Debate on ministries' budgets

$300m more being pumped in for R&D in frontier technologies

COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION MINISTER S. ISWARAN.
COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION MINISTER S. ISWARAN.

An additional $300 million will be given by the Government to research and development (R&D) in frontier technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and cyber security, in a continuing effort to ensure "smart" urban mobility and healthcare services can quickly become a reality in Singapore.

This top-up in the service and digital economy sector is necessary because the initial $360 million has been almost fully committed, Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran said in Parliament yesterday.

It brings the R&D fund to $660 million for meeting national needs such as smart urban mobility, healthcare information communications, natural language processing and cyber-security solutions.

The money will come from the $19 billion National Research Foundation's Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 plan, which was announced in 2016.

Explaining the fund injection, Mr Iswaran said: "We must sustain this research and innovation momentum that underpins our digital economy strategies."

Mr Iswaran, who is also Minister-in-charge of Cyber Security, was responding to several MPs, including Mr Cedric Foo (Pioneer), who is chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Communications and Information, and Nominated MP Douglas Foo.

They had asked how the Government plans to help businesses benefit from digital technologies.

Besides developing frontier technology capabilities, Mr Iswaran said the R&D investments have addressed national priorities too. He gave the example of the Government working with academic and industry partners to solve major problems faced in key sectors such as healthcare.

He also said the Government will continue to expand the SMEs Go Digital programme to include AI and cloud-based solutions, and these will be rolled out to every sector by 2020. The programme, announced in 2017, helps small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) transform digitally to stay in business amid technological disruptions.

 
 
 
 

It has so far helped about 4,000 out of 200,000 SMEs in Singapore in basic automation by providing them access to proven digital solutions and consultancy and project management services.

In wrapping up his speech, Mr Iswaran reiterated that the digital economy presents many opportunities, and called for businesses, workers and Singaporeans to seize them, saying the Government cannot do it alone.

"This is not an easy task nor is it the sole responsibility of the Government," he said.

"Ultimately, every business, every worker and every citizen has to step up, overcome the challenges and take ownership of their learning and digital transformation."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2019, with the headline '$300m more being pumped in for R&D in frontier technologies'. Print Edition | Subscribe