Whether a firm succeeds or not depends on mindset: Heng Swee Keat

SINGAPORE - There is no sunset industry, only sunset thinking.

This comment from a chief executive of a food company was cited by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat as an example of how success of a firm depends on mindset and how companies should gear up for a more uncertain future.

"Whether a firm or an industry will succeed is not pre-ordained - it depends on our mindset and how we build competitive advantage," said Mr Heng, who was speaking at the Economic Society of Singapore's annual dinner held at Mandarin Orchard on Wednesday (Aug 2) night.

Innovation has become vital to the success of companies, said the minister. Beyond in-house development of new products and services, companies are also setting up corporate venture funds and incubators to work with and invest in promising start-ups.

ST Engineering, for instance, recently launched a corporate venture capital unit and started an open innovation lab called Innosparks.

Beyond firm-specific capabilities, Mr Heng also urged companies to work together with others in their sector to build up industry-wide capabilities.

He cited an example of a company he visited in Switzerland, which was training about 100 students to operate complex machinery even though it needed only 60 new recruits. The remaining 40 would go to its competitors.


"Why would a company train for its competitors? The CEO explained that there would be an industry-wide shortage of talent otherwise - a shortage that would affect them all. It was a lesson in competing and cooperating at the same time."

Industry leaders in Singapore have taken encouraging steps, said the minister.

The TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA), which trains professionals in the infocomm and technology sector, is an example of such an industry-wide effort. Over 10,000 professionals have benefited from TeSA's programmes.