OPENING REMARKS BY PRESIDENT TONY TAN KENG YAM AT MIT GLOBAL INNOVATION GALA DINNER ON 21 JULY 2015

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim
Minister for Communications and Information

Professor Fiona Murray
Associate Dean for Innovation
MIT Sloan School of Management

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen


Good evening.

Let me first extend a warm welcome to the participants of the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP), many of whom have just flown into Singapore for the programme. 

This evening would not have been possible without MIT so I would like to express my appreciation to MIT, which is a long-time partner of Singapore. The Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) Centre, is the largest research centre in the Singapore National Research Foundation’s Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE). Another collaboration between Singapore and MIT - the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) – is I believe, MIT’s largest overseas undergraduate programme. It is therefore a pleasure for me to host the MIT REAP in Singapore as an extension of our cooperation with MIT.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Since MIT was founded in 1861, the Institute has nurtured many entrepreneurs, who have provided the world with new ideas, products, services and technologies. MIT has remained at the forefront of knowledge creation to address new trends and changing needs. REAP, a global initiative to help regions accelerate economic growth and job creation by implementing a more robust innovation-based entrepreneurial ecosystem, has the potential to make far-reaching impact for economies and societies around the world.

As a small country lacking in natural resources, Singapore has no choice but to build our society and economy on knowledge and innovation. This is a matter of national survival for us. The Singapore Water Story best illustrates this fact. As Singapore has limited land for collection and storage of rainwater, we depended primarily on imported water from our neighbours to meet our needs. But we turned this vulnerability into an opportunity by developing advanced membrane technologies to produce what we call NEWater – Singapore’s own brand of high-grade reclaimed water. By 2060, we will expand the current NEWater capacity so that it can meet up to 55% of our future water demand.

Over the past decade, Singapore has invested more than US$22 billion in research and development to help companies develop, test and commercialise new products and solutions. Public sector investments alone has supported about 400 tech start-ups and generated 800 licenses over the last four years.

At JTC LaunchPad@one-north, which houses 500 start-ups and a community of accelerators, incubators and venture capitalists, Singapore has established what has been described as the world’s densest start-up ecosystem. We have seen some home-grown successes, such as Zopim, Razer, Redmart, Garena and Viki, and we’re looking to expand the cluster at one-north to house 250 more start-ups, as well as explore new LaunchPads in other parts of Singapore.

Our universities – the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the National University of Singapore (NUS), and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) – have entrepreneurial and R&D arms to support experimentation and risk-taking amongst our student populations.

Entrepreneurial activity in Singapore has grown steadily over the years. The number of start-ups with one or more employees more than doubled from 24,000 in 2005 to 55,000 in 2014. The number of start-ups in our high-tech sectors also increased by 85% over the same period.

In the 2014 Global Innovation Index collated by INSEAD, Singapore was ranked just below the United States at 7th position. This makes Singapore the most innovative city in Asia. On the Global Entrepreneurship Index, Singapore is ranked among the top ten this year.

Smart Nation – Improving Lives and Generating New Opportunities

Singapore’s efforts in developing an innovation-based entrepreneurial eco-system complement our Smart Nation initiative, which aims to leverage on the strategic deployment of cutting-edge technology trends, such as a nationwide network of connected sensors and sensory devices, the Internet of Things, along with the infrastructure of data centres to handle big data and analytics to address challenges arising from urbanisation, whether it is population density, energy efficiency or community building. For example, by making use of solutions that integrate sensory and remote monitoring technologies, we can enable the elderly among us to lead more active independent lives by connecting them with their caregivers and family members. Technologies that enable our healthcare professionals to assess, treat and monitor the well-being of patients remotely will end the unnecessary commute to the hospital for many patients. Singapore’s Smart Nation Initiative will also enhance our competitiveness and generate new economic opportunities. Productivity will improve as sensory networks enable us to improve response times, automate, and optimise the use of valuable resources. Our industries can scale up and export workable solutions developed here to other countries in the world which face the same challenges as Singapore.

As a compact city-state, Singapore has the advantage of being able to implement innovative policies and build the required infrastructure to provide a Living Lab environment for tech innovations to be prototyped, tested and scaled up. The large base of 7,000 multi-national corporations in Singapore serves as valuable pilot customers and test beds for the entrepreneurial community. Investments are also being made to expand the pool of future entrepreneurs and ICT leaders needed to create innovative technological solutions and bring them to market.

Two years ago, Singapore embarked on the development of the Infocomm Media Masterplan to provide directions for the holistic development of the infocomm and media sectors for the next 10 years. The plan, which is now being finalized and will be launched in August this year, will complement and enable Singapore’s Smart Nation vision by growing all the key components of an enabling ecosystem: infocomm media infrastructure, agile enterprises, skilled manpower, cutting-edge technology and world-leading research and development capabilities.

Conclusion

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ideas and technology are being developed faster than ever before in our connected world. By creating an ecosystem in which the public, private and people sectors work together to experiment and test new ideas, we will be able to better harvest this innovative and entrepreneurial energy for the benefit of our societies and economies. 

I understand that the various regions participating in MIT REAP in Singapore are well-represented by all the essential stakeholder groups including the Government, Corporate, Academia, Risk Capital and Entrepreneur.  I hope that you will gain new insights and find opportunities for collaboration and partnership over the next few days during your stay here in Singapore. I also wish you a fruitful and productive time of networking and learning from one another.

Thank you. Please have a pleasant evening.