New government strategy will drive food innovation

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat speaks at the Food Industry Asia Food for the Future Summit at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on April 26, 2018.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat speaks at the Food Industry Asia Food for the Future Summit at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on April 26, 2018.PHOTO: TWITTER/FOODINDASIA

SINGAPORE - A new government strategy to drive food innovation and help local firms adapt to industry disruptions will be launched in Singapore, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced on Thursday (April 26).

The initiative, called FoodInnovate, will be led by Enterprise Singapore and involve other government agencies such as the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.

It also plans to tap the expertise of food companies, food science experts and industry associations.

Through its four-pronged strategy, companies will be equipped with food science insight and market knowledge, and also gain access to the physical infrastructure needed to adopt new technologies, Mr Heng said.

The new initiative will also build a base for agri-food start-ups in Singapore, ensure that government regulations support innovation, and create platforms for the "cross-pollination" of ideas in the industry.

"While companies may see the need for change and innovation, we recognise that many of them face common challenges such as high cost, limited access to food technologies and expertise, as well as regulatory hurdles for new food products and ingredients," Mr Heng said.

"FoodInnovate aims to harness the collective capabilities of companies large and small, food science experts, industry associations, market channels and government regulations to drive co-innovation efforts."

Mr Heng made the announcement at the Food Industry Asia Food for the Future Summit held on Thursday at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

The summit brought together big names in the food industry - such as Coca-Cola, Danone and Unilever - to discuss issues affecting the industry's future.

These include the challenge of how producing food for the growing global population strains limited natural resources, and how climate change and increasing urbanisation will impact the industry.

Speaking about the importance of innovation during the conference, Mr Heng recalled how as a young civil servant, local food manufacturers had taken offence when a senior government official referred to them as a "sunset industry".

"They told me: 'There is no sunset industry; only sunset thinking,'" Mr Heng said. "That quote has stayed with me."

Last year, the food manufacturing industry was worth $4.3 billion and contributed to about 1.1 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product. It employed more than 48,000 workers.

"For a country with no extensive land or agricultural resources, this is a commendable base for us to build on and grow," Mr Heng said.

FoodInnovate will work to help local food companies tap the resources and facilities of established corporations, and also focus on food for the elderly.