Family-run SME races ahead with R&D

Family-run SME races ahead with R&D

Rarely do family-run small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) employ futurists, but Wong Fong Engineering Works is way ahead of the curve.

The 52-year-old engineering firm's investment in an in-house research and innovation centre in 2013 has paid off handsomely; among other projects, it is now involved in building Singapore's first high-performance sports car.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), in its addenda to the President's Address released yesterday, said promoting innovation and transformation among SMEs will be key to achieving sustainable growth.

The ministry said it aims to build on Singapore's strengths in industries with long-term growth potential, such as advanced manufacturing, smart urban solutions, logistics and aerospace, and biomedical sciences. This means investing in research and development and fostering an attractive environment for entrepreneurship, said the MTI.

It also said it will continue supporting Singapore firms in their overseas expansion efforts.

These moves, combined with ongoing restructuring, "will keep Singapore resilient amidst slower global economic growth and create good jobs that provide opportunities for Singaporeans", MTI added.

Mr Eric Lew, Wong Fong's executive director, said the company has invested more than $3 million in research and development.

Its primary business is selling, designing and servicing hydraulic- powered load-handling equipment such as cranes and hooklifts, but the company's in-house research and innovation centre is helping it venture further afield.

"We identified trends that will affect Wong Fong and (the transport engineering) industry... We concluded that electric mobility, telematics and robotics will be some of the major trends in the next 10 years," said Mr Lew.

The company aims to position itself as an industry thought leader.

"In the past, we had only engineers. Now we have designers, inventors, engineers and even futurists," he added.

Wong Fong is working with Williams F1, one of the world's leading Formula 1 teams, to build Singapore's first supercar, which will be launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March next year.

Called the Dendrobium, the car has "helped the company attain new capabilities, talents and technologies", said Mr Lew.

"What we learnt from this project, the technologies and knowledge transfers, can be applied to our other areas of expertise and growth, for example, military... and special vehicles."

This article was first published on Jan 20, 2016.
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