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Speech by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, at the Launch of GSK's New Global Headquarters for Asia

11 Mar 2015

Mr Anthony Phillipson, British High Commissioner to the Republic of Singapore

Mr Gerard Cockx, Belgium Ambassador to the Republic of Singapore

Sir Andrew Witty, CEO, GSK

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen


1. I am very pleased to join you this morning to celebrate the launch of GSK’s new Global Headquarters for Asia. It is a significant investment, and more than two years in the making, so this is a significant happening.

a. Today, Singapore is the base for GSK’s state-of-the-art vaccines plant and two global manufacturing and supply sites for small molecule medicines. Its Jurong plant is positioned as GSK’s “Factory of the Future” and main product launch site globally. Collectively, GSK’s manufacturing plants here in Singapore contribute to a majority of GSK’s worldwide pharmaceutical sales.

b. This new Global HQ for Asia is a big step-up in GSK’s presence and Singapore’s role in the pharmaceuticals business. It will be one of three co-global “control towers” alongside the UK and US with the full suite of capabilities and autonomy to make decisions in Asia for Asia.

2. Singapore is home to a vibrant Biomedical Industry and Singapore will continue investing in key initiatives to stay at the forefront.

a. BMS manufacturing now sees output of $21.5 billion a year (2014) and employs 16,800 people.

b. Beyond manufacturing and R&D, we have anchored regional HQs – for 7 of the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies. They bring together a range of commercial functions, and provide diverse career opportunities and pathways for Singaporeans.

c. We are now looking beyond the immediate value-chain activities, to develop leadership in developing regulatory standards and to prototype new business models:

i. In November 2014, a new Centre of Regulatory Excellence (CoRE) was set up at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore (Duke-NUS). It will promote regulatory leadership and policy innovation in regulatory science. The centre will bring together industry players and regulators, as well as build a pipeline of regulatory talent to support Asia’s rapidly-growing healthcare sector.

ii. We have also set up innovation platforms for the industry – to develop, test and scale healthcare-related products and solutions that meet high regulatory standards. Singapore is well-placed for this, as we are among the few countries with the combination of research and engineering expertise, regulatory sophistication and a world-class healthcare system.

3. GSK is a key player in this next phase of development in the industry, through both its manufacturing operations and this new Global HQ. EDB is also working with GSK so that it will be a strong partner for Singapore as we embark on our SkillsFuture journey: to reach the next frontier in our economy, anchored by skills and mastery, and to develop Singaporeans for leadership in various fields.

a. The new Global HQ will eventually house close to 1,000 employees. Many of these jobs involve new regional and global roles – for GSK’s Pharmaceuticals, Established Products, Vaccines, and Consumer Healthcare divisions. They provide a good pathway for Singaporeans.

b. GSK will also be creating its first Global Learning Centre in Singapore to host the various training programmes and allow cross learning between talent from different divisions and regions

4. There are already many examples of Singaporeans developing good careers at GSK. To cite just three:

a. Dr Anna Ng is the Supply Chain Logistics Director for Asia. In her 23 years with GSK, Anna has had the opportunity to take on roles in Quality Assurance, Production, Procurement, and Logistics. She also led the manufacturing operation in Tianjin. Anna feels that her experience so far has given her a lifetime of learning, enabling her to create new solutions for the business.

b. Mr Lim Hock Heng is currently Managing Director & Vice-President of Glaxo Wellcome Manufacturing – GSK’s manufacturing entity in Singapore. He too joined GSK 23 years ago, starting as a Senior Chemical Engineer after having spent seven years in the Petrochemical Industry. Hock Heng is responsible for the two leading manufacturing sites in GSK’s global network.

c. Mr Lam Siew Hong joined GSK with “O” level certificate in 1979. During his 36 years with GSK, he steadily progressed – earning a diploma, moving from being an Operator Technician to a Superintendent today at Jurong, responsible for the manufacture of a number of key GSK drugs. Siew Hong is also a lifelong learner, and himself teaches one of key technical modules in Purified Water and Distributed Control Systems at Jurong.


5. Just as GSK has been pivotal in the development of Singapore’s Biomedical Industry, we are proud that Singapore has played an integral part in GSK’s growth. Let’s keep working together, to bring innovative healthcare products to the market and improve the lives of millions of patients in Asia and around the world.