SINGAPORE: A slew of measures to further strengthen partnerships between the Government and industry stakeholders, and bring about innovation was unveiled in the Budget for 2017 on Monday (Feb 20).
The Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) is one initiative to systematically facilitate partnerships, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.
Unveiled in last year’s Budget, the S$4.5 billion package is aimed at bringing together various stakeholders - such as the trade associations and chambers (TACs), unions and the Government - to align efforts in transforming each sector.
Six ITMs have been launched thus far and Mr Heng said the development roadmaps for the remaining 17 sectors will be kept “going at a good pace” and launched within FY2017.
“The ITMs help us to identify key enablers, which involve different stakeholders, to transform sectors,” he said. “For example, the Centre of Innovation for Supply Chain Management at Republic Polytechnic works with companies to level up their capabilities and provides students with hands-on experience.”
Apart from keeping the ITMs flexible in accordance with new opportunities, synergies between related ITMs must be maximised, while TACs and unions play a key role in the success of these development plans.
Mr Heng cited the example of Singtel, which has trained its IT services employees for cybersecurity roles and is working with the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) and the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) on the Cyber Security Associates and Technologists programme to develop mid-career talent for the broader cybersecurity industry.
The local telco has also launched its own Cyber Security Institute to train technical professionals, management and boards to better handle cyber breaches, and is engaging students through internship programmes.
GOVERNMENT TO PLAY A ROLE IN ENABLING INNOVATION
On the topic of innovation, Mr Heng touched on the need for forward-looking regulations that will enable Government agencies to balance managing risks and create space to test innovations.
He raised the example of a review of the regulatory framework governing venture capital (VC) firms by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) last week. “This will give them greater flexibility, making Singapore more conducive to VC investment, thereby enhancing the supply of financing for start-ups,” Mr Heng said.
Regulatory sandboxes, which involve setting boundaries within which some rules can be suspended to allow greater experimentation, will also be essential to spur innovation. Apart from MAS’ regulatory sandbox for financial technology, the Land Transport Authority has also gone ahead to set out specific zones where self-driving vehicles can be tested on roads.
Moving ahead, regulatory agencies will further explore how they can facilitate innovation by making their risk assessments for new products and services “more swift and effective”.
Mr Heng said: “A good example is the Health Sciences Authority which will be setting up a priority review scheme to evaluate new and innovative medical devices. This will accelerate the commercialisation process and make Singapore a preferred location to launch these devices.”
In addition, the Government will introduce the Public Sector Construction Productivity Fund, with about S$150 million, in the construction sector.
“This will allow Government agencies to procure innovative and productive construction solutions, which may have higher costs as they may be nascent and lack scale,” Mr Heng said. “The fund will allow these solutions to enter and gain traction in markets.”
MORE FUNDING SUPPORT
Lastly, to give innovative efforts a leg-up, the Government will be topping up the National Research Fund by S$500 million. The National Productivity Fund will also receive another S$1 billion boost to support industry transformation, Mr Heng announced.
In all, the Government will be putting aside S$2.4 billion over the next four years to implement the strategies announced by the Community on the Future Economy two weeks ago. This will be over and above the S$4.5 billion set aside last year for the Industry Transformation Programme, the Finance Minister added.