Singapore to invest $71 million to attract, develop AI tech talent: DPM Heng

DPM Heng Swee Keat speaking at the opening of the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology 2022 on Tuesday. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - The Republic will invest US$50 million (S$71 million) to attract and develop talent in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), as well as open three new centres of innovation.

The new centres will help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) test new ideas in built environment advanced materials, urban agriculture, and beauty and personal care, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.

He was speaking at the opening of the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (Switch) 2022, which will end on Friday. The event at the Resorts World Convention Centre is organised by Enterprise Singapore.

Mr Heng said there were three barriers to innovation: the manpower crunch, technology moving too fast, and slow progress on sustainability.

Singapore aims to double the number of AI apprenticeships in the next five years, he said, adding that a new National Research Foundation Fellowship for AI will also be created to attract top researchers who can in turn draw in and mentor emerging talent.

DPM Heng called for top talent to set up base in Singapore, at a time when global educational systems are struggling to keep pace with demand for tech talent, especially in the frontier areas of innovation. “The traditional feedback loop for developing new skills – from industry to academia to curriculum – and years of full-time learning by students before they graduate, simply cannot cope with the pace of change,” he said.

With technology moving quickly, SMEs can find it difficult to keep pace with and access new technology, DPM Heng noted.

Going online has allowed many SMEs to keep their businesses moving during the pandemic, but to thrive, SMEs need to innovate, so they can develop new products and solutions, he added.

DPM Heng also said that sustainability efforts are moving too slowly, with climate change – and the resultant extreme weather events – presenting a much more urgent crisis. The current energy crisis has also put a halt to the green recovery from Covid-19, he said.

Singapore is putting sustainability back on track by implementing a carbon tax, and is set to mobilise the financing of the green transition.

Sustainability efforts will also be ramped up by finding innovative solutions for climate problems, such as through the national Sustainability Open Innovation Challenge.

The focus of this year’s Sustainability Open Innovation Challenge is making the fashion industry more sustainable, as it is responsible for 10 per cent of annual carbon emissions globally.

Temasek Foundation’s The Liveability Challenge is also partnering the Sustainability Open Innovation Challenge. Over US$2 million will be made available to support the development of innovative solutions.

Said DPM Heng: “We can strengthen the global innovation movement by placing greater emphasis on developing human capital to meet talent shortfalls, and by ensuring that tech adoption is more pervasive, benefitting many more people and adding to the green momentum, as we redouble our efforts to tackle the climate crisis.”

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