Singapore – Smart digital innovation through R&D and industry

Singapore has demonstrated an incredible growth story since declaring independence in 1965. Despite its small geographic footprint and lack of natural resources, Singapore’s prosperity continues on its upward trajectory by attracting some of the most sought after organisations to invest in knowledge-based areas and contribute to further developing their future prosperity.

Singapore-vs Australia GDP Since independence, Singapore has constantly adapted its investment strategy to ensure global competitiveness and continued prosperity. For instance, the country moved from labour and skill intensive industries in the early 60s until the end of 70s towards its next wave of growth that focused on capital and technology intensive fields in the 80s and 90s. More recently, the country has pivotted towards a knowledge and digital innovation based economy which started in the early 2000s and still continues today.

Part of Singapore’s success story is due to a series of governmental direct incentives which have maintained focus on building an innovation economy. Some of these incentives included the early 90s National Technology Plan followed by the National Science and Technology Plan. The current plan, the research, innovation and enterprise plan, started to be effective in 2011 and an S$16.1 billion fund was allocated to the development of a knowledge/innovation economy.1

Singapore-s economy progression

Singapore-manufacturingBold innovation moves

More recently the Government has made bold decisions to ensure the country has remains globally competitive. An example of this is manufacturing, which is one of Singapore’s largest sectors, where the Government is investing in the next wave of technology development to remain at the forefront of digital innovation.

The ‘Future of Manufacturing’ is a specific national strategy applying an innovative focus to this sector. In 2013, the Singapore Government announced an investment of $500m over five years to boost the country’s skills in advanced manufacturing with key focus on 3D printing and robotics.2

Some of the areas of 3D printing to be developed include:

  • Laser additive manufacturing
  • Selective laser melting
  • Electron beam melting
  • Polyjet
  • Selective laser sintering
  • Stereolithography

Commercial applications will be for high performance components in aerospace, automotive, oil & gas and marine industries and confirm Singapore as one of the top digital innovation leaders in the world.

STEM fuelling digital innovation

Education is also a priority for the country in building important STEM skills to fuel future digital innovation. In 2012, more than half (52%) of higher education students graduated from STEM related courses. Globally at high school level, Singapore ranks second in Mathematics and third in Science related fields.

Singapore-STEM and other countries-georgia arial

The rich supply of highly educated scientists contributes to placing Singapore at the top of the list of the most attractive business environments and scientific research hubs in the world and attract significant R&D investment from global organisations. In addition, these organisations choose Singapore as a place to do business and research also because of its generous tax incentives. They could receive R&D tax deductions between 100 and 400% – in Australia the equivalent rate is 45%.3

Singapore International R&D Centres

Graph – Singapore vs Australia: World Bank, ‘Data: GDP per capital, PPP (current international $)’, 2013
Graph – Singapore’s Economy: Prime Minister’s Office Singapore, ‘Research , Innovation & Enterprise 2015 – Singapore’s Future’, National Research Foundation, 2010
Graph – Manufacturing: Idem, PwC analysis
Graph – STEM fuelling innovation: Singapore Ministry of Education – Department of Statistics, Education and Literacy, 2013
Table – Innovation: Institute of Chemical of Chemical and Engineering Sciences, ‘Pfizer, GSK, and Siemens form R&D Consortium with A*STAR’s Institute of Chemical & Engineering Sciences’, 20 June 2013;
Nanyang Technological University, ‘NTU and Rolls-Royce in S$75 million tie-up’, 23 July 2013;
FierceBiotech – The Biotech Industry’s Daily Monitor, ‘Merck commits big dollars to Singapore research and manufacturing’, 21 October 2011
1 Prime Minister’s Office Singapore, ‘Research , Innovation & Enterprise 2015 – Singapore’s Future’, National Research Foundation, 2010
2 AsiaOne News, ‘Giving a lift to 3-D printing’, 22 March 2013
3 OECD, ‘Structural Policy Challenges for Southeast Asian Countries: Country Notes – Singapore’, 2013