SMEs urged to embrace science, tech to gain edge

They can tap upskilling schemes, tie-ups with public agencies and other firms to boost innovation: Minister

Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng speaking at SME Day at Marina Bay Sands yesterday.
Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng speaking at SME Day at Marina Bay Sands yesterday. PHOTO: AGENCY FOR SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND RESEARCH

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

Speaking at SME Day yesterday, Second Minister for Trade and Industry 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 outbreak.

"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 for 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 that ends tomorrow.

In his speech, Dr Tan reaffirmed the Government's commitment to invest in upskilling the 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 scheme, 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 over 800 local firms since the scheme started in 2003.

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

Among the winners of the Emerging Talent Award was Mr Tnay Guan Leong, a 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 it 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, which helped to increase manpower productivity.

A*Star and the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) also inked a memorandum of understanding yesterday 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 firms provide technical expertise and mentorship to SIT interns during their work-study programme. The scheme was piloted with local fintech STYL Solutions in May.

Professor Tan Sze Wee, A*Star's assistant chief executive of enterprise, said the agency is committed to helping SMEs increase innovation capacity and global competitiveness through several initiatives, such as its operation and technology road-mapping 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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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2020, with the headline SMEs urged to embrace science, tech to gain edge. Subscribe