, Singapore

Singapore to invest $25b for research and innovation ‘til 2025

The government outlined plans to expand funding to ‘key’ sectors to meet future challenges.

Singapore has unveiled its plan to sustain investments of about 1% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), equal to $25b, for research, innovation, and enterprise activities from 2021 – 2025.

Deputy Prime Minister and National Research Foundation (NRF) Chairman Heng Swee Keat announced the plan at the launch of the Research, Innovation, and Enterprise (RIE) 2025 plan.

The plan seeks to build on the progress of previous RIE investments, as the government has identified that science and technology (S&T) will be key to Singapore’s ability to meet future challenges and to respond to shifts in the global economy.

This move was endorsed at the 12th meeting of the Research, Innovation, and Enterprise Council (RIEC)—chaired by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and comprising of cabinet ministers and international leaders in science, technology, and enterprise—with the council noting the role of sustained investments in RIE over the past 30 years in Singapore’s progress and development as a nation.

“Today, our universities, research institutes and academic medical centres are well-regarded internationally for scientific excellence. There is growing vibrancy in innovation and enterprise, with more enterprises partnering public research institutions to generate innovative products, services and solutions,” the press statement read, adding that research and development has been critical in meeting Singapore’s national needs and overcoming challenges, including the recent response to COVID-19.

The plan expands recognized domains to include new areas identified as strategically important. For example, the domain of manufacturing has been expanded to manufacturing, trade, and connectivity to to raise capabilities in the trade and connectivity sectors. This domain will now include aviation, sea transport, logistics, and wholesale trade.

The second domain human health and potential now includes “human potential,” which focuses on enhancing development during pregnancy and early childhood, augmenting learning outcomes, and fostering healthy and meaningful longevity.

Other domains of interest are: urban solutions and sustainability, in which the government seeks to address new challenges in sustainability and resilience, including climate change, decarbonisation, healthy cities, and transformation of our built environment; and lastly, smart nation and digital economy, which aims to develop capabilities to prepare our people for opportunities in the digital space and transform our enterprises.

Investment and support for basic research will also be sustained at about one-third of the overall RIE budget.

The portfolio supporting basic research will be calibrated to increase support for investigator-led grants to encourage bottom-up ideas, and to shift funding from large centres towards medium-sized grants that continue to bring capabilities together with sufficient scale to create impact.

RIE2025 also plans to strengthen inter-disciplinary research needed to address complex challenges such as climate change, and to pursue emerging and novel science.

Meanwhile, the NRF iterated its commitment to building “a robust base of research scientists and engineers, with strong links to the global community, to support the best ground-up ideas” through grants and schemes. Amongst these are the NRF Fellowship and Investigatorship schemes, which aim to support young scientists and established experts, as well as the Returing Singapore Scientist Scheme, wich aims to attract overseas-based Singapore researchers to come back to the country.

RIE2025 will also move to scale up I&E platforms, and support existing platforms to move into adjacent areas with high growth potential; as well as establish new platforms to tap on Singapore’s deep R&D strengths and bridge ecosystem gaps, such as deployimg robotics in the built environment sector.

The country also plans to forge stronger connections with global innovation hubs, such as through the Global Innovation Alliance, to strengthen the access of our enterprises to key technology solutions, talent, and demand markets.

Singapore is also launching the I&E Fellowship Programme (IFP). Already, 11 partners have been engaged for the IFP pilot – this includes SGInnovate, which has launched the Power X (Robotics) programme to train individuals for in-demand robotics engineering and technology translation roles.

Under RIE2025, the full-fledged IFP will provide individuals with mentorship and on-the-job training in tech commercialisation via attachments with more public and private sector I&E platforms, including corporate laboratories, private sector incubators and accelerators.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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