Business

More SMEs investing in research & development

R&D investments more than doubles to 7% from 3%


Investments by small and medium- sized enterprises (SMEs) in research and development (R&D) are growing at twice the pace it was in the past decade, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

Speaking at the second Leaders in Science Forum at the Biopolis research hub in Buona Vista, he said R&D investments by SMEs grew 7 per cent yearly from 2010 to 2015.

In the previous five years, the rate was 3 per cent.

Overall, R&D investments by businesses grew 8 per cent yearly from 2010 to 2015, topping $5 billion in 2015.

"This is encouraging. Today, Singapore is regarded well as a vibrant international research hub," Mr Heng said.

He still stressed the need for companies to continue spending resources looking for opportunities outside their sector.

"The real world is messy and does not fit neatly into one specific discipline," he said.

"Often, to innovate, we have to bring together knowledge and insights across different areas, and to keep an open mind about new possibilities."

R&D activities may not have immediate payoffs, but Mr Heng said they spawn new businesses, entrepreneurs and ecosystems, which are key to creating a competitive edge.

Singapore-based Addvalue Technologies, a satellite communications product maker, is among those that boosted R&D spending, having invested some US$3 million (S$4.1 million), or about 20 per cent of its revenue last year, in product R&D.

"We need to expand beyond the traditional shipping and oil and gas sectors for business to grow," said Dr Lim Wei Ming, vice-president of advanced development at Addvalue.

Its R&D efforts allow it to target the smart agriculture space, where its satellite communications products can be deployed in plantations to allow sensors to monitor environmental and soil conditions.

In January last year, the Government renewed its five-year $19 billion research fund to sustain the R&D momentum here.

The sixth Research Innovation and Enterprise road map will see R&D investments in sustainable energy and artificial intelligence, among other areas, through 2020.

And "open innovation" is the way forward, as set out by the Committee on the Future Economy tasked to chart Singapore's blueprint for economic growth.

This means tapping the expertise of overseas entrepreneurs or the many research institution here.

"We must continue to forge closer partnerships and strengthen our innovation ecosystem (to) keep Singapore competitive and relevant to the world," said Mr Heng.

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