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Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry highlights the role of SME in innovation

Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry highlights the role of SME in innovation

On
15 May, Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry Mr Chan Chun Sing delivered
the opening address
at the SME
Technology and Innovation Day
2018. Jointly
organised by A*STAR
and Enterprise
Singapore
, the event brings together a full spectrum of technology-related
initiatives from the industry and partner agencies. SMEs can find out more
about the range of technology solutions made available to streamline processes,
achieve cost effectiveness, business sustainability and growth.

In
his remarks, Minister Chan said we now live in “an era where the effects of
technological disruption are ubiquitous, touching all aspects of our lives –
from the way we work, live and interact with one another”.

“Technological
disruption can be scary and yet exciting. As a country, Singapore must be
prepared to take advantage of these shifts,” he said. He also stated that fortunately,
Singapore is at a position of strength today, given its strategic positioning
within ASEAN, longstanding investments in research and development (R&D),
its skilled workforce and pro-business environment put Singapore in a strong
position to continually attract talent, ideas, capital, and create good jobs.

According
to Minister, in the next phase of its development, Singapore must position itself
as “a global Asia node of technology, innovation and enterprise” in order to
maintain a vibrant and competitive economy.

On
how Singapore can be a global Asia node of technology, innovation and
enterprise, Minister Chan highlighted the importance of innovation as business
models, markets and mindsets.

First
of all, given the fact that Singapore is at the heart of the dynamic and
fast-growing ASEAN market, businesses in Singapore must design products and
services for the ASEAN market and the world, and not just for the domestic
market, in order to seize business opportunities in the region.

Second,
for Singapore companies to compete successfully in ASEAN, they must make innovation
their core competitive advantage. Under the Research,
Innovation and Enterprise 2020 Plan
(RIE2020), the Singapore Government is
investing up to S$19 billion to support public sector R&D from 2016 to
2020. This will ensure that Singapore has the technological capabilities to
capture opportunities from digitalisation to other emerging technologies.

Third,
to remain relevant as a Global Asia Node within ASEAN, Singapore “must strive
to be the location of choice for startups and SMEs to incubate, pilot and scale
up new business models and technologies”.

“This
requires flexible and receptive mindsets that are pro-enterprise and supportive
of innovation. One key area where Singapore can differentiate ourselves from
our competitors is our regulatory agility, where regulators, economic agencies
and industry players can work together to experiment with new business models,
products and solutions,” Minister Chan said.

“For
example, to ensure that our regulations support innovation in the food
manufacturing sector, the Agri-Food and
Veterinary Authority
(AVA) works closely with the industry to facilitate
timely regulatory approval for new food products and technology – from upstream
creation to downstream commercialisation. AVA also works with Enterprise
Singapore as a partner of FoodInnovate, a new multi-agency initiative which
equips companies with the knowledge and resources to pursue innovation,” he
added.

Singapore Government supports SMEs to
innovate and adopt technology

According
to Minister Chan, SMEs have an important role to play in Singapore’s ambitions
to be a Global Asia Node of technology, innovation and enterprise. He also noted
that many of the city-state’s SMEs are stepping up their investments in
innovation and technology.

According
to the 2016
National R&D Survey of Singapore
, Business Expenditure on R&D
(BERD) by SMEs grew by a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 4% over the
period 2006 to 2016.

As
part of Government’s efforts to sustain the growth and competitiveness of
enterprises, the Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) which address 23 sectors
representing 80% of the country’s GDP are being rolled out.

“Innovation
and internationalisation are key components of the ITMs,” Minister Chan
highlighted.

At
MTI’s Committee of Supply (COS) debate this year, the Ministry shared that
Enterprise Singapore will continue to work closely with key partners to broaden
the reach and impact of the ITMs to bring greater benefits to SMEs. This
includes further enhancement of the
Local Enterprise and Association Development
(LEAD) programme to better
support trade associations and chambers (TACs) in helping SMEs innovate, build
capabilities and internationalise.

On
the technology front, the Ministry will support the broad base of SMEs in
technology adoption, for example, through the Tech Depot. This provides a
centralised listing of readily adoptable technological solutions, developed and
pre-qualified by A*STAR, Enterprise Singapore and IMDA, on the SME Portal.

“I
am happy to note that to date, more than 1,300 enterprises have adopted over 50
solutions in areas such as customer management and data analytics. These
businesses are already seeing benefits, with an average of 25% productivity
improvement following implementation of the solutions,” said the Minister.

To
expand the pool of ready-to-go solutions for SMEs, the Productivity
Solutions Grant
(PSG) was rolled out in April this year as part of the Budget
2018 announcements. These solutions are aligned to the ITMs and are pre-scoped
by the sector lead agencies.

For
SMEs which require access to advanced manufacturing equipment, A*STAR has
introduced Tech
Access
, to provide SMEs with access to A*STAR’s installed base of advanced
manufacturing equipment, ranging from inspection tools to robotised 3D scanners
and high-pressure cold sprays for additive manufacturing.

According
to Minister Chan, for SMEs which are thinking of accessing intellectual
property (IP) from Singapore and around the world, they can also work with the Intellectual Property Intermediary
(IPI). IPI, a subsidiary of Enterprise Singapore, that offers a global network
of technology partners from public and private sectors, to help SMEs match with
relevant IP for product research and development.

“Most
importantly, for SMEs to sustain their competitive edge over the longer term,
they must also build up in-house R&D capabilities and be able to attract
R&D talent,” he emphasised.

To
support such efforts, A*STAR seconds its research scientists and engineers to
the industry through its Technology
for Enterprise Capability Upgrading
(T-Up) scheme. Since 2003, more than
700 A*STAR research scientists and engineers have been seconded to SMEs to work
on over 600 projects to translate research and innovation into enterprise and
commercialisation.

“In order for Singapore to remain a vibrant
economy with opportunities for our businesses and good jobs for our people, we
all have an important role to play. The government, the research institutions,
our SMEs, our local enterprises, our workers must work closely with one another
so that we can continue to stay ahead of the competition,” he concluded.