In its FY2017 Budget, the Singapore government announced an investment of S$2.4 billion over the next four years to sustain potential growth of 2% to 3% in a global economy being rapidly reshaped by technology. This is in addition to the S$4.5 billion set aside last year for the Industry Transformation Programme. The Budget also included S$500 million for the National Research Fund to support innovation efforts, and the National Productivity Fund by another S$1 billion, to support industry transformation.
In the Budget 2017 speech yesterday, Finance Minister, Heng Swee Kiat (above photo) said,“We must spot the opportunities in the digital economy, and make the most of our strengths as a nimble, well-educated, tech-savvy society.”
For strengthening the capabilities of enterprises, Budget 2017 focused on the ability to use digital technology, embrace innovation, and scale up. For enhancing digital capabilities of enterprises, the Budget set aside a total of S$80 million.
SMEs Go Digital Programme
To help Small & Medium Enterprises keep up with the pace of technological change, the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) will work with SPRING and other sector lead agencies to implement the the SMEs Go Digital Programme.
SMEs will be provided advice on technologies to use as they grow through the sectoral Industry Digital Plans, starting with the sectors where digital technology can significantly improve productivity, such as Retail, Food Services, Wholesale Trade, Logistics, Cleaning and Security. SME Centres and a new SME Technology Hub will be set up by IMDA. Business advisors at the SME Centres will provide advice on off-the-shelf technology solutions that are pre-approved for funding support, or connect to ICT vendors and consultants. The more digitally advanced firms can get specialist advice from the SME Technology Hub. Lastly, SMEs that are ready to pilot emerging ICT solutions will be provided advice and funding support. The government will work with consortiums of large as well as small firms to help them adopt interoperable ICT solutions, in order to level up entire industrial sectors.
Mr. Melvin Ho, Senior Vice President and Head of Domestic Operations, Canon Singapore, commented: “The move to enhance the existing working capital loan and raise the risk quantum shared by the government comes as a timely and much needed incentive for SMEs, particularly in a climate of uncertainty and rising costs. This financial reinforcement not only lowers the barriers to growth for businesses but also demonstrates the nation’s commitment to developing a supportive eco-system for SMEs to respond positively to a disrupted market, and also invest in other critical areas such as employee training and development.”
Data and cybersecurity
As data is becoming an increasingly important asset for firms, and strong cybersecurity becomes crucial for our networks to function smoothly. The Cyber Security Agency (CSA) of Singapore will work with professional bodies to train cybersecurity professionals.
Previously, CSA started working on initiatives such as the Cyber Security Associates and Technologies (CSAT) programme for training and up-skilling fresh ICT professionals and mid-career professionals for Cyber Security job roles and the introduction of CREST certifications in Singapore. CSA has also signed MOUs with Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) and the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) to develop cybersecurity talent.
In the section on Quality Living Environment, Minister Heng Swee Kiat talked about shared infrastructure for economic clusters, such as an upcoming growth cluster in Punggol, which will co-locate cyber security and digital industries, with industry collaborating closely with the nearby Singapore Institute of Technology.
"In our increasingly connected universe, a big aspect of data-related skills includes tackling cybersecurity issues. To truly make Singapore an innovation hub, we need to create a healthy equilibrium where our businesses and citizens use technology intelligently and safely. As discussed during Singapore’s Budget 2017 announcement, CSA’s efforts and other government initiatives are a step in the right direction towards strengthening our capabilities in both data and cybersecurity," said Jonah Kim, Product Manager of Tableau in APAC.
A*STAR to expand work with firms
Agency for Science and Technology Research (A*STAR) currently works with firms to help them identify areas where technology can help them innovate and compete. The agency will expand its efforts to support 400 companies over the next four years.
Under a new Tech Access Initiative, A*STAR will provide access to advanced machine tools for prototyping and testing, along with user training and advice.
Improving Access to Intellectual Property (IP)
Intellectual Property Intermediary, a SPRING affiliate, matches companies with IP that meets their requirements. It will work with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) to analyse and bundle complementary IP from Singapore and overseas. The Headstart programme, where A*STAR partners SMEs, allows SMEs that co-develop IP with A*STAR. The period for royalty-free and exclusive licences is being extended to 36 months from 18 months.
Remaining Industry Transformation Maps to be released during FY2017
In the 2016 Budget the initiative of Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) was announced, to transform entire sectors. There are a total of 23 ITMs planned, covering about 80% of the economy. Six have already been launched and the remaining 17 will be launched this year.
These roadmaps aim to enable local SMEs to exploit local and global growth opportunities and remain competitive. A range of innovative technologies are incorporated into the roadmaps. For instance, the Food Manufacturing map talks about using Robotics solutions for scaling business operations through automation and redesigning existing workflow and processes. The ITMs bringing together various stakeholders, Trade Associations and Chambers, unions, and Government around a common plan to transform each sector.
Making Singapore an innovation hub
The Budget speech stressed on the importance of regulatory agencies must balance managing risk, while providing the space to test innovations. One approach the government is going to use is regulatory sandboxes, where some rules and regulations can be suspended, to allow greater experimentation, while limiting any negative repercussions if things go wrong.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has been using sandboxes to test self-driving vehicles, setting out specific zones for road-testing. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has set up a regulatory sandbox for FinTech innovations.
The Singapore government also wants regulators to make swifter and more effective risk assessments for new products and services. For example, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), will be setting up a priority review scheme to evaluate new and innovative medical devices. Getting the regulation right will accelerate the commercialisation process and make Singapore a preferred location to launch these devices.
To build global innovation alliances, a number of steps are being taken such as up a Global Innovation Alliance for Singaporeans to gain overseas experience and collaborate with their counterparts in other innovative cities and establishing Innovation Launchpads in selected overseas markets.
SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative
Firms that want to expand overseas need capable leaders who have spent time in these markets, with insights and connections that can help their businesses scale up globally.
The SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative will support companies to groom Singaporean leaders by expanding leadership development programmes. This includes sending promising individuals on specialised courses and overseas postings. For a start, the programme will target to develop 800 potential leaders over the next three years. Over S$100 million will be set aside to build capabilities under the Global Innovation Alliance and Leadership Development Initiative.
Summing up, Budget 2017 is a call for Singapore to pull together – the Government, firms, unions, community organisations and individuals, with everyone carrying out their respective roles. The imperative for SMEs to go digital, training and developing the cybersecurity ecosystem, transforming industries with innovative technologies and making Singapore an attractive innovation hub are all integral aspects in preparing Singapore for the future economy and fulfilling the Smart Nation vision.
Read the Budget 2017 speech here.