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Speech by Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in The Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and National Development, at EY Entrepreneur of The Year Awards Gala 2021 on 22 November 2021, at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre

22 Nov 2021
Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen 


A very warm welcome to all of you.

2. Thank you so much for inviting me to the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Gala. It is a great pleasure to be here with you today.

The Unstoppables 

3. First, a word on the Unstoppables. Let me start by congratulating our seven award recipients. 

a. Through their ambition, foresight, and grit, they have shown us how innovation can make a real difference in our lives. 

i. For example, when COVID-19 struck, the team at MiRXES quickly pivoted from tests for early cancer detection to COVID-19 diagnostic test kits.

ii. Today, testing continues to be a key part of our COVID-19 strategy.

b. Our other four award winners are also great examples of how innovation can unlock new growth opportunities in a post-COVID-world. 

i. From providing an end-to-end supply chain of collectibles, to digitalising insurance, to creating an online automotive marketplace, and developing innovative financing solutions, they have adeptly leveraged technology to provide us with new consumer experiences. 

ii. I wish you all the best as you press ahead. 

4. As we celebrate these seven entrepreneurs, I would also like to commend the many others who have persevered in their entrepreneurship journeys in the face of COVID-19. 

a. Last year, despite experiencing our worst recession since independence, Singapore
saw more than 63,000 new enterprises, the highest number since 2016.

b. We hope to sustain this momentum, as our economy recovers and as confidence improves. 

5. Against this backdrop, the theme of today’s awards - The Unstoppables - is especially resonant. 

a. It captures not only the spirit of the many entrepreneurs and businesses who boldly overcame the odds and seized new opportunities in adversity. 

b. It also reflects the hope that we have for Singapore and Singaporeans, as we forge ahead in a changing world.

Singapore’s innovation journey

6. Over the years, Singapore has made steady progress towards becoming an innovation-driven economy. 

a. We invested heavily in science and tech, and built a rich and diverse research ecosystem. 

b. We strengthened linkages between research, innovation and enterprise. 

c. Even as we upskilled our people, we stayed open to foreign investments, ideas, and talent. 

d. Today, we are one of the top innovation hubs in Asia. 

7. Businesses are key to sharpening our innovation edge. That is why the Government will continue to strongly support businesses across the spectrum to innovate:

a. First, we will facilitate access to capital and make it easier for you to realise your ideas; 

b. Second, we will continue to expand our networks so that you can find partners to share ideas;

c. Third, we will enable you to better leverage intellectual property (IP) for growth. This way, your ideas and innovation are not only protected, but rewarded.

Let me talk about them in turn.    

Realising ideas 

8. First, businesses need capital to execute ideas.  

9. In recent years, venture investments in Singapore have grown significantly. 

a. Singapore drew in S$5.5 billion of capital in 2020 – almost three times what was received five years ago.  

10. We will continue to grow the venture capital space in Singapore. 

a. We do this through schemes like Start-up SG Equity, the Government partners private sector investors to co-invest in promising start-ups. 

b. Earlier this year, we also launched the Corporate Venture Launchpad to support companies looking to invest in innovative ideas. 

i. I am encouraged to see strong interest in corporate ventures that span a diverse range of opportunity areas, from aquaculture to digital farming to supply chain optimisation. 

11. Besides venture capital, companies that are keen to embark on innovation and transformation can also tap on a broad range of alternative financing options. 

a. These include debt financing, such as the Enterprise Financial Scheme Venture Debt, where businesses can borrow up to S$8 million. 

b. The Emerging Technology Programme also helps to fund businesses that are trialling or adopting frontier technology like 5G and artificial intelligence. 

c. All these are in addition to broad based Government grants such as the Enterprise Development Grant and Productivity Solutions Grant. 

Sharing ideas

12. Second, besides having adequate capital, it is also important that businesses and entrepreneurs have the networks to share, test and refine ideas. 

a. The Government will continue to expand the various platforms to connect different stakeholders, both locally and overseas. 

13. Locally, different platforms are available, depending on needs. 

a. For instance, first-time entrepreneurs can enjoy mentorship through the Start-up SG Founder scheme. 

b. SMEs looking to embark on technology innovation can access a network of support through Centres of Innovation that we have set up at various polytechnics and research institutes. 

i. The Centres cover a wide range of sectors, providing a range of support – from consultancy to prototyping of technology projects.

c. Firms that are looking to translate research to impact can tap on translation platforms that bring together key players across industry, academia, and the Government. 

i. For example, the Diagnostics Development Hub brought together various stakeholders involved in the development of diagnostic solutions for diseases, including MiRXES. In total, the platform supported 34 start-ups and enabled the launch of 16 products. 

14. We also have the Global Innovation Alliance (GIA), which connects businesses with overseas partners in major innovation hubs and key demand markets. 

a. Through this, Singapore companies looking to venture overseas can gain valuable perspectives on local market conditions and business management. 

b. To date, we have established GIA in 15 cities, including Beijing, Berlin, Tokyo, and San Francisco. 

Rewarding ideas 

15. Finally, every entrepreneur wants assurance that their ideas and innovations are properly protected and rewarded. We do this by maintaining a robust IP regime.

a. In a knowledge-based and innovation-driven economy, intangible assets (IA) and IP are increasingly important drivers of growth. 

b. We are already seeing this in Singapore. Innovation-driven companies, such as Carro, are among our fastest growing companies. 

16. In April this year, we launched the Singapore Intellectual Property Strategy 2030.

a. One of its key thrusts is to help companies leverage your IA and IP for growth, and maintain your competitive advantage against competitors. 

b. First, we will increase businesses’ access to IA/IP advisory and related services. 

i. We are establishing a new online platform that will connect businesses to the right IA/IP service providers and solutions. 

ii. We are also increasing our touchpoints - through management business guides, training courses, and consultation sessions at our Centres of Innovation and SME Centres. 

c. Second, we will work closely with industry partners to build businesses’ IA/IP awareness and competencies. 

i. One such initiative is the Workforce for IP-Savvy Enterprises (WISE) programme, jointly developed by IPOS and the Singapore Business Federation. 

ii. I am heartened to know that businesses have benefited from these initiatives. 

d. Third, we support businesses in maximising value from IA and IP. We do this by providing a platform for businesses to license and monetise their IA and IP, and increasing transparency and disclosure around these transactions.   

17. As we press ahead in our economic recovery, innovation remains one of the important ways to build resilience for the future. 

18. I therefore urge all companies – big or small – to make use of the resources available to kickstart or continue your innovation journey. 


19. In conclusion, to quote Steve Jobs, “We are here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why else even be here?” I am confident that all of you will be able to keep up the entrepreneurial spirit and persevere on this journey to make an impact. The Government will provide you with the necessary support as you make that journey. 

20. Once again, my heartiest congratulations to the seven award winners tonight. I look forward to many more innovations that will transform our lives in ways that we never thought were possible. Thank you very much. Enjoy your evening.