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Opening Address By Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister For Finance, At Opening of Singapore Week of Innovation & Technology (SWITCH) – Founding A New World, At Marina Bay Sands

18 Sep 2017



Your Excellency, Mr Bruce Gosper

Australia High Commissioner to Singapore,


Mr Piyush Gupta

National Research Foundation Board member,


Ms Yong Ying-I

Permanent Secretary (National Research and Development),


Ladies and gentlemen,


Good morning.


  1. I’m glad to join you to open the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology, or SWITCH. This is shaping up to be an exciting time in Singapore’s tech calendar. Last year’s inaugural SWITCH sparked many fruitful exchanges and relationships, and I hope we can again have a vibrant, active week of ideas and inspiration with SWITCH 2017.


  1. We are glad to dedicate this week to celebrating, learning and collaborating with everyone here on innovation, as innovation is vital to creating a better future.


  1. You may be aware that we convened a Committee on the Future Economy last year to develop our economic strategy as we enter an increasingly volatile and complex future. Building innovation capability ran strong as a theme through our deliberations and proposals.


  1. Under our Research, Innovation and Enterprise or RIE2020 plan, we have committed to continue to:
    1. Support the best curiosity-driven and use-inspired research;
    2. Build innovation capacity and interconnectivity in both the private and public sectors; as well as
    3. Develop technical talent for industries of the future.


  1. By deepening our capabilities in research, innovation and enterprise, our companies and people can create value in the next wave of technological changes. 


  1. In the course of my involvement in the Committee on the Future Economy and with the National Research Foundation, I have been reflecting on the innovation process, and asking myself whether there is a recipe for successful innovation. It has been a learning journey for me, and there continue to be many areas where I am curious to develop a deeper understanding. 


  1. I’ve come to take the view that innovation is unpredictable – you can never predict exactly when or where the “Eureka!” moment will strike, and you can never quite compose, beforehand, exactly all the elements that will lead to that “Eureka!”.


  1. Instead, there are some critical ingredients, and when they come together, innovation and value arise. 


  1. Of these ingredients, one of the most important is people. Specifically:
    1. People with the vision and passion to create positive change;
    2. People with a deep knowledge of how things work – in their fields of expertise, in the commercial world, and in everyday life;
    3. People with a drive to use their knowledge and technology to enable us to do things in fundamentally different, better ways.


  1. When such people converge over engaging problems, and connect with new technologies and intelligent resources, meaningful solutions can emerge to improve lives.


  1. And that is the value of a week like this one – to bring together people of vision, deep knowledge and drive, from a diversity of backgrounds in the global tech community – from entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, hackers and makers to researchers, commercial bodies, public sector agencies, and students. 


  1. We do this in an atmosphere of shared discovery that showcases emerging fields of technology, like Space Tech and nanotechnology, alongside major innovations in fields like artificial intelligence and mixed reality. 


  1. I hope, in this way, this week can inspire new inter-linkages, fresh insights, and revolutionary ideas for you. 


  1. Beyond people, other factors also come into play. I’m pleased to share with you more about our efforts in Singapore to nurture 3 elements of healthy innovation ecosystems:
    1. Technology transfer;
    2. Smart capital; and,
    3. Technopreneurial talent.


Enabling technology transfer


  1. First, enabling technology transfer. Just as many disruptive innovations today are the result of breakthroughs in data science and computing, scientific research will continue to play a key role in shaping future innovations. The world’s most innovative companies have refined the process of taking innovations through the tech value chain – from the research lab on to the workshop, factory and finally global markets. To enable technology transfer on a macro scale, we will need strong connectivity across the worlds we have brought together here today: the venture and start-up world, and those of research, academia, hackers and developers, corporations and so on.


  1. In this vein, the government will take bold measures to connect publicly-funded R&D to start-ups and enterprises for commercialisation. An enhanced IP framework, the National IP Protocol will be launched to encourage public agencies to work closely with enterprises, who can develop them into products and services that create economic and social value for Singapore.


  1. The IP Protocol will grant public agencies the flexibility to grant exclusive licences, non-exclusive licences, and even assign IP to industry – with the end-goal of facilitating commercialisation. 


  1. We will also continue building the government’s community of IP experts skilled in taking publicly-funded innovations to market.


  1. These efforts will enhance the innovative capacity of our companies, and create more opportunities for public-private partnerships, including research spin-outs, joint labs with industry and industry-academic consortia.


8. Already, public sector research institutes are working more closely with companies to translate research outcomes into solutions that can be readily adopted for use. The National Research Foundation has just awarded grants to 9 public-private cybersecurity research projects.


  1. These research projects will explore such cutting-edge applications as deep learning anti-malware solutions, e-logistics on the blockchain and privacy-preserving technology for data platforms.


  1. Each project is driven by an industry lead in partnership with a public research performer.


  1. Should our cybersecurity researchers arrive at new findings, industry leads, from cybersecurity startups like Attila Cybertech to IT giants like Kaspersky, will stand ready to develop them into game-changing solutions.


  1. With the National IP Protocol and other such measures, we will continue to create a fertile environment for such alliances of industrial acumen and public research expertise, to help enterprises and entrepreneurs bring technologies to market as quickly as possible.


Stimulating smart capital


  1. Another area we are working on is stimulating smart capital, which is important for bringing hard science innovations to market. Because these deeply technical innovations are complex to arrive at, they have longer times to market, and often require substantial follow-on investment, extensive technological expertise and industrial partnerships for successful commercialisation. While large corporations have the means to develop intellectual property, fledgling start-ups and research spinouts require more help. In particular, very early-stage deep tech start-up teams require extensive support to navigate a costly development process and go-to-market strategy.


  1. That is why the National Research Foundation and Temasek are working on new commercial entities to build and invest in deep tech startups arising from research and development conducted in Singapore.


  1. This will complement other government support schemes for start-ups by connecting technical and academic innovators to smart capital.


  1. With access to the expertise and networks offered by these commercial entities, more technopreneurs will be able to build and scale impacful solutions from breakthroughs achieved in research.


  1. Over time, we hope to build a generation of tech companies who will take scientific innovations from lab to market, and from Singapore to the world.


Cultivating technopreneurial talent


  1. Finally, cultivating technopreneurial talent. As I said earlier, innovation is driven by people. Even as we bolster institutional support, we will continue to actively develop technopreneurial talent to drive innovation and enterprise.


  1. Last year, we launched SGInnovate, which helps entrepreneurs to build and scale globally-relevant innovations from Singapore.


  1. SGInnovate is the main organiser for SWITCH 2017 and facilitates programmes like Entrepreneur First Singapore or EF Singapore, a pre-seed programme that works with scientists and engineers, who are aspiring entrepreneurs, to help them start their first tech companies.
    1. In just six months, 11 teams from the first EF Singapore cohort have applied for 9 patents and attracted interest from more than 60 investors.
    2. This is encouraging, and I hope this and other technopreneurial talent development initiatives will continue to bridge the knowledge gap between technical expertise and entrepreneurial practice.


  1. This year, I am happy to announce two initiatives by our tertiary institutions to further cultivate technopreneurial talent.


  1. The first is the National Lean LaunchPad, a national entrepreneurial training programme for researchers adapted from the renowned i-Corps programme by the US National Science Foundation.


  1. Over 10 weeks, research scientists and engineers learn about the technology commercialisation process, including customer discovery and market validation, by directly engaging with potential users and customers. 


  1. These crucial skills in evidence-based validation and business model refinement will give researchers a better chance of developing their innovations into prototypes, real-world products and even companies.


  1. One example is a start-up from NUS’ pilot programme, known as Cardiogenomics, which developed a cardiac risk assessment algorithm to predict coronary artery disease risk.


  1. Through the Lean LaunchPad experience, the team moved out of the lab to conduct interviews with patients, doctors and hospitals to test their business assumptions, leading them to re-define their customer segments and service delivery.


  1. The team has since developed the risk assessment service and test-kit CardioCAD [ pronounced: cardio-caird ], which is being used in some specialist clinics in Singapore.


  1. We look forward to many more success stories from Lean LaunchPad, which rolled out fully across the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, the Singapore Management University and the Singapore University of Technology and Design this August.


  1. Each university will run thematic tracks focusing on specific technology domains, including the life sciences, robotics, physical sciences and water technology.


  1. A total of 22 teams have been selected for the first run, and we all look forward to learning about their good work.


  1. The second initiative is called Pollinate, a collaboration between Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic. Officially launching today at Blk 71 in LaunchPad@one-north, Pollinate is an incubator targeted at startups and campus teams from our polytechnic students and their alumni, who are ready for growth hacking[1] and market adoption.


  1. This collaboration enables polytechnic students and alumni to benefit from incubation, entrepreneurship events, competitions and workshops held on a larger scale.


  1. For incubated start-ups looking to take their product to the next level, the Pollinate network provides access to a pipeline of student, faculty and alumni talent, who will also offer shared services in user analytics and digital marketing, uniquely available at the Pollinate incubator.


  1. For start-ups exploring pathways to commercialisation, the incubator leverages the polytechnics’ extensive industry networks, opening access to co-development opportunities and new markets.


  1. As Singapore moves toward the future economy, it is exciting to see our tertiary institutions also coming up with innovative modes of training and education for the new skills paradigm. We will continue to support and cultivate a generation of inventors, builders and tech visionaries, who will transform the companies of today, and drive those of tomorrow.




  1. Many of you here today have made significant impact in your fields. I am sure many more will play important roles in founding a new world, the theme of this week. The journey will almost certainly not be an easy one, but it is one worth making. There will be many things to learn, many people to convince, many hurdles to overcome. I encourage you to never forget what started you on this journey – a passion for your subject area, a spirit of adventure, a desire to create a better world.


  1. I hope that this week will “SWITCH on” many new connections for you – connections with new partners and supporters, and connections between unexpected fields of endeavour. Our hope is that, coming from a range of backgrounds and expertise areas, you will be inspired and invigorated by one another this week, and jointly reach new insights and ideas about our technological future. 


  1. Thank you.

[1] A term often used in the innovation/tech/startup world to describe the process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most efficient ways to grow a business.