Investment in science vital to spur growth: Gan

He says S'pore must continue to nurture talent, support research, stay open to ideas

Continued investment in science and innovation, as well as growing a pool of talented scientists, will enable Singapore's next stage of economic growth beyond Covid-19, said Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong yesterday.

"To develop a globally competitive R&D (research and development) talent pool, we must continue to build and nurture an agile local talent base, support research work on challenging problems of global importance, and remain open to international talent and ideas," he said.

Mr Gan was speaking at this year's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) scholarship award ceremony, which was held online.

A*Star is commemorating its 30th anniversary, and Mr Gan noted that the agency is focusing on developing a talent pool that can bolster the Republic's food security through alternative foods.

He also highlighted the innovation and research of A*Star scientists in combating the pandemic.

"Our strong capabilities in biomedical sciences and engineering enabled the speedy development of innovative solutions to support our fight against Covid-19."

One innovation is cPass, a test kit used to detect antibodies that defend cells from viruses. It was the first Covid-19 antibody test kit to get the United States Food and Drug Administration's approval.

A*Star's bioinformatics team also helped to curate and analyse the Sars-CoV-2 genome sequences shared on global data-sharing platform Gisaid.

"The platform (served) as the primary source of Covid-19 genomic data that has contributed to the rapid development of diagnostic kits and vaccines," said Mr Gan.

In view of the scholarships' 20th year, he also acknowledged veteran scholars who have become leaders in their field.

One of them is ophthalmologist Su Xinyi, who developed a biodegradable thermogel that can replace the natural fluid in patients' eyeballs after eye surgery.

Another veteran scholar is Dr Gurpreet Singh, founder of an A*Star spin-off company that has developed a wearable device able to monitor patients' vitals using artificial intelligence analytics. The device enables healthcare workers to monitor patients' health remotely.

Mr Gan said that the scholarships will nurture scientists "who will contribute to fields such as artificial intelligence and urban and green technology, which have highly relevant applications for industries of the future".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2021, with the headline 'Investment in science vital to spur growth: Gan'. Subscribe