Second Reading Speech by Mr Raymond Lim, Second Minister for Finance and Foreign Affairs on the National Research Fund Bill 2006 at The Parliament, 3 Apr 200603 Apr 2006
Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time".
2. During the National Day Rally last year, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would be stepping up investments in R&D to strengthen our intellectual and knowledge base. More than $13 billion has been earmarked for R&D support through various agencies over the next five years.
3. The Prime Minister also announced in his Budget Statement for FY2006 the establishment of the National Research Fund under the Prime Minister's Office. The Government expects to inject $5 billion into the Fund over the next 5 years, starting with $500 million in this financial year. This Bill provides for the establishment of the Fund, the National Research Foundation Board to manage and administer the Fund, and the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council to guide and advise the Government on all aspects of R&D activities and innovation in Singapore.
4. The focus of the National Research Foundation would be on "R&D that matters" and the ultimate success would be seeding new and innovative enterprises and industries for Singapore's economic benefits. Encouraging R&D collaborations between private and public sector is one way to tap on the knowledge created in the universities by the commercial sector. We can also rely on companies to decide where the most commercial potential lie, and by investing in the relevant technologies validate that the research money is well spent.
5. Another way of validating our research efforts is through indicators. Today, we use input indicators which are shown to be closely related to the level of innovation. Looking at the experience of other countries, it will be a challenge to select good outcome indicators. But the National Research Foundation will actively study this and come up with good indicators for adoption.
6. I shall now touch on the specifics of the National Research Fund. Setting up the Fund as a dedicated statutory fund facilitates the funding of R&D projects on a sustained basis, without subjecting it to the vagaries of year to year budgetary pressures and any possible breaks of funding in a year where there is a change of Government. Many R&D projects will require multi-year commitments, so that the assurance of continuous funding is critical.
Main Provisions in the Bill
7. Sir, I shall now highlight the main features of the Bill. Part I of the Bill defines the scope of research and development, and its related activities. These definitions are consistent with widely accepted international norms as to what R&D means, and are in line with the OECD definition.
8 Part II of the Bill establishes the National Research Fund as a Government fund, and sets out the purposes for which moneys in the Fund may be used. The Fund's objects comprises four main thrusts:
- First, encouraging the development in Singapore of innovative products, processes and services;
- Second, increasing investment by the public and private sector in Singapore in research and development activities that will make Singapore more internationally competitive;
- Third, promoting the technological advancement of the public and private sector in Singapore through a focus on research, development and innovation; and
- Fourth, creating an environment that is conducive to increased commercialisation of new processes and product technologies.
9. This Bill also sets out the sources and permitted uses of the moneys in the Fund. Funding can come from private and public donations, as well as contributions from the Consolidated Fund. It also envisages income from the sale of any property produced, or from dealing with patents or other intellectual property rights in respect of inventions made, in the course of any research and development activity paid for with money from the Fund.
10. Part III sets out how the Fund is to be administered. It entrusts responsibility for the administration of the Fund on the National Research Foundation Board. It also provides for the establishment of the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council (RIEC), whose main function is to oversee the promotion of all aspects of research and development activities and innovation in Singapore.
11. Part IV of the Bill contains several general provisions ranging from regulation-making to the proper conduct of officers exercising functions under the Bill.
12. The Bill also provides for consequential amendments to the Agency for Science and Technology Research (A*Star) Act, and the Singapore Productivity and Innovation Board (SPRING) Act. These are set out in the Schedule. At the time A*Star and SPRING were conceived, there was no national body like the RIEC to make high level decisions on research, innovation and enterprise for the whole of Government. Their respective Acts had given A*Star and SPRING coordinating functions over scientific research and innovation at a national level. The consequential amendments in the Bill will ensure that both A*Star and SPRING must now have regard to the policies and directions of the RIEC when carrying out their respective statutory functions.
13. Sir, the establishment of the National Research Fund, the National Research Foundation Board, and the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council, will set the stage for accelerating the build up of an excellent R&D community and a vibrant and prolific innovation culture in Singapore.
14. Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move.