Singapore as 'innovation lab' will have its place in the world: Heng

Singapore as 'innovation lab' will have its place in the world: Heng

Singapore

The key to Singapore staying relevant in the global economy is how it can be an innovation laboratory for the world, and this will be looked into in plans to chart the future direction of Singapore's economy, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

At the same time, it must also create value that can be shared with all Singaporeans.

"In our early days, we were a trading emporium. We then became a first world oasis in this region. Let us strive to be an innovation lab for the world, where the best ideas from around the world can be realised," Mr Heng told Parliament on Friday.

This last aim is what the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE), a high-level panel tasked with charting Singapore's economic direction, will study in detail, said Mr Heng, who is also the committee's chairman. In doing so, Mr Heng further clarified a possible iteration that sees Singa-pore's economy evolving to become what Silicon Valley is known for globally today.

The proliferation of mobile devices and the ubiquity of the Internet have led many observers to see this as a new era in the global economy.

Just last week, the World Economic Forum's (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland had top thinkers from around the world sharing their views on the "Fourth Industrial Revolution" - one in which new technologies will play an important role.

"It is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres," wrote Klaus Schwab, founder of the WEF.

As the CFE mulls over future directions for Singapore, it will place its focus strongly on innovation.

Previously, Mr Heng had already stressed that innovation needs to be pervasive in order for Singapore to move beyond a value-adding economy and become a value-creating one.

Mr Heng himself is co-chairing a sub-committee under the auspices of the CFE that is concerned with innovation.

On Friday, Mr Heng stressed that Singapore had to find its place in the global economy which is rapidly changing, and this meant that the country had to create value for the world.

This would not only entail being innovative, but also having the ability to turn these ideas into useful products, services, or business models.

"If we can be a place to help solve a fraction of the world's challenges, we will create value - we will have our place in the world," he said. Innovation has already taken root in Singapore, and the country has shown, noted Mr Heng.

For one thing, its fight for survival given geographical constraints has seen the economy coming up with water treatment technologies to help source more potable water for the population.

At the same time, there is strong investment support for research and development here.

Thirdly, Singapore has shown a capacity to think out of the box. Case in point: innovative policy responses seen in housing and healthcare.

But value created has to be shared fairly and equitably so that Singapore can progress as a whole.

Key to this, however, said Mr Heng, is not wealth redistribution, but fostering conditions that can create opportunities for all.

This is "so that every Singaporean, regardless of family background or starting point, is empowered to build a better life", said Mr Heng.


This article was first published on January 30, 2016.
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