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Singapore government plans to strengthen innovation ecosystem

Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry delivered a speech yesterday (3 March 2020) at the Committee of Supply Debate, on ways the Government will help support and develop innovation in Singapore for the future.

The Minister said that as part of the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 Plan, the Government is providing strong support to companies in innovation activities, including translating research into commercially viable products.

Centres of Innovation to translate problems into tech solutions

Dr Koh Poh Koon detailed the steps the Government were taking to support the innovation ecosystem. He mentioned how the Government has established a technology consortia, which brings together companies and public sector researchers to collaborate on research projects. Companies can join these consortia to keep up with research trends and tap on the expertise of researchers.

He spoke of how Centres of Innovation (COIs) provide specialised expertise to help companies translate problem statements into technology requirements which helps speed up the product development process. These Centres have currently supported over 4,200 projects in areas such as technical consultancy, product development, and intellectual property commercialisation.

The Minister also added that the government set up the Digital Industry Singapore (DISG) last year to better coordinate Singapore’s efforts for the digital industry to help to grow the tech sector, and has successfully attracted digital giants such as Google, Facebook, and Alibaba.

Government initiatives to support companies to adopt innovative solutions

One of the initiatives that has already been rolled out is the Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI) and the SIRI Priority Matrix launched in 2017. Since then, more than 250 companies have undergone the SIRI Assessments – 30% were SMEs. The SIRI Assessments helps companies in Singapore understand where they are at in their manufacturing transformation journey, and prioritise the improvements they need to make.

“Another prong of our strategy is to build platforms that foster interaction and collaboration within the manufacturing ecosystem, to adopt I4.0 technologies.” said Dr Koh Poh Koon

“We are also developing the Jurong Innovation District (JID) as a dedicated advanced manufacturing campus for different players along the value chain, such as researchers, technology providers and businesses, to work together on new ideas.”

The district will also be used for SMEs to collaborate with MNCs and large local enterprises. Companies in the JID are estimated to create 95,000 new jobs in research and advanced manufacturing activities over the next 20 years

Launch of a new SIMTECH Innovation Factory in Jurong Innovation District

The minister announced the launch of a new SIMTECH Innovation Factory in the JID to build on government efforts and give more local companies a boost in innovation.

The SIMTECH Innovation Factory be a co-working space to help companies ideate and design their own unique products focusing on equipment design, medtech devices, and electromechanical modules.

It will be equipped with the necessary tools for companies to prototype their designs and will have resident design and technology experts to help companies through their innovation journey. This is especially useful for SMEs who do not have the scale or technical capabilities to do this alone.

After successfully designing their own products, companies can then go to one of the two A*STAR model factory facilities for pilot production.

Preparing the workforce in I4.0

The Minister emphasised that in order to fully seize opportunities in I4.0, companies must also train and upskill their workers. From experience in implementing the ITMs, it has shown that industry transformation is more effective and pervasive when there is participation and ownership by workers.

“The Labour Movement has been advocating that for I4.0 to succeed there must be Worker 4.0”

To support the upskilling of the workforce, the government recently launched the SkillsFuture Work-Learn Bootcamp for Engineer 4.0. This is a three-year pilot programme that will train and place up to 200 engineers in areas such as lean manufacturing and Internet of Things. They have also introduced the SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit, with a portion reserved for training and job redesign, to encourage companies to invest in their workers.

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