Over the past decades, Singapore has transformed itself from a labour-intensive economy to a knowledge-intensive one.
But it has to continue to innovate to ensure it remains competitive in a fast-changing world, said Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean yesterday evening.
"We are in the space where we have converted money into knowledge, and we are moving into the space where we convert knowledge back to innovation and enterprise," said DPM Teo.
He was speaking at the 40th anniversary celebration of the Imperial College Alumni Association of Singapore at The Fullerton Hotel.
In an hour-long dialogue, DPM Teo, himself an Imperial graduate, told 300 alumni and guests, including some from the college's alumni associations in the Asia-Pacific, that Singapore aspires to be "one of the key nodes in the global network of knowledge and innovation".
To this end, the country is pumping $19 billion into science and technology from 2016 to 2020 through the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 initiative, and an additional $4.5 billion into its Industry Transformation Programme announced in March to help local enterprises grow.
Responding to questions, DPM Teo explained how efforts by both the public and private sectors are already transforming Singaporeans' lives orwill do so in the near future.
For example, ride-hailing apps Grab and Uber are forcing the taxi industry in Singapore to change for the better, and this will help the country move towards a car-lite society, he said.
He also acknowledged that Singapore needs to move faster in implementing a more integrated and widespread e-payment system, explaining that it actually costs more in infrastructure for people to draw cash from ATMs to make payments and for the payee to then deposit the cash back into the bank.
Imperial College president Alice Gast, who attended the event, said she was struck by the pace of change in Singapore.
There are almost 3,000 Imperial alumni living or working in Singapore, and 80 to 100 Singaporeans enrol in the college every year.
Prof Gast highlighted the strong collaboration between Singapore and the college, citing the hundreds of joint papers published annually with institutions here.
Just last week, Nanyang Technological University and Imperial College jointly launched the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine.