Each sector can play a role in promoting innovation: Heng Swee Keat

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat (centre) using augmented reality technology to virtually see an oil and gas refinery at the Singtel FutureNow Innovation Centre, on Aug 6, 2018.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat (centre) using augmented reality technology to virtually see an oil and gas refinery at the Singtel FutureNow Innovation Centre, on Aug 6, 2018. ST PHOTO: SUE-ANN TAN

SINGAPORE - Everyone has a role to play in promoting innovation, including the Government, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and educational and research institutions, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Monday (Aug 6).

Large local enterprises can also collaborate with SMEs and educational institutions to help in industry transformation.

Mr Heng made these remarks at the launch of the Singtel FutureNow Innovation Centre in Exeter Road, which aims to help enterprises accelerate their digital transformation to remain competitive and relevant in the digital economy.

It will display various technologies and systems that companies and government agencies can use in various industries.

These include a suite of state-of-the-art technologies such as cloud, software defined networks, data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), cyber security, Internet of Things (IOT), robotics and various 5G possibilities.

"We have brought together a number of industry subject matter experts who are contributing to the various industries' transformation," said Mr Bill Chang, chief executive officer of group enterprise at Singtel.

"Together with the advanced technologies through our various research and development labs, product development and extensive partnership ecosystems, we are bringing innovative and impactful services and solutions to help accelerate enterprises in their digitalisation journeys."

 
 
 

For instance, Singtel has developed a data fusion platform that can show information from agencies, such as traffic conditions, crowd density, security and social media analysis, overlaid on the map of Singapore. This platform can also help various government agencies to work together to solve problems.

Another display is about transforming the retail sector, such that customers can enter unmanned stores by using facial recognition technology. They can then pay for their products by using simple hand gestures at a machine, reducing the need for them to use cash or stand in long queues.

This new centre is in line with the Government's drive to encourage innovation and transformation across industries. In 2016, the Government launched the Industry Transformation Maps to help industries across six key clusters to foster innovation, boost productivity and develop new skills.

"Singtel is putting together its expertise in the telco market, familiarity with Singapore and regional customer bases, and exposure to digital solutions, to partner SMEs to digitalise and innovate. It is a contribution to pervasive innovation and economic transformation," Mr Heng said.

"I believe, especially in this age of rapid technological changes, that innovation is critical to how countries, companies and individuals can continue to create value and benefit."

He said the Government helps by facilitating and creating conditions for firms to innovate and grow. An example of government-led efforts includes directing research funds towards industry-research collaboration.

SMEs can find their own paths to innovation depending on their diverse needs.

"This may be in the form of buying ready solutions off the shelf and then adapting them to the company's needs, collaborating with other companies or organisations to develop new products or services, exploring new markets, and even internal initiatives to encourage more ideas among your staff," Mr Heng said.

Trade associations and chambers can also play a role in aggregating and meeting training needs to build firms' capabilities.

Finally, corporate labs in universities can also strengthen academic and industry partnerships.

"Of the 11 corporate labs today, I'm pleased to note that two of these were by Singtel, in partnership with the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, in the areas of cyber security and artificial intelligence, respectively," Mr Heng said.

The six clusters at the Singtel FutureNow Innovation Centre include trade and connectivity, manufacturing, essential domestic services, modern services, built environment and lifestyle.

An additional exhibit also showcases technologies for the smart home which includes voice-controlled home systems.

Companies and agencies that come to the centre can view the possible technologies that can be used in their industry. They can then work with Singtel in incorporating and customising these innovations for their own needs.