Innovation is key to sustaining growth, having competitive advantage: Minister Iswaran

Second Minister for Trade and Industry and Home Affairs S. Iswaran speaking at the annual SID Directors' Conference at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Sept 16, 2015.
Second Minister for Trade and Industry and Home Affairs S. Iswaran speaking at the annual SID Directors' Conference at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Sept 16, 2015.PHOTO: SID

SINGAPORE - Developing and sustaining innovative capacity is an integral function of national and corporate leaders, Second Minister for Trade and Industry Mr S Iswaran said on Wednesday, stressing that it will provide a competitive advantage to the 21st century economy.

"Innovation is the key to sustaining growth, whether in a country or a company," Mr Iswaran said at the annual SID Directors' Conference, which was attended by as many as 800directors and executives at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

"For countries, it is key to ensuring the long-term competitiveness of our economy, thereby creating good jobs and opportunities for its citizens and businesses," said Mr Iswaran, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

He noted that Singapore's development in the past 50 years has been underpinned by its capacity to innovate and "an indomitable spirit to make the seemingly impossible possible, be it the development of the Marina Bay precinct or the F1 night race that takes place within it".

"Companies too must deal with competition from new products, services and business models that emerge with new technologies," he said.

The government has taken a comprehensive approach to building strong research capabilities, especially in the public sector, committing S$16.1 billion for research, innovation and enterprise since 2011. The investment was maintained even during the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, Mr Iswaran pointed out. 

He said the Government is also partnering with companies to develop and adopt new technologies "so that they can become more productive and competitive", while providing them with infrastructure and institutional support. 

But to successfully create value for businesses and the economy, company directors and leaders must at the same time drive strategic innovation, said Mr Iswaran. 

"This means embracing and nurturing a culture of innovation ... matched by action and resources - leadership and organisational structures that encourage and reward innovative behaviours from within, and attract innovative talent from without," he said.

This was the sixth edition of the conference which was organised by the Singapore Institute of Directors.

tsjwoo@sph.com.sg