EDB sees driverless cars, mobility as next growth industry for Singapore in 2019

EDB managing director Chng Kai Fong speaks at a panel discussion following EDB's year-in-review press conference on Feb 14, 2019. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - A self-driving car carrying the "Made in Singapore" stamp may have been an unlikely export from the city state decades ago, but this is no longer the case.

The Economic Development Board (EDB) is setting its sights on Singapore taking a leading role in developing and deploying autonomous vehicles and smart mobility systems, riding the crest of Dyson's recent announcement that it will build its first electric vehicle manufacturing plant here.

Technology has opened new possibilities, with industries previously considered unviable in Singapore becoming potential growth areas, said EDB managing director Chng Kai Fong at a year-in-review conference on Thursday (Feb 14).

He also outlined the agency's priorities for 2019, including growing new industry clusters.

There have already been investments in the value chain of mobility, in areas from artificial intelligence to urban research. For example, automotive supplier Continental opened its third research and development building here last year. These contribute to the ecosystem needed to grow new clusters.

EDB gave its forecast on investments as well, noting this remains resilient although global uncertainties may have a potential impact, such as if trade talks between the US and China break down.

In 2019, about $8 billion to $10 billion is expected to flow in, said Mr Chng. This is similar to the amounts forecast for the three years before.

The number of jobs created will likely remain between 16,000 and 18,000 - the same expected range as last year and a few thousand below the figure two years before.

In 2018, Singapore attracted $10.9 billion in fixed asset investment, exceeding the EDB's predictions. Electronics accounted for the largest proportion of the investment, followed by infocommunications and media.

When fully implemented, these projects will create about 17,400 new jobs - which is within the forecast of 16,000 to 18,000 positions.

The industries likely to bring larger numbers of jobs include research and development, as well as engineering and environmental services, according to EDB figures.

The projects are also expected to contribute $13.6 billion in value-add a year, compared with the $17.2 billion for projects committed in 2017.

Calling the 2018 figures testament to Singapore's continued strength as a global business city and manufacturing hub, EDB chairman Beh Swan Gin said: "There are significant uncertainties in the global operating environment and signs of softening in many economies around the world. However, the level of investment commitments in Singapore is likely to remain resilient through 2019."

EDB's forecasts for 2019 come amid expectations that global growth will ease due to dampening global demand and US-China trade tensions.

Manufacturing, which drove investment commitments in 2018, is expected to lose steam this year as well, with global semiconductor demand slowing and strategic competition between the US and China likely to affect investment decisions.

"Against the backdrop of global trade tensions, EDB sees an opportunity for Singapore to become a platform for Asean, where global and regional companies do business," the EDB said.

Apart from stepping up links to Asean, the EDB plans to continue strengthening Singapore's edge in manufacturing by attracting leading companies to invest in advanced manufacturing here. It aims to help Singapore become a regional platform for companies based here to export technologies and services as well.

The EDB also wants the Republic to become a digital hub for non-manufacturing companies and for Singapore to continue its shift towards an innovation-led economy where companies create new products, services and businesses.

Dr Beh said: "EDB will continue to strengthen Singapore's positioning as a key node in Asean, help companies to adopt and innovate with digital technologies and leverage our capabilities to venture into new growth areas that will create good jobs for Singaporeans."

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