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Strengthening Digital Capabilities for Innovation in Singapore

Amid Singapore’s first priority to strengthen its digital capabilities, about S$200 million will be set aside over the next few years to enhance schemes that build such capabilities among firms and workers. This focus comes as Singapore has a window of opportunity over the next few years to establish leading positions in key market segments.

Singapore will accelerate investments in new capabilities to power the next stage of growth. Singapore is one of the most connected cities in the world, and among the first to roll out a 5G standalone network. The country will invest further to meet its future needs. Singapore will upgrade its broadband infrastructure to increase broadband access speeds by around ten times over the next few years.

The government will also invest in future technologies like 6G, to ride the next communications and connectivity wave. The use cases for such high speeds are still nascent, but there are many new possibilities for augmented and virtual reality tools, limited only by our imagination.

The S$200 million sums will go partly towards enhancing initiatives such as the Advanced Digital Solutions scheme, which helps firms adopt cutting-edge digital solutions such as in robotics. It will also go towards expanding the Grow Digital scheme, which helps businesses access overseas markets digitally. This will come on top of infrastructure investments in broadband infrastructure and future technologies such as 6G.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong also stressed the importance of research and development in innovation, but Singapore’s total business expenditure on R&D lags other economies. He also noted that most of this R&D is currently driven by multi-national companies. Local enterprises, which comprise about 80 per cent of all firms, account for only about a quarter of total business R&D expenditure.

To help local firms undertake R&D, the capacity of centres that provide research and innovation support to Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) will also be increased. There are currently more than 80 such centres across polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education, which work closely with SMEs to undertake industry projects – often leading to innovations.

To further support such collaborations, these centres’ capacities will be increased such that they will be able to undertake close to 2,000 innovation projects across five pilot sectors over the next five years. These sectors are: Agri-tech, construction, food manufacturing, precision engineering and retail. This amounts to an eight-fold increase in the number of innovation projects undertaken in these sectors.

For the broad base of SMEs, Mr Wong said the priority is to raise their productivity. These firms currently make use of the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) to adopt digital and automation solutions. To push for a greater take up of productivity solutions by SMEs, S$600 million will be set aside to expand the range of solutions available under the PSG. In addition, a new initiative – Singapore Global Enterprises – will give larger local enterprises more customised assistance to scale up in overseas markets.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, The Digital Government Exchange (DGX) allows senior leaders from digital governments to discuss relevant issues related to digitalisation. Organised and hosted by the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group Singapore, DGX is a one-of-its-kind international platform that has developed a community of like-minded leaders, facilitating information exchange, sharing of experiences, mutual learning, and exploration of potential areas for international collaboration and cooperation.

The platform also features technical Working Groups (WGs) where countries and cities deep dive into specific subject matters pertinent to governments’ drive for digitalisation. Designed with the intent of providing an open conversation yearly, the DGX WGs bring together international experts in their respective fields to conduct in-depth analysis. The 2021 edition saw representatives share experiences and opportunities on the topics of Cloud, Digital identity, Data governance, and Digital maturity.

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