More to be done to make R&D pay off: Chun Sing

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, speaking at the Singapore Economic Policy Forum at Mandarin Orchard Singapore yesterday, said he challenged A*Star to seek out 10 large firms, 10 progressive trade associations and chambers, and 10 governme
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, speaking at the Singapore Economic Policy Forum at Mandarin Orchard Singapore yesterday, said he challenged A*Star to seek out 10 large firms, 10 progressive trade associations and chambers, and 10 government agencies to "develop plans that address sector-level needs and opportunities".ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

A*Star working with trade associations to develop specific plans for individual sectors

Businesses must work together with public research institutes to develop products that can compete based on innovation, and not price, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said yesterday.

"This is something that we need to do much better. R&D translation to commercial products cannot be left to chance. It is a concerted effort to have regular dialogues between the commercial arm of economy and the research arm of our society," said Mr Chan.

To this end, he challenged the Government's public research arm, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), to seek out 10 large firms, 10 progressive trade associations and chambers, and 10 government agencies to "develop plans that address sector-level needs and opportunities".

Revealing the new move at the annual Singapore Economic Policy Forum, Mr Chan said these research and development plans are part of a national strategy to address the economic challenges faced by Singapore.

An A*Star spokesman said it is in the process of working with trade associations to develop specific R&D plans for their respective trades. A*Star and Enterprise Singapore have also been identifying areas where local firms can benefit from research collaborations with public institutions. "A*Star is committed to supporting the industry's innovation efforts to remain competitive in the global economy," he said.

In a 47-minute speech yesterday, Mr Chan said Singapore must make use of its domestic and regional advantages to find opportunities for growth. This means leveraging Singapore's connectivity with a fast-growing Asia and its prospects as a regional hub.

He cited British home appliance manufacturer Dyson, which plans to build a new electric-car plant in Singapore by 2020.

"Why did Dyson choose Singapore? It is because of our connectivity, because Dyson requires a global supply chain. Our land and labour cost may not be the cheapest, but our superior connectivity will allow them the opportunities to create a new industry for Singapore," he said.

CONCERTED EFFORT NEEDED

This is something that we need to do much better. R&D translation to commercial products cannot be left to chance. It is a concerted effort to have regular dialogues between the commercial arm of economy and the research arm of our society.

MR CHAN CHUN SING, Minister for Trade and Industry, on translating research and development efforts into innovative commercial products.

Singapore is also working with like-minded countries, as a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), to update international trade rules to keep pace with new ways of doing business.

This is because WTO's current rules are created for a world based on merchandise trade, and do not cater for how data and finance flow in the new economy.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry is working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Communications and Information to develop new "pathfinder rules", which aim to inspire confidence in business innovation.

On talent growth, Mr Chan highlighted moves by the Economic Development Board and Enterprise Singapore to create a global innovation alliance of Singaporean students, entrepreneurs and businesses, as well as a network that includes Singaporean families, and friends and fans of the country.

These alliances and networks would allow Singapore to benefit from global talent and connection.

He said talent should be developed in workplaces as well as schools. "In tomorrow's economy, it depends less on how much we learn, but how fast our people learn, unlearn and relearn," said Mr Chan.

SEE BUSINESS: Countries urged to work together to update WTO rules

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2018, with the headline 'More to be done to make R&D pay off: Chun Sing'. Print Edition | Subscribe