Public-private partnerships to spur local manufacturing

Staff working at Feinmetall Singapore.
Staff working at Feinmetall Singapore. PHOTO: ST FILE

Research in the manufacturing industry was a bright spot last year, with more than half of the projects undertaken by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) related to the sector.

The agency said these opportunities for local companies to grow through research and development (R&D) have helped to boost Singapore's global competitiveness as a manufacturing hub.

Last year, A*Star worked with various industries on more than 1,700 projects.

It also licensed more than 200 technologies to companies, of which 60 per cent were in the manufacturing industry.

Over the same period, the agency's industry partners spent more than $220 million on joint R&D projects.

WIN-WIN PARTNERSHIP

The agency has helped me to think out of the box and tap technologies that I never knew I needed or wanted.

MR SAM CHEE WAH, general manager of SME Feinmetall Singapore, on how partnering A*Star has helped his business.

To further help companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), get acquainted with advanced manufacturing processes, A*Star will be setting up two model factories at its Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre and Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology by the end of the year.

In these factories, companies will be able to try out and even improve processes such as robotics and information technology to increase efficiency and productivity.

The agency also has schemes that provide companies with access to A*Star's advanced equipment and expertise, before they invest in expensive equipment.

One such firm is CKE Manufacturing. Mr Kwan Li Feng, its enterprise development manager, said: "We have had constant exposure to new technologies and trends which allow us to plan ahead and take small steps before adopting the various technologies."

Mr Sam Chee Wah, general manager of SME Feinmetall Singapore, said: "The agency has helped me to think out of the box and tap technologies that I never knew I needed or wanted."

More companies can look forward to enrolling in public-private partnerships in the coming years.

For example, A*Star's Operation and Technology Roadmapping programme, which has helped 240 SMEs plan their business strategies in manpower and technology, aims to help 400 more companies over the next four years.

Mr Steven Koh, executive director of the Singapore Precision Engineering and Technology Association, said the constant threat of disruptive technology means that SMEs must transform and embrace technological innovation to be competitive.

A*Star chairman Lim Chuan Poh said: "We should always ask ourselves: Are there new sectors that we can move into, are there new areas that we can generate activities?

"It may not be in the next one year, it could be the next three years, it could even be in the next 10 years. And this is where, as a research and innovation organisation, we always have to be a step ahead."

Correction note: In our earlier story, we said that the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) spent more than $220 million on industry research and development (R&D) in 2016. The agency clarified that the $220 million was spent by its industry partners in joint R&D projects.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2017, with the headline 'Public-private partnerships to spur local manufacturing'. Print Edition | Subscribe