Singapore Govt shifts policies to drive innovation, say panellists

(From left) Straits Times managing editor Fiona Chan, Touche chief executive Sahba Saint-Claire, Yamato Holdings executive director Richard Chua, BeMyGuest chief technology officer Dawid Makowski and Agency for Science, Technology and Research chairm
(From left) Straits Times managing editor Fiona Chan, Touche chief executive Sahba Saint-Claire, Yamato Holdings executive director Richard Chua, BeMyGuest chief technology officer Dawid Makowski and Agency for Science, Technology and Research chairman Lim Chuan Poh at the panel discussion on innovation in Tokyo yesterday.PHOTO: MASASHI NIIZEKI

Governments have not always been seen as promoters of innovation, but they can play a significant role in facilitating "disruptive" enterprises that revolutionise current business models.

They provide a strong intellectual property regime for new inventions, and can even be a key source of demand for cutting-edge technologies such as autonomous vehicles, Mr Lim Chuan Poh, chairman of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, noted at a panel discussion on innovation hosted by The Straits Times at a symposium in Tokyo yesterday.

In the Singapore context, the Government has shifted its policies to encourage a healthier start-up culture, said Mr Sahba Saint-Claire, chief executive of Touche, a local start-up specialising in biometric payments. "When the Government says they want to become an innovation hub, they actually change the regulation to make things happen," he said during the discussion.

Because of factors such as the country's robust intellectual property law regime and its push towards becoming a smart nation, Touche has chosen to manufacture its biometric digital wallet devices in Singapore despite higher production costs. The start-up is now looking to enter the Japanese market with a local partner, as is another home- grown company, BeMyGuest.

Mr Dawid Makowski, chief technology officer of the online travel activities provider, said governments such as those in Singapore and Japan can also boost innovation by providing easy public access to data.

The public sector also plays a role in cultivating the necessary talent to further technological advancements, noted the panellists, who included Mr Richard Chua, executive director of logistics giant Yamato Holdings.

The discussion, moderated by Ms Fiona Chan, managing editor of The Straits Times, is part of the symposium to mark 50 years of Singapore-Japan diplomatic ties.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore Govt shifts policies to drive innovation, say panellists'. Print Edition | Subscribe