Singapore firms encouraged to invest in R&D to create new value for export

SINGAPORE - Local firms should invest not only in ready-made technology, but in research and development (R&D) to create new value for export, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan on Tuesday.

He flagged the low levels of investment in the built environment sector here, which at 9 per cent of turnover lags other countries such as Australia, Japan and France, where about 12 to 17 per cent of revenue is invested.

"Our low level of investment in technology could hamper both our export potential to the region, and our productivity efforts domestically," said Mr Lee in a speech to 400 construction industry stakeholders at Meinhardt Singapore's 40th anniversary celebration at Shangri-La Hotel on Tuesday evening.

The company is the largest global engineering company in Singapore after it moved its headquarters here from Melbourne in 2010, following a multimillion-dollar management buy-out.

Meinhardt also received the International Headquarters (IHQ) award from the Economic Development Board Tuesday night, following the company's commitment to expand its operations here by establishing two new offices that will focus on smart cities consultancy and project and construction management consultancy.

Mr Omar Shahzad, group chief executive of Meindhardt, said: "Most of the new smart cities are planned in the Asia or Middle East region where Singapore is viewed as an operating example."

"In the market therefore is a real demand for expertise and professionals who are based in Singapore to assist in the planning and design of such cities."

Meinhardt will invest between $8 million to $10 million in the expansions, which will take place within the next three years and create up to 50 new jobs.

Mr Lee agreed that Singapore is well-positioned to ride on the "urbanisation megatrend", citing NEWater and the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system as examples of creative engineering solutions that were developed here.

"We are keen to develop the related industries such as engineering services to serve this exciting growth frontier," said Mr Lee in his speech.

Meinhardt has worked on numerous projects in Singapore, including the Downtown MRT Line, Resorts World Sentosa, and the Marina Bay Financial Centre.