Public-private partnerships 'key to better research and innovation'

Forging strong partnerships between the public and private sectors is key in bringing research and innovation in Singapore to the next level, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

Such collaborations will allow the industry to work closely with researchers, allowing them to spark new ideas, articulate real-world needs, and come up with solutions to these needs.

Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, was speaking at the inaugural Leaders in Science Forum and one-north Festival at Fusionopolis, where he described research, innovation and enterprise (RIE) as the "cornerstone of Singapore's economy".

He said the Republic has focused on developing capabilities in research and innovation since 1991, which has contributed to a rise in high-tech exports in areas such as aerospace and pharmaceuticals by more than six times to $180 billion last year. "RIE will continue to play an important role as we tap scientific advances and technological breakthroughs, develop new business models and seize opportunities in new markets," Mr Teo said.

While he noted that Singapore is in a good position to tap opportunities overseas, he said it needs to "develop stronger synergies and partnerships in the RIE ecosystem to help anchor Singapore as a science and innovation hub".

Such partnerships include those between the public and private sectors, such as the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre, which develops technologies that take apart products that are not functioning and rebuild and refurbish them to a usable state.

Other kinds of partnerships go across domains, which lead to new products and markets, said Mr Teo. An example is the Internet of Things, which converges physical and digital domains, giving rise to door locks, for instance, that are accessed via smartphones. Partnerships are also forged across borders, such as the Singapore-Stanford Biodesign, which aims to groom medical technology innovators.

Yesterday, a panel of mainly academics also discussed how Singapore can become a smart nation.

One panellist, Professor Freddy Boey, deputy president and provost at Nanyang Technological University, said the way students are taught can be transformed by technology. "Technology today can bring a kind of learning experience never before experienced... and now is the opportunity for us to increase the efficiency of learning, using technology."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2016, with the headline 'Public-private partnerships 'key to better research and innovation''. Print Edition | Subscribe