The Finance Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat was part of a panel giving an update on the Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 plan for Singapore’s science and technology research yesterday evening.
PM Lee and Mr Heng, chairs of the National Research Foundation, were speaking to the press after the RIE Council meeting, held on Tuesday and Wednesday at the St Regis hotel. Also present were Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who spoke on the changing face of manufacturing and urban solutions and sustainability.
The Finance Minister said that the future of food, medicine and digital technology has been earmarked as research targets to keep Singapore competitive in the long term.
Money to boost artificial intelligence, cyber security, supercomputing capabilities and robotics and automation
Mr Heng said more than $500 million will be set aside to build up artificial intelligence systems and meet national cyber security needs. The money will be also used to enhance supercomputing capabilities and push for the deployment of robotics and automation
The amount includes S$300 million announced by Minister for Communications and Information Mr. Iswaran earlier this month.
The success of Singapore’s research efforts will depend on three factors, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said. These are to emphasise science and technology in society, develop a strong core of talented researchers and entrepreneurs, and build international partnerships with foreign countries and institutions.
Singapore is seeking to attract more businesses and investors through the use of advanced technologies. It plans to roll out artificial intelligence and cloud-based solutions to every business sector by 2020, Mr Iswaran, Information and Communications Minister said on March 4.
“We must continue to emphasize science and technology throughout our society,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who chairs the panel, said at the briefing. “We can’t afford to have people fearful and distrustful of science, and held captive by totally groundless anti-scientific beliefs.”
Food Innovation – a new market sector for Singapore
Singapore will also set aside as much as S$144 million for food-related innovations to help in sustainable urban production. These will involve tropical aquaculture, urban agriculture, and advanced biotech-based protein production. The nation aims to produce 30 percent of its nutritional needs locally by 2030.
The panel noted that global demand for proteins is expected to increase significantly in the coming decades as the world population increases and income levels rise.
To capture the economic opportunities presented by this demand, the government will focus its research on plant and microbial-based proteins, as well as cell-based cultured meat. It will target investments to build on Singapore’s existing research capabilities in bio-engineering, nutrition, bio-processing and agri-food science to grow this new industry.
Biopharma Industry to receive funding to develop cell-therapy manufacturing
The government will invest SGD80 million to develop cell-therapy manufacturing to build on its success in the biopharmaceutical sector, which contributed 4 percent to gross domestic product in 2018 and employs more than 7,700 highly skilled workers. Cell therapy involves injecting living cells into a patient to derive a therapeutic effect such as restoring tissue functions or fighting cancer.
The figures announced Wednesday fall under a SGD19 billion budget for research, innovation and enterprise for a five-year period through 2020.