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S$7m centre to help SMEs adopt technologies opens

A new S$7 million Materials Centre of Innovation has been set up to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) adopt technologies and create new business opportunities.

SINGAPORE: A new S$7 million Materials Centre of Innovation has been set up to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) adopt technologies and create new business opportunities.

Jointly set up by Spring Singapore and A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), the new centre is expected to support 450 SMEs in the next three years.

The centre, which is located at the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering has been operational since last September.

Researchers at the Materials Centre of Innovation work with SMEs to create new products and adapting various technologies to suit their business needs.

And in just one month, they helped HVS Engineering adopt a new material that allowed the company to serve new sectors like petrochemicals, oil and gas as well as the power stations.

HVS provides maintenance solutions for pipelines and building systems and it estimates that the new business opportunities could add S$50 million to S$100 million to its revenue over the next five to 10 years.

Alex Chow, managing director of HVS Engineering, said: "Innovation like that with new materials coming on stream, coming on a continual basis, it certainly helps our growth going forward.

"We have got a lot of R&D (research and development) processes spaced out within the next 12 to 36 months. In the next two to five years, depending on how the market receive and how fast we can come up with the prototype, the bulk of it (our revenue) will be from oil and gas and petrochemical plant industries."

Mr Chow said the tie-up with the Materials Centre of Innovation did not cost anything as the company made use of Spring Singapore's innovation and capability voucher.

Speaking at the centre's launch, Minister of State Teo Ser Luck said SMEs need to improve productivity and move towards higher value-added activities as the Singapore economy restructures.

It is also important to harness technology can help them stay competitive.

Mr Teo said: "The government has supported the set up of Centres of Innovation or COIs, to help SMEs with technology innovation. SMEs can tap on the COIs to develop new product concepts, build prototypes and test-bed new applications."

Apart from this, there are six other centres of innovation in Singapore. They cover areas like food innovation, water technology and precision engineering just to name a few.

And Spring Singapore says together, the six centres have worked on over 1,800 projects, benefiting more than 2,700 companies.

The other six centres, which look at food innovation, marine and offshore technology, environmental and water technology, precision engineering, electronics and supply chain management are hosted in various polytechnics or A*STAR's research institutes.

Responding to questions from the media, Mr Teo said Singapore should be on track to meet its productivity targets.

He said: "In my own sense, we are at the borderline but we could do better... in implementing solutions for productivity. It would usually take a while to reap the benefits and that's why we should be able to see some good results this year and the next few years.

"If we keep the momentum and companies continue to utilise the schemes and implement the changes as what we have seen last year, then we should be on track by 2020."

The government aims to boost productivity by two to three per cent per year by 2020.

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