Aim to make S’pore a digital trust hub wraps up tech week

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Tan Kiat How (left) at the Digital Trust Forum on Friday. PHOTO: SGTECH/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE – The tech community is stepping up its campaign to make Singapore the gold standard when it comes to doing business, conducting politics, banking, shopping or just talking to friends safely and securely in cyberspace.  

A virtual Digital Trust Centre of Excellence that takes a two-pronged view to lead research and share best practices across the 21 economies under the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum was announced by Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Tan Kiat How, at the inaugural Digital Trust Forum on Friday.

Tech trade association SGTech is running the initiative, with the Asian-Oceanian Computing Industry Organisation and Apec Business Advisory Council helping with information on local contexts and regional engagement.

Mr Tan commended SGTech’s effort as “being by the industry, for the industry”, but he also emphasised how greater public-private partnerships are needed to protect Singaporeans from cyber risks.

These range from accountability in blockchain and cloud computing, and security of networks, to dark uses of artificial intelligence.

“Government cannot do this alone,” he said, in a speech to the forum.

SGTech chair Wong Wai Meng said the association is identifying the outcomes it wants out of the new centre’s research effort, while its policy thrust strives to achieve “more interoperability and harmonisation” within the region.

In a recent interview with The Straits Times, Mr Wong said now is the “once-in-a-lifetime chance” for Singapore to become a global leader in digital trust.

Areas such as cyber security and data protection present economic potential, and related jobs could arise from professional and consulting services, standards and audit services, or legal and arbitration services, he added.

SGTech projects that the digital trust industry could become a $4.8 billion market supporting almost 45,000 jobs in Singapore by 2027.

The Digital Trust Forum wrapped up the last day of a hectic Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (Switch) conference, which brought together more than 9,000 participants from start-ups and small firms, investors, companies, government and research bodies to the event at Resorts World Convention Centre.

Over four days, delegates sat through panels of experts, networked, visited trade booths, watched a start-up pitch competition, and consumed large amounts of beverages, acronyms and jargon in various events under the Switch umbrella to discuss technology in health and biomedical sciences, trade and connectivity, and frontier technologies.

A few doors away from where Mr Tan was speaking, Second Minister for Trade and Industry and Manpower Minister Tan See Leng announced at the SME Tech Day that the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) will second five of its researchers to five trade associations in a pilot T-Up (Technology for Enterprise Capability Upgrading) programme in 2023.

Dr Tan, speaking virtually from overseas, said the A*Star researchers will help these associations find their technological gaps, develop a road map, and help make plans to solve industry problems.

More than 1,000 A*Star scientists have been seconded to more than 1,000 companies for research and innovation projects since the launch of T-Up in 2003, the minister added. 

He also commended six A*Star researchers and engineers who were given awards by the agency for their contribution to local businesses, or potential to do so, and launched the T-Up Eagles Award, an accolade for students who shone in their work attachments with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) under the mentorship of A*Star secondees.

Switch 2022, which is now in its 7th edition, is organised by Enterprise Singapore and events firm MP Singapore, and supported by the National Research Foundation.

Switch 2022 highlights

More than 350 speakers and 300 exhibitors were at this year’s conference; here are highlights: 

For the first time, SWITCH featured seven partner events to raise synergies within the innovation ecosystem: Techjam 2022, the Global Green Economy Forum Sustainability Roundtable 2022,FUTR Asia Summit, Echelon 2022, IMPACT+, the SGTech Digital Trust Forum and A*STAR SME Tech Day.

Small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) got three new Centres of Innovation (COI), an initiative started in 2006 by Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG). COIs contributed to an economic value-add of $150 million through working with local SMEs in 2020.

The new COIs aim to start more than 300 projects and support up to 1,500 SMEs to testbed and develop projects. There are now 11 COIs, each with a distinct industry focus.

The Sustainability Open Innovation Challenge to crowdsource solutions to address industry needs threw up 20 challenge statements for solutions in areas including sustainable materials, renewable energy and zero waste. Around $2.8 million is being made available to support the development of creative solutions through this programme, in its fourth edition this year.

EnterpriseSg expanded its Global Innovation Alliance to include Abu Dhabi – its first in the Middle East – and Seoul to help start-ups and SMEs find local partners and penetrate those markets. 

Since 2021, 295 Singapore-based companies have tapped on the network ––now covering 17 cities – to explore overseas expansion. The programmes in Abu Dhabi and Seoul are expected to start next year, with each supporting at least 30 start-ups and tech SMEs to enter their respective markets over the next two years.

An additional US$50 million (S$71 million) was committed to boost Artificial Intelligence (AI) manpower by doubling the number of AI apprenticeships in the next five years. A new National Research Foundation Fellowship for AI to attract top researchers in the field to Singapore was also announced.

After slugging it out among over 3,600 rivals from 153 countries, 50 start-ups from 16 countries made it to the finals of Slingshot 2022 to pitch in front of a live audience and vie for over S$1.2 million in prizes. Singapore start-up Peptobiotics came in first with its synthetic biology alternative to livestock antibiotics. It won $200,000 in grant money and 18 months of rent-free space at JTC Launchpad.

Four unicorns have emerged so far this year compared with 11 in the bumper year of 2021. Venture funding, however, continued at a healthy pace, with 517 deals for the first nine months of this year, up 6 per cent year on year. The funding amount, $11.4 billion, came in just under last year’s $11.6 billion for the same period.

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