A*Star shake up: Greater clarity on research funding and outcomes

Singapore's largest public sector research agency has abandoned its one-size-fits-all approach in funding and judging research, in efforts to stay competitive in an increasingly cut-throat research industry.

In the biggest shakeup in its 16-year history, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) yesterday announced broad changes to the way the 18 research institutes under its charge will run.

Those who work with industry or provide technologies that support research and development will be guaranteed funding, while those doing purely basic science research will have to work harder to survive.

The announcement comes in the face of intensified competition for grants among scientists.

A*Star chairman Lim Chuan Poh said that scientists will have more clarity on their research funding. A*Star managing director Raj Thampuran added that the changes are to make the agency, which has more than 5,000 employees, more agile in the use of talent and funds.

Currently, all research institutes are given a core budget - or guaranteed funding - in a similar way. Under the new model, which kicks in from the new financial year that starts next month, they will be funded differently, depending on the nature of their activities.

Researchers looking to collaborate with industry will get more guaranteed funding, while those in "knowledge creation", or more upstream research, will need to compete for funding.

Research institutes that provide technologies such as modelling and bioimaging will receive guaranteed core funds.

A*Star will also set clearer outcomes for researchers, said Mr Lim. Those working on basic science research will largely not be expected to secure industry partnerships and there will be less emphasis on publishing in scientific journals for those partnering industry.