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Speech by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Minister for Finance, at the Computer Games, Multimedia & Allied Technology 08 Conference, 10am on 28 April 2008, Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre

28 Apr 2008

Professor Stephen Martin,
Conference Chair,

Mr. Anton Ravindran,
Organising Chair,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good Morning,

2 It is my great pleasure to be here for the launch of Computer Games, Multimedia & Allied Technology 2008.

3 We all know how important this field is turning out to be. Computer games are today are not just fun but a huge site for innovation. They are providing a scaleable environment in which we are able to experiment and test convergent technology.

4 Singapore is placing priority on the field. Our basic approach is to attract and develop a critical mass of expertise and capabilities in Interactive Digital Media (IDM) in Singapore, while strengthening our networks with the leading centres of IDM innovation globally. The strategy involves both upstream and downstream initiatives. Upstream - nurturing talent in IDM and promoting R&D, the latter with funding from the National Research Foundation and competitive funding of projects through a multi-agency programme office, IDM R&D Programme Office (IDMPO) which is hosted by the Media Development Authority (MDA). Downstream - by attracting industry leaders to use Singapore as a base in Asia, and helping to spawn start ups and entrepreneurship in IDM.

5 We are a relatively recent player in IDM innovation. But we are building on good fundamentals, especially in the education system, our openness to talent from all over the world and the presence of a broader eco-system of manufacturing and service industries that can spur demand for IDM applications.

6 It is early days, but there is already good momentum in our IDM efforts since we embarked on a comprehensive national strategy to develop IDM as a sector not long ago.

7 It starts with schools. The Ministry of Education has selected a number of schools for the first phase of the FutureSchools@Singapore project. Two of these are in fact new schools - Beacon Primary School, which had its first batch of students enrolled in Primary One this year - Beacon is already using IDM to nurture curious young minds and help those who have difficulty reading; and the School for Science and Technology which will open its doors in 2010. But besides these Future Schools, we have a wave of innovation in teaching and learning taking place across the school system.

8 The R&D effort is also off to a good start. More than 100 projects initiated by individuals, firms and research institutions have received funding through the IDMPO. Collectively, the projects are committed to deliver some 100 new, innovative patents and products and nurture approximately 900 IDM researchers and engineers.

9 The Singapore universities and most of our other institutions of higher learning (IHLs) are key players in both R&D and education in IDM. They have established research centres as well as courses focusing on Digital Media. 26 of the projects initiated by our IHLs have received IDMPO support and funding and we look forward to more innovative proposals from them.

10 We have also seen encouraging results in our effort to attract globally established research centres, with the creation of the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT (Gamers, Aesthetics, Mechanics, Business, Innovation, Technology) Game Laboratory in Singapore. The Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Automation will be establishing its first ever overseas R&D institute in Singapore. And we are currently in discussion with Japan's Keio University to set up a centre here. We will continue to engage leading institutions from Asia, the USA and Europe to establish R&D operations in Singapore.

11 Home-grown game development studios are also gaining traction internationally. For example, Dropcast developed by Mikoishi, which is Singapore's first Nintendo DS title and Toribash 3.0 by Singapore-based Nabi Studios which was a winner of the PC Format Review Award 2007.

12 Singapore has also seen an influx of international companies such a Lucasfilm, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Southern Star. These companies are actively pursuing business development, R&D and game development as well as many other activities in Singapore.

13 The recent worldwide release of Romance of the Three Kingdoms Online by KOEI Entertainment Singapore illustrates our emerging potential. KOEI was in fact one of the first major global game developers to use Singapore as a test bed to develop new technologies, applications, services, and tools for the region and beyond.

14 A flurry of innovation is also already evident among smaller, new players. To date, 10 incubators have collectively committed to help incubate 450 projects over the next 3 years. Their efforts are expected to provide some 1300 individuals with hands-on experience in running start-ups. They will also help draw talent from a diverse pool of individuals, both locally and from abroad.

15 The IDM Programme office is putting particular focus on what is being referred to as `Co-Space'. Co-Space is expected to define the next generation Web, where physical places, enabled by ubiquitous computing and smart interfaces, co- exist with real-time virtual environments. It seeks to provide users with the ability to process and manipulate information seamlessly between the physical and virtual environments. This interaction between the physical and virtual could pave the way for more immersive and engaging encounters. It will help push the boundaries of IDM to impact areas such as defence, healthcare, heritage and urban redevelopment.

16 I would like to congratulate the Organising Committee for bringing together a range of individuals who are in various ways at the forefront of research and thinking on IDM. It is an excellent platform for game industry learning and networking.

17 Singapore is committed to developing the IDM sector into an engine of economic growth and a source of vibrance in many fields of life, starting with education. Let us innovate relentlessly, and work hand in hand to turn possibilities into reality.