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Singapore Expands Support to Local Firms for Overseas R&D Projects

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Singapore’s small and medium-sized firms (SMEs) collaborating on research and development (R&D) initiatives in other countries will soon receive further assistance from the Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*Star). Recently, it was announced that the Technology for Enterprise Capability Upgrading (T-Up) programme would be expanded to help defray the expenses of seconding research and engineering expertise abroad, allowing businesses to start or resume overseas R&D initiatives.

The Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) deploys its research experts and engineers to local enterprises as part of the T-Up programme to help them develop in-house R&D capabilities and boost their competitiveness.

In addition to secondment and manpower expenditures, qualifying charges for the T-Up plan will be expanded beginning April 1 next year to cover abroad costs such as living allowances and travel. Since the programme’s inception in 2003, over 950 research scientists and engineers have been seconded to work with over 850 local businesses. “This would help our SMEs with their overseas R&D initiatives,” said Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong during A*Star’s SME Day where the upgraded programme was announced.

As part of Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology, the event took place. Professor Tan Sze Wee, A*Star assistant chief executive of the enterprise said the agency is seeking to help SMEs increase their innovation capability and make R&D more accessible to local businesses as Singapore’s economy opens up as international borders open up. “Along with fellow innovation and enterprise agencies, we look forward to driving more public-private R&D collaborations to help companies improve business processes, innovate and seize new opportunities, and translate those innovations into market-viable products,” he said.

The T-Up Excellence Award was given to three A*Star research scientists and engineers for their outstanding contributions during their secondment. According to Mr Gan, they assisted the companies in strengthening their R&D capabilities, developing unique products, and achieving major business achievements.

Mr Gan, who spoke at the event, discussed measures that can assist businesses in planning their technology needs, advancing their commercial goals, and facilitating their innovation journey. He also urged businesses to embrace public-private partnerships as a way to better understand industry demands and contribute to the creation of solutions with economies of scale. The Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre, for instance, has brought together more than 80 enterprises to explore new technologies and solutions in the advanced manufacturing sector.

OpenGov Asia reported, even before Covid-19, nations were witnessing a shift in many supply chains, in response to the growing fragmentation of the global system. With the pandemic, countries can expect further reorganisation through reshoring and diversification, to adapt to the rapid advancements in technology and digitalisation.

In this context, having enough engineers and research and development talent will help a nation like Singapore and other neighbouring countries weather the storm whipped by the pandemic. To fill this need, a tech giant officially launched a US$50 million (SG$66 million) research and development centre in Singapore that will drive innovation in computing near where data is located.

The R&D centre, a Global Innovation Hub and one of several in the world, will focus on making advances in digital transformation and experiences. The firm’s investment in the hub, located in International Business Park in Jurong East and Changi Business Park, will also create more than 160 jobs – mostly for Singaporeans – in emerging tech, including for designers, developers, and strategists.

While the tech giant has other innovation hubs globally, the Singapore one is the first outside the United States to have an Experience Innovation Group that does R&D to improve user experiences, including conceptualising and developing futuristic concept products and solutions.

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