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Technology & Innovation: Key Drivers for Economic Growth in the New Economy

Lim Swee Say, Minister of State for Communications & Information Technology and Trade & Industry - Speech e-Nnovator Awards 2000

Lim Swee Say, Minister of State for Communications & Information Technology and Trade & Industry - Speech
e-Nnovator Awards 2000

Singapore, 15 September 2000

Mrs Theresa Foo, Chief Executive (Singapore), Standard Chartered Bank

Ms Ong Hee Yah, Vice President, Network Programming & Promotions, Channel NewsAsia

1. I am very happy to join you here today at the prize presentation ceremony of e-nnovator Awards 2000, jointly organised by Channel NewsAsia and Standard Chartered Bank.

2. Last week, the World Economic Forum released its latest global competitiveness report. Having come in first in 1998 and 1999, Singapore dropped one place in the 2000 Growth Competitiveness Ranking. We are now ranked second, after USA. What does this new ranking imply?

3. First, it implies that the global economic landscape has changed. We may have what it takes to be the most competitive economy in the old economy, but it is no longer enough to keep us on top in the New Economy.

4. Technology and innovation are now the key drivers for economic growth in the New Economy. The World Economic Forum has, rightly so, placed much greater weight than before on technology and innovation. It introduced a new index on Economic Creativity to measure the growth competitiveness of a country in terms of innovation, technology and pro-enterprise environment. In this new index, Singapore came in third, after USA and Finland.

5. In other words, even though we are able to offer the most pro-business environment in the old economy, our new challenge now is to be able to offer the most pro-enterprise environment in the New Economy.

6. Next, the new ranking shows that the Singapore economy is keeping up with the global trends, and is well positioned to compete in the New Economy.

7. Notwithstanding the drop from #1 to #2, Singapore still retains its position as one of the most competitive economies in the new ranking. This is largely because of our continuous efforts in upgrading and restructuring the economy.

8. Over the years, we have never stopped building new capabilities, in good times as well as during difficult periods. We link ourselves to the global community of technology and innovation by introducing one measure after another to facilitate the transfer of leading edge technology, and the development and deployment of innovation in our economy and society. Because of these sustained efforts and investment, we are now ranked #1 in technology transfer, and have managed to come in third in terms of Economic Creativity.

9. Hence, on the whole, we should be encouraged, and not discouraged by this new ranking. It is a clear reflection that our concerted move to reposition the economy towards a Knowledge Based Economy is timely, and a move in the right direction.

10. Last but not least, this new ranking approach also illustrates the fast pace and large magnitude of change in the New Economy. We saw major movements in this new ranking. Some economies have dropped a few places: HK, from #3 to #8; Taiwan, from #4 to #11; and Switzerland, from #6 to #10. There are three newcomers among the top five: Luxembourg, up from #7 to #3; Netherlands from #9 to #4; Ireland, from #10 to #5. Finland gains ground to move into the top ten ranking, moving up from #11 to #6.

11. These major movements up and down the ranking list serve to remind us that it will not be easy for Singapore to regain its #1 ranking. It will also get more challenging for us to retain our #2 ranking in the coming years. Having made a good start in repositioning ourselves for the New Economy, we must now press on with more changes, faster changes, if we want to stay ahead in the global league of the New Economy.

12. One area in which we must do our best to improve is that of innovation. Even though we are ranked first in technology transfer, we are ranked only 14th in our ability to innovate. There is much we need to do to quicken the pace of innovation, and broaden the base of innovators for us to become an innovative economy and society.

13. This is not a trivial task. Fortunately, we are not starting from ground zero. For several years now, we have been promoting innovation in the private sector, public sector, and in schools.

14. To illustrate, we launched the Innovation Development Scheme in 1995. In the past five years, the EDB and various economic agencies have awarded $480 m worth of development grants to 490 companies, out of which 360 are local companies. These grants were used to support more than 600 innovation development projects (636 projects) at a total development cost of $2.1 billion.

15. Another illustration is the Research Incentive Scheme, launched in 1993, to encourage companies to develop in-house capabilities in R&D. So far, NSTB and EDB have awarded $1.4 billion grants to support more than 150 projects (156 projects) worth $6.5 billion in total research spending.

16. These are just two of the many initiatives we have launched over the years to strengthen our indigenous capabilities in technology and innovation. The outcomes are encouraging. The commercialisation of products and services attributable to R&D has more than doubled within a short span of two years from $6.4 billion in 1996 to $13.4 billion in 1998.

17. The number of patents filed in Singapore is on the rise too, increasing at a rate of 29% per year during the period 1995 to 1999. Last year alone, there were 673 patents filed.

18. So, even though we are not there yet as an innovative economy and society, we are certainly on our way, as long as we continue our efforts under a strong private-public sector partnership.

19. I would like to congratulate Channel NewsAsia and Standard Chartered Bank for their joint efforts in organising this e-NNOVATOR Awards. Private sector led initiatives such as the e-NNOVATION awards being presented today will go a long way in helping to promote, nurture and recognise innovative efforts in Singapore.

20. Let us all do our best, innovate and grow. Hopefully, we may recapture our position as the most competitive economy again one day, as we embrace the New Economy of the future.

21. My heartiest congratulations to all award winners today. Have fun innovating.