts to foster innovation have yielded good results in spite of the pandemic. Now that borders have reopened and travel has resumed, we should double down our efforts to spur innovation and make the most of the opportunities available. We will focus on three key prongs:

 

a. First, continue growing our deep tech talent pool;

b. Second, strengthen our ecosystem and create an enabling environment for startups to thrive and grow; and

c. Third, help our startups scale their businesses and internationalise.

 

Let me elaborate on each of these.

 

6. First, Singapore will continue to develop the talent required to grow our key tech sectors. One key initiative through which we achieve this is the Innovation and Enterprise Fellowship Programme Pilot, or IFP Pilot. The programme aims to grow talent in Singapore to support deep tech research and bring new technologies to market.

 

a. The IFP pilot, managed by SG-Innovate and EnterpriseSG, has partnered 50 deep-tech startups, accelerators and incubators in strategic domains like manufacturing, digital economy, urban solutions, and sustainability. More than 90 Fellows have been onboarded, bringing with them rich and diverse experiences in technical and STEM fields, as well as in academia and research.

 

b. And we are seeing very promising results from the pilot. For example, Ms Idina Shi, one of the Fellows onboarded onto the pilot, was deployed to Nuevocor, a biotech startup that develops gene therapies for genetic heart diseases. Idina started as an Associate Director there, and was promoted to Director of Operations and Business Development within a year. We hope that IFP will continue to attract and train valuable talents like Idina, who can apply their existing expertise to industry-relevant projects or job roles.

 

7. As we expand our talent pool, we will also continue to strengthen our innovation ecosystem and help companies bring new ideas to the market. This is done primarily through our Open Innovation Challenges, or OIC, which I briefly mentioned earlier in my speech.

 

a. We are actively expanding the network of our OIC initiative. In fact, just two days ago, on Day 1 of the SWITCH conference, we launched the India Open Innovation Challenge, or IOIC. A total of 8 India-based corporates – including Apollo Hospitals and CapitaLand India – participated in the IOIC.

 

b. The IOIC offers local companies the opportunity to plug themselves into India’s corporate innovation ecosystem, and test-bed opportunities that could address challenges in sectors like Energy, Healthcare, and Agri-tech. I am confident that this cooperative effort will yield innovative ideas that will not only address pressing needs for the industries but will also develop new areas of growth.

 

8. Third, we will expand our international networks further and facilitate connections between Singapore enterprises and foreign companies. Since 2021, 295 local companies have tapped on our Global Innovation Alliance, or GIA for short, to access overseas markets via the outbound acceleration programmes. I am heartened to see such keen interest shown by our companies to capture new opportunities, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope to see more of our companies scaling up to grow beyond our shores.

 

9. In line with that aim, I am pleased to announce that we are launching two new GIA nodes in 2022, one in Abu Dhabi, and another in Seoul.

 

a. The new node in Abu Dhabi will be our first in the Middle East region. Abu Dhabi is a gateway to the United Arab Emirates and other Middle Eastern economies. It will support and facilitate Singapore companies’ market entry, and help them capture opportunities across both the consumer and business markets.

 

b. Our addition of a new node in Seoul was a result of a successful pilot run which garnered steady interest from Singapore companies. To encourage more two-way collaboration in innovation, we also launched a new bilateral co-innovation call with South Korea via the Eureka Network Project in June this year, in partnership with the Korea Institute for Advancement of Technology.

 

10. With the launch of these two nodes in 2022 in Asia and the Middle East, we now have GIAs in 17 cities. This will further expand market access for Singapore enterprises, and drive a two-way flow of innovation and business collaborations. Moving forward, we will also expand and deepen our presence across emerging and developing markets, and sharpen sectoral focus across different regions, to support Singapore enterprises to grow globally.

 

11. In a post-pandemic world where both challenges and opportunities await, Singapore must remain an innovation hub, and our local enterprises must be innovative, progressive and ready for the global market. Our efforts in enhancing deep-tech talent development programmes, promoting participation in Open Innovation Challenges, and growing the GIA network are key enablers to help propel our companies ahead in their growth journey. But success is only possible if we have the full support of our partners like yourselves, as well as forward-looking enterprises who are keen to venture beyond our shores to tap on global opportunities. I welcome our companies and partners to continue this exciting journey with us, and to find new innovative paths of success for your business.

 

12. With that, I wish you all an enjoyable dinner and a very pleasant evening.

 

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