For the first 25 years after independence, research and development (R&D) was not a key concern in Singapore, though maths, science and technology were important parts of the school curriculum right from the start.
The next 25 years, however, saw "a quantum jump" in research investments and achievements here, according to a new book launched yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.
Titled The Singapore Research Story, the book is part of a series by World Scientific Publishing to commemorate the country's 50 years of nation-building.
Investments in R&D began in a big way in the mid-1980s with the expansion of Singapore's universities and the creation of research institutes here, said Mr Teo, who chairs the National Research Foundation (NRF). These have paid off, he said, with researchers here now collaborating to "produce best-in-class research".
The Republic is known these days for water research, with more than 180 water companies and 26 research centres. It is also a leader in gastric cancer research, pioneering new surgical techniques, for instance.
And Singapore will press on to strengthen its R&D capabilities by grooming researchers, scientists and engineers who can develop solutions to global problems.
Mr Teo said the Government is investing in R&D to secure the country's future, by raising productivity and catalysing new areas of growth. This will create good jobs and more opportunities for Singaporeans.
The 302-page book, written and edited over 11/2 years, also offers nuggets on some notable Singapore innovations. They include the now ubiquitous thumb drive, which Singapore firm Trek2000 launched in 2000.
One of the book's editors, NRF chief Low Teck Seng, said: "As we move into this five years, which is the starting point of our next 25 years, clearly the drive must be to see how we capture value from the investments we have made in research and technology in the last 25 years."
Professor Hang Chang Chieh of the National University of Singapore, also an editor of the book, said the next chapter is to innovate and promote entrepreneurship and would require a "greater sustained national effort".
"But as in the first lap of developing research from scratch, Singapore has the confidence to build the requisite skills and capacity for this new phase of knowledge-based economic development," he said.
- The book can be bought at major bookstores for $34 (paperback) and $62 (hard cover).