President S R Nathan,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very good evening to all of you.
Just two weeks ago, at the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council meeting chaired by the Prime Minister, the Government announced a $16.1 billion national budget for R&D, for 2011 to 2015. This is a 20% increase from the $13.6 billion we allocated for the current five-year period, 2006-2010. Our increased outlay for R&D stands in contrast with trends elsewhere. Fiscal tightness has created greater uncertainty for public R&D spending in many countries. But in Singapore, we are maintaining a steady commitment to R&D because we believe that it is key to transforming our economy and securing our long-term prosperity.
Our aim is to be an innovation-driven and knowledge-based economy. R&D will create the intellectual capital that will give Singapore an edge as lower-cost competitors catch up with us. It will help to upgrade our industries and open up new market opportunities. As global demand shifts towards Asia, our strong public R&D capabilities put us in a good position to capture more corporate R&D investments whose innovations are tailored to the Asian markets.
How much we invest in R&D is important – it signals our commitment and enables us to build on what we have achieved to-date. But more important is what we invest it for and where we invest it. Let me explain our R&D strategies for the next five years.
Key Strategies of RIE2015
First, a greater proportion of our R&D will be focused on economic outcomes. This means working in closer collaboration with industry, creating more intellectual properties (IPs), leading to innovative products and services that can be commercialised. For the next five years, 70% of our $16.1b R&D budget will be geared towards achieving economic outcomes, compared to 65% in the current five-year tranche. Specifically, there will be a new $1.35 billion ‘Industry Alignment Fund’ (IAF) for projects that bring together our public sector R&D performers with industry players, to work on projects with industry relevance. This will in turn facilitate more efficient private sector R&D investment.
Second, we will place greater emphasis on competitive funding, to spur innovation and bring out the best ideas for further support and development. This is timely as our R&D landscape has become increasingly mature, with a firm foundation in several areas of scientific knowledge. For 2011 to 2015, the proportion of R&D funding available on a competitive basis will be higher than in the current five years. But even as we make this shift, we will sustain appropriate levels of assured funding to allow us to support core capabilities.
Third, we will strengthen synergies across our various R&D performers in the A*STAR research institutes, universities, hospitals, CREATE centres, and industry. Through partnership and collaboration across different capabilities and institutions, we will build new horizontal strengths, especially in multidisciplinary areas. Greater funding priority will be given to such multi-disciplinary and collaborative efforts. Collaboration will also be extended across to corporate R&D laboratories, to enhance the commercial value of our public sector IPs.
Fourth, we will invest ahead of industry, to seed the intellectual capital that forms the basis for future innovations. Our scientists need the autonomy to pursue the questions that emerge from their research, to create new knowledge in areas they are passionate about. We will continue to support foundational research in various disciplines, as well as promote peaks of excellence in areas with long-term economic and societal impact. Such R&D may potentially seed the new industries of the future. For 2011 to 2015, 19% of our $16.1 billion budget will be set aside to strengthen our base of knowledge and to enable flexibility to capture new opportunities that may emerge in the course of the five-year period.
Fifth, we will provide stronger support for our scientists to take their ideas from basic research through to commercialisation. For 2011 to 2015, 6% of our $16.1 billion budget will be set aside to support the work of our technology transfer offices, translational and innovation centres, and enterprise incubators and accelerators. At about $1 billion, the level of support is almost a doubling from the previous budget. It will help foster a more conducive environment for our scientists to realise the commercial value of their discoveries – in the form of licenses and start-up companies, and new products and services.
The sixth thrust underpinning our R&D efforts is a continued emphasis on attracting and developing scientific talent from both at home and abroad, to meet the needs of our industry and public sector research institutions. For 2011 to 2015, 5% of our $16.1 billion budget will be set aside for scholarships and programmes to grow our pipeline of local and foreign young scientific talent.
Our Winners Tonight
Money and strategies are one thing. The people who will make it happen are you – our scientists and researchers. Your continuous drive to seek, discover, harness, and translate new knowledge into applications that impact society lies at the heart of our R&D strategies.
Tonight, we gather to honour four individuals and their teams with the nation’s highest scientific awards. Conferred by the President, these awards recognise the contributions of the award winners and their research work.
The role of R&D in supporting our economic transformation is exemplified by Professor Chong Tow Chong, winner of the 2010 President’s Science and Technology Medal. As former Executive Director of A*STAR’s Data Storage Institute (DSI), Prof Chong has been instrumental in supporting the transformation of Singapore’s data storage industry. Desktop drives have become a commodity and production is shifting to lower-cost countries. It has been the cutting-edge expertise of DSI and its close collaboration with companies that have enabled the industry to upgrade itself to manufacture high-end enterprise drives with higher value-added. Recently appointed as Provost of our new Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), Prof Chong will inspire new generations of Singaporeans to pursue industry-oriented research and innovations.
Our President’s Technology Award this year goes to Dr Patrick Lo and his team at A*STAR’s Institute of Microelectronics (IME). They have successfully developed a suite of compact silicon photonic devices that will help transmit data ultra-fast while consuming very little power. Bell Labs, NEC, Fujikura, PhotonIC and Light-wire are among the industry partners that IME is working with to take this innovation forward.
Professor Yoshiaki Ito, winner of the President’s Science Award this year, is one of the world’s three discoverers of the RUNX family of genes, and is currently based in the Cancer Science Institute, one of our Research Centres of Excellence at NUS. Professor Ito has shown that malfunction of a specific RUNX gene, RUNX3, could induce tumours. His discovery has helped to raise Singapore’s international reputation for cancer research, and has the potential to catalyse the development of cancer diagnostics and therapeutics in the future.
The President’s Science Award also goes to Professor Wong Tien Yin. Prof Wong is a clinician-scientist at the Singapore Eye Research Institute and the National University Hospital, but he also has a lab in Fusionopolis. His work with computer scientists and engineering colleagues resulted in a remarkable discovery: that you can detect the level of cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk by capturing and analysing the image of the patient’s retina. This simple non-invasive procedure has influenced clinical practice worldwide, and is undergoing clinical trials for commercialisation.
Let me offer my heartiest congratulations to all recipients of this year’s Awards. You are the pride of the scientific community gathered here tonight, and an inspiration to our young researchers. You have created new knowledge that will benefit our society and transform our economy.
To all our scientists, well done. Your achievements have enabled Singapore to gain an international reputation for R&D within a very short period of time. I wish you continued success in your research endeavours as we work together to scale even greater heights in the years to come.