S'pore must adapt to global trends to grow economy: PM Lee at opening of Dyson's new HQ

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Technology company Dyson has officially moved into its new global headquarters in Singapore at the historic St James Power Station, with Dyson founder James Dyson and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong opening the premises on Friday (March 25).

SINGAPORE - Dyson will invest $1.5 billion in Singapore in the next four years and expand its R&D team by more than 250 engineers and scientists, the home appliance giant said on Friday (March 25) as it officially moved into its new global headquarters at the historic St James Power Station facility in the HarbourFront area.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said this would open up exciting job opportunities for workers here, and develop new products for the global market.

He noted that as a small country, there are limits to what Singapore can do to influence global forces such as intensifying competition for investments, growing geopolitical tensions and the on-shoring of supply chains.

But it can and must adapt to them to stay competitive and to continue growing its economy, he added.

Singapore will also ensure that such growth is inclusive and benefits all segments of society, Mr Lee pledged.

Addressing an audience including Dyson founder Sir James Dyson, PM Lee said Singapore must remain open and connected to the world, not just in its borders and trade links but also in the character of its people.

"The ethos of our society must remain open - welcoming new ideas and talent, always learning from others, and never becoming resistant to change or complacent about the need to stay ahead," he said.

"This is how we have built Singapore: drawing in the best scientists, designers, and engineers from around the world, embracing the diversity of ideas and cultures that congregate here, and adding our own Singaporean touch to make it work for our context."

This is not easy to sustain in an environment where there is every temptation, especially politically, to raise barriers to the outside world, to non-Singaporeans coming here to work, he noted.

"But if we succumb to the temptation to close our doors, we will surely end up hurting ourselves. Our economy will stagnate, Singaporeans will have fewer rather than more job opportunities, and the country’s long-term prospects will be endangered," he said.

The Republic will also keep at its formula of close collaboration between industry, researchers and government to spur innovation, while it welcomes and develops talent in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics or Stem fields.

PM Lee Hsien Loong (left) and Sir James Dyson at the launch of the company's new global headquarters at St James Power Station, on March 25, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

While these are all important strategies to build a more vibrant and dynamic economy, PM Lee said Singapore must also get its social policies right to continue to prosper.

“Even as we bring in investments and talents to grow Singapore’s economy, we must ensure that this growth is inclusive and lifts everybody up, that Singaporeans across all segments of our society can benefit from the fruits of growth, that those at risk of being left behind are given an extra helping hand, and those who may be displaced or disrupted by technological change are assisted and trained to stay employable and productive,” he said.

He noted that this year’s Budget aims to build a fairer and more inclusive society.

“Because ultimately, everyone must have a stake in Singapore’s growth so that Singaporeans will support keeping our country open, will continue to welcome others who are keen to fit in and play a part in our society, who are able to contribute to our development, and thereby enable us to maintain the virtuous cycle of growth and prosperity that Singaporeans now enjoy.”

Dyson, famed for its bagless vacuum cleaners and bladeless fans, is committing the $1.5 billion to Singapore over the next four years as part of a $4.9 billion global investment programme.

The Singaporean investment includes plans to hire more than 250 engineers and scientists in fields spanning robotics, machine learning, AI, sensing and vision systems and more.

Dyson currently employs over 1,400 people in Singapore, of which 560 are engineers and scientists.

The $1.5 billion will also support ongoing university research programmes to drive technology development.

Dyson is committing " > Dyson is committing $1.5 billion to Singapore over the next four years. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI.5 billion to Singapore over the next four years. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Dyson's new global headquarters at St James Power Station. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Dyson opened a studio at the Nanyang Technological University in 2018 to provide students with the equipment and environment to develop engineering solutions to real-world problems

Dyson's charity, the James Dyson Foundation, also announced this year a $3 million investment to fund multidisciplinary engineering facilities in Singapore universities and a mentorship scheme with Dyson engineers here.

"Companies like Dyson have created many opportunities for Singaporeans, helped to groom local talents, and given their local employees every chance to do well and succeed," said PM Lee.

PM Lee Hsien Loong (centre, right) and Sir James Dyson (centre, left) during a tour of Dyson's new global headquarters at St James Power Station, on March 25, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Singapore serves as a hub for Dyson's research and engineering teams, as well as commercial, advanced manufacturing and supply chain operations.

It is the lead manufacturing site for Dyson Hyperdymium motors, which lie at the heart of most Dyson devices.

PM Lee noted that companies like Dyson are sought after by many economies, and can site themselves anywhere in the world

"They come to Singapore because we offer ease of doing business, political stability, ready access to talent, and the rule of law, amongst other factors - which includes having buildings like St James Power Station," he quipped.

Dyson currently employs over 1,400 people in Singapore, of which 560 are engineers and scientists. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Dyson plans to hire more than 250 engineers and scientists. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Dyson began moving into the 110,000 sq ft national monument - located in the Harbourfront area - late last year.

This was some two years after it abandoned widely-anticipated plans to build an electric car in Singapore.

The company, founded by Mr Dyson, a British inventor and billionaire entrepreneur, has been producing digital motors in Singapore since 2004, and opened its first office with 10 employees here at Science Park in 2007.

Dyson began moving into the 110,000 sq ft national monument located in the Harbourfront area late last year. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

PM Lee reiterated that Singapore's edge over its competitors did not come about by chance, and cannot be taken for granted.

"We must keep working hard to protect them, and strengthen these lasting advantages," he said. "This is all the more crucial because our external environment is becoming enormously more challenging."

The prime minister pointed to intensifying competition around the world as countries look to recover from the pandemic; along with growing geopolitical tensions and the Russian war in Ukraine set to fundamentally strain the multilateral framework of economic cooperation.

"Many countries are already on-shoring supply chains for resilience and national security reasons," said PM Lee. "These are serious threats to Singapore, which has long thrived on globalisation, and a stable, rules-based international order."

He noted that the future for technology companies was to go wherever talent is available and made welcome.

"It is also the future for Singapore - to welcome companies and talent, which can help make us a hub of new ideas and scientific progress," PM Lee said.

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