Singapore will have to develop new competitive advantages as it aspires to be a global node and add value to the global aerospace industry in the next 50 years, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing yesterday.
While the Republic has harnessed opportunities in maintenance, repair and overhaul needs for the aerospace industry thus far, it will need to continue developing strengths in data, finance, regulation and technology to best capture future growth prospects, he said.
Mr Chan was speaking at the sixth edition of the biennial Singapore Aerospace Technology Leadership Forum, which was held at Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore.
"We are cognisant that for a small country, it is not possible for us to be at every part of the global value chain. But we want to be a key node at the critical parts of the global value chain for the aerospace industries, and we want to be able to value-add," he said.
Singapore will need to have the knowledge base to pioneer new methods of production, maintenance and life-cycle management, and that is where the country has opportunities to capture and challenges to overcome, Mr Chan said.
He added that Singapore is well positioned to leverage the increasing demand for air travel among the growing Asian middle class.
The Republic could also seize opportunities to develop itself as a hub to facilitate the sharing of data and information to boost research for production and maintenance activities, he said. But establishing a framework to allow countries to share data in secure and trusted ways with equitable distribution of benefits to all will be a challenge, he acknowledged.
As the aerospace sector seeks to "promote the growth and development of the industry in a sustainable manner", steps could be taken to improve efficiencies of the logistics chain and ground operations.
These could decrease energy consumption and reduce the carbon footprint of the aerospace sector, Mr Chan said.
He acknowledged the industry partnerships with institutes of higher learning here to develop the next generation of professionals.
SIA Engineering and Temasek Polytechnic will groom at least 400 Institute of Technical Education and poly graduates in an aerospace post-diploma programme, he said.
Enhanced efforts by Workforce Singapore will also help more middle-aged workers move into the aerospace industry through professional conversion programmes.
"If we can continue this partnership well, then we will have the substrate for us to have a strong core of aerospace professionals from research and development, to production, maintenance and life-cycle management," he said.
Agency for Science, Technology and Research chief executive officer Frederick Chew told the forum that today's society is privileged to be part of the early stages of a revolution in the aviation industry.
"Today, it's not so hard to imagine unmanned civilian aircraft, maybe 10, 20 years from now.
"Maybe lower-hanging fruit would be... androids being flight stewards on our planes," he said.
Mr Chew noted that engine manufacturers such as Rolls-Royce have been investing heavily in research and development of battery-powered plane engines.
Hybrid engines may be possible in three to five years, while planes on short-haul flights may be battery-powered in 10 to 15 years, he added.
The forum was attended by more than 250 industry leaders.