PARLIAMENT: Debate on ministries' budgets: Trade and Industry

Suite of measures to foster innovation among local firms

Review of regulations to grow new sectors, more funding for deep-tech start-ups

From building a co-working space to help companies develop prototypes, to reviewing regulations to ensure the growth of emerging sectors is not stifled, the Government is rolling out a suite of measures to foster a spirit of innovation in companies here.

This is important in ensuring Singapore's small and open economy remains nimble and able to respond to changes in global trends, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon yesterday, during the parliamentary debate on his ministry's budget.

Innovation will also gird Singapore's economy for the future, where technological advancements are changing the face of such sectors as advanced manufacturing and agri-food tech.

For advanced manufacturing, a co-working space called the Simtech Innovation Factory will be built in the Jurong Innovation District to help companies brainstorm and design unique products, said Dr Koh.

After successfully designing their products, companies can go to one of the two model factory facilities at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) for pilot production, he added.

"For a start, there will be a focus on equipment design, medtech devices and electro-mechanical modules," he said.

Climate change is another global trend with the potential to affect Singapore, which imports more than 90 per cent of its food. To boost food security, helping farmers harness technology is key.

Said Dr Koh: "The Government must be prepared to relook our rules and regulations as we grow new sectors.

"As with any new sector, there will be a learning curve for both businesses and the regulator. But we must not be afraid to try," he added.

At the upcoming Agri-Food Innovation Park in Sungei Kadut, high-tech farming operators will be able, by the first half of next year, to test-bed and commercialise their technologies.

This "regulatory sandbox" for high-tech farms at the innovation park will allow the Government to review regulations - such as those involving building infrastructure and fire safety - for tenants quickly, Dr Koh added.

More funding will also be available for home-grown, deep-tech start-ups in pharmaceuticals, biotech and medtech, advanced manufacturing and agri-food tech.

To help deep-tech companies in these sectors bring their products to market, the Government will improve the existing Startup SG Equity Scheme, Dr Koh said.

"Such start-ups typically require larger investments and longer gestational periods because of the multiple iterations of prototyping and pilot production needed.

"Not all moonshot projects will succeed. But when they do, they break new ground that gives fertile foundation for future, incremental innovations to succeed," he added.

The Startup SG Equity Scheme encourages public and private co-investment for deep-tech start-ups, which usually take a longer time to commercialise their products.

The Government will add $300 million to the scheme, which will also double the maximum amount each start-up can receive, from $4 million to $8 million, Dr Koh said.

To encourage funds and fund managers to invest a bigger proportion of their funds in Singapore-based start-ups, the Government will also extend the relevant tax incentives by five years.

Dr Koh said: "This also includes enhancements such as expanding the types of investments and incomes incentivised, and streamlining the requirements to invest in Singapore-based enterprises."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2020, with the headline Suite of measures to foster innovation among local firms. Subscribe