There's a role for all in promoting new ideas: Heng Swee Keat

He says launch of Singtel innovation centre 'is a contribution to pervasive innovation'

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 yesterday.

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 technologies and systems that companies and government agencies can use.

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

Mr Bill Chang, chief executive officer of group enterprise at Singtel, said: "Together with the advanced technologies through our various research and development labs, product development and extensive partnership ecosystems, we are bringing innovative and impactful service 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 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 and pay for their products by using simple hand gestures at a check-out counter.

  • SIX CLUSTERS OF TECH INNOVATIONS

  • 1. Trade and connectivity

    • Covers sea, land, air transport, logistics and wholesale trade

    • Innovations include delivery drones, platforms to monitor traffic conditions and generate data analytics

    2. Manufacturing

    • Includes energy and chemicals, electronics, marine and offshore industries

    • Features robotics and virtual augmented reality (AR) tools

    3. Essential domestic services

    • Includes healthcare, education and public safety

    • Uses artificial intelligence and cameras that have facial recognition and advanced video analytics features

    4. Modern services

    • Covers financial, professional services and media

    • Innovations include virtual work spaces and intelligent automation

    5. Built environment

    • Includes construction, real estate and environmental services

    • Focuses on urban infrastructure, predictive analysis to ensure critical amenities run smoothly in housing estates

    6. Lifestyle

    • Includes food manufacturing, hotels and retail businesses

    • Transformation includes customers using automated machines in unmanned stores, tourists using AR train maps

    Sue-Ann Tan

The centre is in line with the Government's drive to encourage innovation 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. SMEs can find their own paths to innovation depending on their diverse needs.Corporate labs in universities can also strengthen academic and industry partnerships.

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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2018, with the headline 'There's a role for all in promoting new ideas: Heng'. Print Edition | Subscribe