Encouraging local firms to innovate

Mr Lim Chuan Poh, A*Star chairman, giving the welcome address at the inaugural Science and Technology Organisations Summit at The St Regis Singapore on Wednesday. He said that Singapore is doubling down on efforts to build home-grown research-intensi
Mr Lim Chuan Poh, A*Star chairman, giving the welcome address at the inaugural Science and Technology Organisations Summit at The St Regis Singapore on Wednesday. He said that Singapore is doubling down on efforts to build home-grown research-intensive firms that can be global leaders.PHOTO: A*STAR

Singapore's research landscape continues to be dominated by multinational corporations (MNCs) but more needs to be done to encourage local enterprises to invest in technology and innovation.

Mr Lim Chuan Poh, the chairman of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), drove home this point on Wednesday at a summit featuring experts from 10 research-intensive countries.

He added that Singapore is doubling down on efforts to build home-grown research-intensive firms that can be global leaders.

In other small research-intensive economies such as Sweden and Finland, large home-grown companies are the biggest spenders when it comes to business research and development, Mr Lim told the Science and Technology Organisations (STOs) Summit at The St Regis Singapore.

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"These 'domestic MNCs' are both the engines of innovation as well as receptacles of the research and technology outputs in their home countries," he said.

In Sweden, for instance, the top five "domestic MNCs" contributed nearly three-quarters of business expenditure on research and development in 2014.

Here, MNCs continue to dominate research-intensive sectors such as electronics, pharmaceuticals, and biomedical sciences.

Almost 100 companies contributed 80 per cent of Singapore's business expenditure on research and development in 2015, of which only 30 per cent were local enterprises.

"This reflects the state of the technology and innovation adsorptive capacity of the enterprises here," said Mr Lim.

He noted that Singapore has spent significant resources developing universities and public research institutions to catalyse private-sector investments.

However, "while public-sector research has grown in intensity and excellence, we still have a lot of work to do in the enterprise sector, especially among the local enterprises," he added.

DBS group chief information officer David Gledhill told The Straits Times: "There is a need for open collaborations and sharing of best practices among organisations. To build a strong innovation ecosystem here, people must be driven to share experiences and ideas."

In the banking sector, the fast-growing field of fintech is one such opportunity for collaboration, Mr Gledhill added.

The two-day summit was attended by global leaders and executives from 43 STOs worldwide.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2017, with the headline 'Encouraging local firms to innovate'. Print Edition | Subscribe