A*Star's talent secondment scheme expanded to support local firms in overseas R&D projects

Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong delivers his opening address at SME Day, on Nov 11, 2021. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with research and development (R&D) projects abroad will soon be further supported in their efforts.

It was announced on Thursday (Nov 11) that the Technology for Enterprise Capability Upgrading (T-Up) programme will be enhanced to help defray the costs of seconding research and engineering talents abroad, thereby assisting firms in initiating or resuming overseas R&D projects.

Under the T-Up programme, the Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) seconds its research scientists and engineers to local companies to help them build in-house R&D capabilities and enhance their competitiveness.

From April 1 next year, qualifying costs for the T-Up scheme will be extended to include overseas costs such as living allowances and airfare, in addition to the secondment and manpower costs.

More than 950 research scientists and engineers have been seconded to work with over local 850 firms since the programme was introduced in 2003.

"This will support our SMEs in their overseas R&D projects," said Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong in announcing the enhanced programme at A*Star's SME Day, held at JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach.

The event was held as part of the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology, which ends on Friday (Nov 12).

Professor Tan Sze Wee, A*Star assistant chief executive of enterprise, said that, as Singapore's economy opens up as international borders gradually open, the agency is seeking to help SMEs strengthen their innovation capacity and make R&D even more accessible to local enterprises.

"Along with fellow innovation and enterprise agencies, we look forward to driving more public-private R&D collaborations to help companies improve business processes, innovate and seize new opportunities, and translate those innovations into market-viable products," he said.

Three A*Star research scientists and engineers were conferred the T-Up Excellence Award for their exceptional contributions during their secondment. They helped the firms strengthen R&D capabilities, develop innovative products and achieve significant business outcomes, said Mr Gan.

Among them was Mr Lim Eng Thiam, a senior research engineer at A*Star's Institute for Infocomm Research, who was seconded to local start-up SoundEye from July 2019 to June last year. SoundEye specialises in sound recognition technologies for emergency monitoring, smart building and surveillance.

Mr Lim played a key role in the design and development of a sound recognition platform that has enabled the company to develop and commercialise two new products.

One of them is a non-intrusive emergency monitoring system which can detect abnormal sound and motion and is suitable for use in places like washrooms and bedrooms.

Another three researchers and engineers received the T-Up Emerging Talent Award for having shown great potential in meeting industry needs and having helped local firms grow.

Award recipients pose for a group photo with Mr Gan Kim Yong (fourth from right) during the T-Up Awards Presentation Ceremony at SME Day, on Nov 11, 2021. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Speaking at the event, Mr Gan outlined initiatives that are available to help firms plan their tech needs, advance business interests and facilitate their innovation journey.

He also encouraged firms to consider public-private partnerships to better identify industry needs and contribute to the development of solutions that can achieve economies of scale.

For example, A*Star's Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre has brought more than 80 companies together to develop new technologies and create new solutions in the advanced manufacturing sector.

At the same time, the Government will continue to provide platforms that can help SMEs grow their businesses, the minister said.

Said Mr Gan: "Let us work together to leverage research and technology opportunities to enhance our local companies' products and offerings."

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