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Demographic changes lead Singapore to R&D strategy

Demographic changes lead Singapore to R&D strategy

Singapore is hoping to respond to changes in its demographic makeup by investing in new research and development

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By Jay Banerjee 17.10.2018

Singapore is hoping to respond to changes in its demographic makeup by investing in new research and development (R&D) programs and recruiting new talent from around the world as it looks to reposition itself.

With many countries in Asia in a state of flux and migration, Singapore is taking steps to ensure that it remains ahead of the curve. It wants to be attractive to potential immigrants as well as keep its strongest talents at home.

Singapore Minister of Finance Heng Swee Keat said that the country needs to plan ahead. He added::“Technological changes will be very significant in this part of the world.”

Speaking at the 30th annual conference for Vertex Ventures, the government’s investment arm’s venture capital fund and a subsidiary of the state-owned Temasek Holdings, Heng said that Singapore needs “to have a better understanding of the rising middle class and the demographic changes that are taking place.”

With Heng potentially being the next leader of the country, many have been paying attention to his recent comments concerning the need for Singapore to have a “longer-term view.” He said that this would deliver investment and changes that extend beyond even ten years from now. Heng added that because Asia has both a large young and old population, it needs to address demographic changes to keep its economic growth viable.

Like several other nations in Asia, such as Japan and South Korea, Singapore is vulnerable to the ongoing trade disputes between China and the US. As the trade war deepens and more tariffs kick in, there are concerns that economies reliant on the global infrastructure and supply chains will suffer a downturn.

Heng said that it would not be enough for Singapore to rely on some of the strategic plans that it has laid out in the hopes that they would bear fruit. He maintained: “It’s not possible to say technology x, y or z will be the winner in ten years’ time…We don’t assume or pretend that the government knows everything.”

Clearly asserting that Singapore’s “command economy has not worked,” he said that his country needs to ;look outward and be progressive in its investments to keep on growing.

The country has already allocated $19bn toward new R&D projects in the last few years under its Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 Plan, which started in 2016.

The plan involves investment in biomedicine, advanced manufacturing, urban solutions and sustainability as Singapore looks to future-proof its economy.

Heng called upon venture capitalists to help fill some of the gaps, saying that if they take more risks, then this will breed more innovation and attract the best new talent to these burgeoning sectors.

Hailing the difference that venture capitalists can bring to startups and growing sectors due to the fact that they can “have a more macro view,” he said that “enterprises will need different types of funding with different risk profiles.”

Heng added that he has no concerns over a brain drain happening and that “the vibrancy of the people” is more important. Acknowledging “the connections we can make out of that flow,” he said: “We have every intention of growing talent and also look at how we can bring in some of the best talent around the world to work with us.”

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