- On April 27, 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
Mr Patrick Daniel, Editor-in-Chief, Singapore Press Holdings
Mr Herbert Vongpusanachai, Managing Director, DHL Express Singapore
Mr Stephen Lee, Chairman, Singapore Business Awards Judging Panel
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very good evening
It is a pleasure to be here at the 30th Singapore Business Awards ceremony. The Awards recognise exceptional individuals and enterprises that have displayed visionary drive and enterprising spirit, and chalked up outstanding performance in growing their businesses.
Charting Future Growth
This year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s independence. As a country and as an economy, we have come a long way since 1965. Then, we were a small, post-colonial city state, with no hinterland, and engulfed by the uncertainties of separation. Fifty years on, Singapore is today a metropolis. Our people enjoy one of the highest standards of living in Asia. Singaporeans are more highly educated, and enjoy access to opportunities that our forefathers could never dream of.
The next phase of our growth must strengthen Singapore as a sustainable innovation-driven economy. We must continue to develop our existing sectors and uplift their productivity. At the same time, we must pursue new growth opportunities. Singapore’s unique portfolio of industries and location as a gateway to Asian and global markets, positions us well to capitalise on growth clusters to lead this next phase of economic growth. These clusters span manufacturing and services, such as Advanced Manufacturing, Applied Health Sciences, Smart and Sustainable Urban Solutions, Logistics and Aerospace, and Asian and Global Financial Services.
For example, in manufacturing, we will build on strengths such as deep capabilities in electrical, mechanical and process engineering which support a diverse portfolio of industries. This clustering provides unique opportunities for collaboration and innovation. Under the Future of Manufacturing initiative, EDB will encourage companies to undertake R&D and adopt new technologies in areas such as Additive Manufacturing, Robotics and Digital Manufacturing in order to develop Singapore into a Global Lead Manufacturing Hub.
To position ourselves to tap the opportunities in advanced manufacturing and other growth clusters, we will need to ensure that our businesses have the capabilities to compete and thrive in the global economy, and that Singaporeans are equipped with the skills to contribute and benefit from the good jobs which will be created.
Helping our companies tap innovation and restructure
We have made some headway in our economic restructuring journey. This has been accomplished as businesses optimised their processes and improved operational efficiencies. Over the last 5 years, our export-oriented sectors have done well, with annual productivity growth of more than 5 per cent. Our domestic-facing sectors have however done less well, with productivity growth at less than 1 per cent. Under the National Productivity Council (NPC), we will continue to focus on helping our enterprises, big and small, transform to higher productivity.
Budget 2015 emphasised innovation as a key strategy to help our enterprises achieve productivity-driven growth, strengthen their value proposition and to differentiate themselves from the competition. The measures in Budget 2015 build on the groundwork which has been laid by agencies such as A*STAR and SPRING, in helping our enterprises leverage technology and innovation to enhance competitiveness and drive top-line growth.
To help our companies tap innovation, a range of government assistance schemes are available. For companies just starting on innovation, SPRING offers the Innovation and Capability Voucher (ICV), which supports SMEs in the development and implementation of simple solutions to improve business efficiency and productivity. Take-up has been strong, with SPRING issuing over 9,000 ICVs last year. Under the Technology Adoption Scheme (TAP), A*STAR has put in place a team of intermediaries to match SMEs with ready technology solutions to improve productivity. We have seen encouraging progress. Since its launch in July 2013, more than 4,000 companies have been engaged under this programme, with 1,200 technology adoptions by companies achieving at least a 20% productivity improvement.
To further help our enterprises innovate as part of restructuring, SPRING enhanced the Capability Development Grant (CDG) to introduce a simplified application process for projects seeking grant support up to $30,000. And for capable SMEs which carry out R&D, our public sector research institutions, such as A*STAR, second researchers to SMEs under the GET-Up programme, to help SMEs build and strengthen in-house technology capabilities that will lead to the development of innovative new products. The number of SMEs undertaking R&D has increased in the last 10 years by more than one-third, from about 320 in 2003 to more than 430 in 2013. SMEs are also investing more in R&D activities, from about $370 million in 2003 to about $580 million in 2013.
I am glad to note that a number of our businesses have done well by pursuing innovations and collaborations which supports their efforts to grow. I am particularly heartened to see our young companies and new generation of entrepreneurs lead the transformation in our existing sectors. For example, the Freshen Group, which was set up only two years ago, collaborated with the Food Innovation and Resource Centre (FIRC) using SPRING’s Innovation and Capability Voucher (ICV) to develop a manufacturing technique and packaging solution for ready-to-serve packaged soups. This innovation enables the company to grow beyond the domestic market by exporting their soups overseas. As we restructure the economy, the Government will continue to support the ambitions of our companies to grow and to succeed, through a comprehensive suite of schemes administered by SPRING, IE Singapore and other agencies.
Investing in Our People
As we create better economic opportunities and jobs, we must ensure that Singaporeans are well-
equipped to take on the new roles that will be available. To nurture the relevant skill-sets and mind-
sets in our workforce, the SkillsFuture initiative was announced at Budget 2015. Through SkillsFuture, we will put in place the structures and processes to enable Singaporeans to develop and learn the relevant skillsets as they progress through their lives – from formal schooling, throughout their careers and until retirement.
I encourage our business owners and industry leaders here today to support the SkillsFuture initiative and to continually invest in your employees. I am happy to know that a number of employers have already come on board, and I will encourage more to do so. A good example is local interior furnishing firm Goodrich Global, which was recently named the Best SME Employer in Singapore 2015 by HR consulting firm Aon Hewitt. The company’s commitment to good HR practices has allowed it to keep its employees engaged, support training programmes suggested by employees, and keep employee retention rates high. I am glad to note that Goodrich has benefited from SPRING’s assistance schemes to optimise their business operations and develop HR capabilities. I would like to see more companies follow suit, to enable Singaporeans in our SMEs to benefit from good working environments which support higher employee productivity.
Enabling Trade and Internationalisation
Given Singapore’s small domestic market, internationalisation will continue to be a key economic strategy. In the immediate region, we expect new opportunities for our businesses arising from the realisation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) as a single market and production base. Singapore businesses have already benefitted from the various AEC initiatives. Our companies can export most products to other ASEAN markets duty-free, and enjoy greater ease of trade through measures such as mutual recognition agreements. In the area of services and investment, there are now more opportunities for Singapore companies to participate in sectors which were previously closed off to foreign investors. Our investors can also enter into the rapidly growing ASEAN market with greater ease of mind, knowing that their investments will be guaranteed fair and equitable treatment in a more transparent, consistent and predictable investment environment. The AEC will increase the overall competitiveness and productivity of ASEAN as a single economic region and make the region more attractive to global investors.
IE Singapore has in place a suite of assistance schemes which our companies can tap for their internationalisation plans. In Budget 2015, we enhanced support for companies under the Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) and the Global Company Partnership (GCP) schemes. Companies can look to the MRA for financial and advisory support, and use the GCP to support expansion, capacity building, manpower development and financing. I would encourage our enterprises to make use of these schemes.
The Government is committed to supporting our enterprises in developing the capabilities to tap growth opportunities, thrive and become globally competitive We will encourage innovation and raise productivity in existing sectors, invest in future growth sectors, help our companies tap international markets, and invest in our workforce to ensure that they have the skills to benefit from the new opportunities. The success of these strategies will depend critically on our businesses to step forward, and the vision, conviction and commitment of our business leaders to take your companies to the next level and beyond.
Tonight, we celebrate the achievements of business leaders and enterprises that have indeed taken those steps and made exemplary progress in your respective sectors. I hope that others will be inspired by your fine examples and be committed to the same enterprising spirit to propel your companies forward.
I offer my fullest congratulations to the winners this evening, and wish you all the best for your continued journey.