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Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Finance, at the Launch of SingTel’s FutureNow Innovation Centre on Monday, 6 August 2018, at Singtel Comcentre

06 Aug 2018

Mr. Simon Israel
Group Chairman of Singtel

Ms. Chua Sock Koong
Group CEO of Singtel

Mr. Bill Chang
Group Enterprise CEO of Singtel

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

A. Introduction

1. Good afternoon. I’m pleased to join all of you today.

2. I am happy to be here as innovation is a topic close to my heart. 

a. To me, innovation is an outcome, a process and a mind-set.

i. As an outcome, it is a new product or service, or just a new way of doing things, that creates new value and makes things better. 

ii. As a process, it comprises experimentation, failure, learning lessons, and re-experimenting – over and over. When something works, it is about turning the results and lessons learnt into something of value. 

iii. As a mind-set, it is about believing that there are better ways of doing something, the readiness to embrace risk, and the resilience to try and try again even when we fail.

b. I believe, especially in this age of rapid technological changes, that innovation is critical to how countries, companies, organisations and individuals can continue to create value and benefit.

3. I’ve emphasised the importance of innovation in all my Budgets. This year, I spoke about pervasive innovation.

a. Beyond the process and mind-set, pervasive innovation is going to require a healthy, vibrant ecosystem enliven with the spirit of collaboration, with each part of the economy playing its part, where its contributions further support innovation in other parts of the system. 

b. For this reason, I am glad to witness the start of Singtel’s FutureNow Innovation Centre.

B. Pervasive Innovation – a collaborative innovation ecosystem 

4. Innovation thrives in an ecosystem, where various entities support and leverage off each other’s strengths.

a. For example, in the Future Economy Council, as we progress in our work on the Industry Transformation Maps, we’ve found value in grouping the sectors into six industry clusters. 

b. It encourages collaboration and partnership across sectors, and allows us to identify cross-cluster synergies, that can improve overall productivity. With rapid digital advancements, this aspect of cross-sector collaboration will be even more important.

5. Each of us plays a different role in promoting innovation in this ecosystem.

a. The Government facilitates and creates conditions for firms to innovate and grow.

i. I have announced various broad-based and targeted measures in recent Budgets to help firms embrace innovation. 

ii. Examples include directing research funds towards industry-research collaboration[1]; the Global Innovation Alliance[2]; the Open Innovation Platform[3]; and the various tax incentives to support firms in their innovation journey[4].

b. There is also our SMEs, who form a large and very diverse part of our economy. They create good jobs and opportunities for our workers, and keep the economy vibrant.

i. Because there are so many different types of SMEs, there can be no one path to innovation that works for all. I would encourage adopting the approach that best suit the SME’s company type and field. 

ii. This may be in the form of buying ready solutions off the shelf and then adapting them to the company’s needs, collaborating with other companies or organisations to develop new products or services, exploring new markets, and even internal initiatives to encourage more ideas amongst staff. 

iii. The key is to keep in mind whether you are continuing to create value for your customers and stakeholders.

iv. Trade associations and chambers can also play a vital role, for example in aggregating and meeting training needs to build firms’ capabilities. 

c. To promote innovation, our educational and research institutions also have a role to play.

i. With the help of the NRF, corporate laboratories in our universities have been set up over the years to strengthen academic and industry partnerships. 

ii. These corporate labs draw on the research capabilities of our universities to translate research outcomes to market.

iii. Of the 11 corporate labs today, I’m pleased to note that two of these were by Singtel, in partnership with NUS and NTU, in the areas of cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, respectively[5].

iv. This issue of cybersecurity was a subject that I just spent time in Parliament, where Minister Gan Kim Yong and Minister Iswaran have spoken a great deal on why everybody needs to play a role in maintaining vigilance, and in maintaining our cybersecurity stance. 

6. In this context of each of us playing a role, Singtel’s initiative to launch the FutureNow Innovation Centre is very encouraging.

a. Singtel is putting together its expertise in the telco market, familiarity with Singapore and regional customer bases, and exposure to digital solutions, to partner SMEs to digitalise and innovate. 

b. It is a contribution to pervasive innovation and economic transformation.

c. I hope that many will find this offering of value, and the FIC will kickstart or boost each of their innovation journeys.

d. I also hope other large local enterprises will consider if there is value for them to collaborate in similar ways with SMEs and educational institutions.

C. Conclusion

7. Congratulations on today’s launch. Here’s wishing Singtel and the FIC success in encouraging innovation and growing our companies’ capabilities. I look forward to touring the centre later.

8. Thank you. 


[1] Announced in Budget 2016, directing up to $4 billion from the total commitment for RIE2020 toward industry-research collaboration
[2] Announced in Budget 2017. Aims to help Singaporean workers gain overseas experience, build international networks and create opportunities to collaborate with innovative overseas counterparts. 
[3] Announced in Budget 2018. Virtual platform that allows problem owners (e.g. SMEs) to collaborate with start-ups/IHLs/MNCs etc. to develop innovative solutions that can address their business challenges and needs. 
[4] Announced in Budget 2018. For example, increased tax deduction for IP registration fees (from 100% to 200%, capped at $100,000 of IP registration fees each year), and increased tax deduction for qualifying expenses incurred on R&D (from 150% to 200%).
[5] The $42.8 million NUS-Singtel Cyber Security R&D laboratory was launched in Oct 2016 by DPM Teo Chee Hean, with the objective of conducting research, developing capabilities and innovative digital solutions to protect individuals, businesses and public agencies in Singapore from a wide range of cyber threats.
The $42.4 million Singtel Cognitive and Artificial Intelligence Lab for Enterprises (SCALE@NTU) was launched in Dec 2017, witnessed by DPM Teo, with the objective of developing applications for use in the areas of public safety, smart urban solutions, transportation, healthcare and manufacturing. The lab aims to accelerate innovation in the fields of AI, advanced data analytics, robotics and smart computing.