SFF x Switch 2020

SMEs can tap talent upskilling schemes, partnerships to boost innovation journeys: Tan See Leng

Dr Tan See Leng urged local enterprises to embrace science and technology as a key competitive advantage in the global economy. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore can tap Government talent upskilling schemes to accelerate their innovation journeys, and leverage partnerships with public agencies and other companies to co-develop technologies for their business needs.

Speaking at SME Day on Wednesday (Dec 9), Second Minister for Trade and Industry Dr Tan See Leng urged local enterprises to embrace science and technology as a key competitive advantage in the global economy which has changed fundamentally amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"To sail forward amidst the winds of change, SMEs must adapt, pivot and transform to thrive in the new environment," he said at the event which brings together technology and solution providers from the public and private sectors.

SME Day, organised by the Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) with support from Enterprise Singapore, is held in conjunction with the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology, a five-day hybrid event which ends on Friday.

In his speech, Dr Tan reaffirmed the Government's commitment to invest in upskilling Singapore's workforce and building a critical mass of research and development (R&D) talent to meet industries' demands.

He also described initiatives businesses can tap, such as the Technology for Enterprise Capability Upgrading (T-Up) programme to access R&D talent.

Under the programme, A*Star seconds research scientists and engineers to local companies to help them build in-house R&D capabilities and enhance their competitiveness.

More than 900 scientists and engineers have been seconded to work with more than 800 local firms since the scheme started in 2003.

On Wednesday, A*Star announced that three researchers were conferred the T-Up Excellence Awards for their exceptional contributions to local companies this year, while another three were given the T-Up Emerging Talent Awards for their great potential to meet industry needs and help local enterprises grow.

Among the winners of the emerging talent award was Mr Tnay Guan Leong, senior research engineer at A*Star's Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology.

During the six months he was seconded to aerospace engineering firm Fidel Engineering and Trading, Mr Tnay helped the firm build up new machining capabilities to accelerate production of complex marine and aerospace components.

He also trained the firm's staff on machining theories and 3D computer-aided design and manufacturing software.

This helped to increase manpower productivity, he said.

A*Star and the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) also inked a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday to establish tripartite relationships with local enterprises to develop an innovation and enterprise talent pipeline for the industry and enhance transfer of technological know-how.

The partnership will see A*Star researchers on secondment to companies provide technical expertise and mentorship to SIT interns during their work-study programme.

The programme was piloted with local fintech firm STYL Solutions in May 2020.

Professor Tan Sze Wee, A*Star assistant chief executive of enterprise, said that the agency is committed to helping local SMEs increase their innovation capacity and global competitiveness through several initiatives, such as its operation and technology roadmapping programme.

"In this current climate of economic disruption, such collaborations are even more crucial to help companies identify technology and skill gaps, as well as enable them to pivot to new markets or explore innovation of new products and services," he said.

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