Temasek to invest $1b a year to fund deep-tech research and innovation

The investment by Temasek will be in addition to Singapore's Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 plan. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - It took more than 20 years before local materials science company NanoFilm, an offshoot of Nanyang Technological University, became listed on the Singapore Exchange.

And it took about the same amount of time for research on bat-borne viruses carried out by Duke-NUS Medical School's Professor Wang Linfa to lay the foundation for the cPass serology test for Covid-19.

These examples show that good, effective research takes time and investment, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat at the RIE (Research, Innovation and Enterprise) Industry Day event at Marina Bay Sands on Friday (Oct 15), where business leaders, academics and prominent researchers were gathered to discuss ideas on research and development.

Giving an update on plans to support research done here, Mr Heng announced that Singapore's investment company, Temasek, will be pumping $1 billion a year into funding the development of deep-tech innovation across a variety of domains.

This includes work in fields such as advanced manufacturing, life sciences and technology associated with food, said Mr Heng, who is also chairman of the National Research Foundation.

"Through these investments, we can strengthen our position in the global technology supply chain. And I hope that Temasek will develop new global champions from these investments in time to come," he said.

"I also welcome investors who are focused on innovation to find opportunities in Singapore, and through Singapore in the region."

The investment by Temasek will be in addition to Singapore's Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 plan, which sets aside $25 billion for the development of such cutting-edge technologies and solutions.

The aim of the plan is to develop the country as a "global-Asia node" for technology, innovation and enterprise, among other things.

Speaking at the opening of the event on Friday, Mr Heng sketched out three ways to ramp up innovation in Singapore.

The first is to make innovation more pervasive by ensuring that the country has a vibrant ecosystem to encourage it. Crowdsourcing solutions to challenges, strengthening relationships with researchers and collaborating with others are among ways to achieve this.

The second is to focus innovation efforts towards areas where the most impact can be made. Mr Heng said Singapore's investment in research is "a small fraction" of what the world is investing and, to make an impact, there is a need to be focused, nimble and action-oriented.

And third, Singapore must be prepared to invest in innovation efforts across different periods, and be patient with research or changes that require more time to be developed.

Mr Heng stressed that the Government will continue to support innovation, including basic research which may take a longer time to develop.

He noted that Singapore is committing one-third of its research and development budget - or $8 billion - to basic research over the next five years.

Likening the process of innovation to a flywheel, a device where the initial turns are the hardest but ease of movement is achieved once there is momentum, Mr Heng called on those involved in research here to keep it up.

"We must maximise the flywheel loop, by innovating in areas where we can make the most impact, which will in turn spur greater innovation," he said.

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