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Speech by Minister Gan Kim Yong at the Singapore Semiconductor 55 Dinner

Speech by Minister Gan Kim Yong at the Singapore Semiconductor 55 Dinner

Ms Jennifer Teong, Chairman of the Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association

 

Mr Ang Wee Seng, Executive Director of SSIA 

 

Distinguished guests,

 

Ladies and gentlemen.

 

1. Good evening. Let me first congratulate the Singapore semiconductor industry association on your 55th anniversary.

 

Singapore’s Semiconductor Industry: Emerging stronger

 

2. Singapore’s ambition to grow the semiconductor industry dates back to the 1960s. In the early days of our nationhood, we took decisive steps to attract companies like National Semiconductor, Fairchild and Texas Instruments to set up assembly and test practices and operations in Singapore. Since then, strong fundamentals including stable government, rule of law, extensive connectivity, and a highly-skilled workforce have enabled the industry to thrive and a strong ecosystem to be developed here. Semiconductors now make up a big part of our advanced manufacturing sector, accounting for more than one-third of our overall manufacturing value-add.  

 

3. The SSIA has played a major role in helping the industry succeed. In good times, you are pivotal in bringing together key industry players to develop the sector and encourage them to push for innovation.  In more challenging times such as during COVID-19, you helped your members cope with the difficulties and uncertainties.  You provided resources to help members transit into remote working and embrace digital modes of collaboration. These efforts have allowed the industry to defy the odds and sustain continued growth despite the pandemic.

  

Looking ahead: Gear up for long-term growth

 

4. Today, semiconductors are essential building blocks for the fast-growing digital economy. While we are experiencing a slowdown in the global semiconductor industry, the demand for semiconductors is set to grow in the medium and long term, given megatrends in AI, 5G, and industrial IoT. Market sentiments remain optimistic that the global semiconductor industry is on track to cross the trillion-dollar mark by the end of this decade.

 

5. Singapore is well positioned to capture growth opportunities in this sector. We are seeing promising signs through the investments announced in the past year by semiconductor companies such as United Microelectronics Corporation, Siltronic, and Silicon Box to expand their activities in Singapore. Just last week, GlobalFoundries held its grand opening of a S$5 billion semiconductor fabrication plant, reflecting the continued confidence of the industry in Singapore.

 

6. However, the global operating environment is changing. We are seeing intensified competition for investments in the industry, with countries around the world rolling out massive subsidies to onshore and friendshore investments closer to home. This will make it more difficult for Singapore to attract investments, because we simply cannot afford to match the level of subsidies that some of our competitors offer.

 

7. But there remain opportunities for us to tap on and grow the industry even in this climate. I will touch on two key areas – talent development and sustainability, and I will also share ongoing efforts by the Government and our partners in differentiating ourselves as an attractive investment location.

Talent: Building a strong talent pool

 

8. One key asset which we will continue to build over the years is our talent pool. While semiconductor companies in Singapore have been able to access good STEM talent, we continue to step up our efforts to attract both young and experienced hires to enter the sector. EDB and SSIA have partnered education institutions on student outreach and training programmes. To supplement these efforts, our Institutes of Higher Learning and the industry will also collaborate to provide more Work-Study training, immersion and internship opportunities.I am very happy to share that SSIA, NTU and EDB have developed a new 6-month training programme for Integrated Circuit design, which will begin its first run in August 2024. This programme aims to train up to 150 new IC designers over the next 5 years, and will be a welcome addition to our wide-ranging slate of training courses. EDB and SSIA will share more details shortly.

 

9. At the same time, we will double down on training R&D talent to meet our target of producing 1,000 PhDs over the next 10 years. The government will also continue to partner with companies to award scholarships, and build up postgraduate talent pool with critical R&D skillsets needed for the industry.

 

10. We are also invested to groom the next generation of leaders in the semiconductor industry. Driven by SSIA and supported by the government, the Singapore Semiconductor Leadership Accelerator, or SSLA in short, is our industry’s largest leadership development programme. It has nurtured a pool of over 180 leaders from more than 30 semiconductor companies over the past five years. We are also heartened to see good gender diversification, with 8 aspiring female leaders joining this year’s cycle – accounting for one-third of the cohort. We are confident that the continued success of SSLA will help nurture the next-generation leadership to shape and lead the semiconductor industry forward.

 

11. Amidst these moves, we should not forget about our mid-career workers. Their experience is deeply valuable, even if their existing roles are no longer as relevant.  They can be reskilled to take on new or enhanced roles within the company, or redeployed into other good jobs within the sector. For example, Ms Doris Tan, a senior staff engineer at ams-OSRAM has gone through Workforce Singapore’s (WSG) Career Conversion Programme (CCP) for Electronics. In her previous role, she was involved in data collection using less advanced and time-consuming methods. Through the CCP for Electronics, Ms Tan acquired emerging skillsets such as advanced data analytics and machine learning so that she can now help to optimise processes, furnish data-driven insights, and contribute to strategic decision-making. I encourage more enterprises to work with SSIA and WSG to tap on the CCP to meet your workforce and business transformation needs. To this end, EDB will work with WSG and the industry to achieve at least 1,300 CCP placement over the next four years.

 

Sustainability: Transiting to a low-carbon footprint sector

 

12. The second opportunity area we should leverage on is the global drive towards sustainability. Climate change is the defining challenge of our time. Singapore has committed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and the transition to a low-carbon economy will be one of the most important transformations to our economy. Having a clear sustainability roadmap will be a definitive competitive advantage for our companies.

 

13. I am encouraged by the fact that many semiconductor and semiconductor equipment companies have publicly announced their commitments to achieve net zero by 2050 or earlier, including for your Singapore operations. The Government will work with you to realise your ambitions. We will help you adopt best-in-class technologies such as efficient greenhouse gas abatement systems and energy-efficient chilled water systems. We have also announced plans to import up to 4GW of low-carbon electricity by 2035 to decarbonise our power sector, which will in turn help you reduce your Scope 2 emissions.

 

14. The road to sustainability will bring with it not only challenges but also many opportunities. I urge the industry to continue working with equipment manufacturers to innovate on new materials and processes, that can contribute towards meeting our sustainability goals. Only then can we successfully ride the sustainability wave and carve out new competitive edges for our businesses.  

 

Conclusion

 

15. Over the past 55 years, the Singapore government has built deep partnerships with the semiconductor industry. Through trade associations such as SSIA, the industry has built a robust community that proactively works with each other to address common challenges and needs. Such an entrepreneurial spirit is what brought the industry to where it is today, and will be what fuels future growth, as we leverage the opportunities in talent development and sustainability.

 

16. Let me take this opportunity to thank SSIA for their contributions to the development of the industry in Singapore, and look forward to our continued partnership in creating greater successes in the future, and for many more 55 years to come.

 

17. Thank you.

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