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Opening Address By Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister For Finance And Chairman Of National Research Foundation Singapore

At the Opening of Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology 2018 on Monday, 17 Sep 2018, 11:10am, Sands Expo and Convention Centre

· Speech

Your Excellencies,
Friends and partners,
Ladies and gentlemen,
A very warm welcome to the Singapore Week of Innovation and TeCHnology, or SWITCH, 2018.


1. I am very happy to be back at SWITCH this year. We held the first SWITCH in 2016, and since then, the SWITCH community has grown in diversity, and more than doubled in size.

a. This year, we expect to welcome over 10,000 attendees, from more than 70 countries. For our international friends, I hope this will be a week of new insights into Singapore and the region, filled with many new connections, and enduring friendships.

b. In 2018, we also welcome Enterprise Singapore as a co-organiser with the National Research Foundation. Together, we hope to achieve an even better convergence of the business, research and innovation communities.

2. We are happy to catalyse this convergence of minds, from many backgrounds and communities.

a. There is a global consensus that technology and innovation can improve the lives of people around the world. But the needs of different communities are complex, and diverse.

b. We believe that, by assembling a wide range of perspectives and expertise, we can understand these needs better and create solutions for them.

c. This is why, at SWITCH, we try to maximise ideas exchange and new connections between people of many backgrounds. This year, we have introduced a new thematic track on Lifestyle Tech, drawing new participants from the fashion and beauty worlds to our tech ecosystem.

d. We have also introduced a track on ASEAN-China innovation exchange, and invited new friends from Australia and France, in addition to returning friends from Europe and the US at SWITCH – from VCs like Golden Gate Ventures to corporate partners like GE Digital, and even IEEE1.

e. As we become more diverse as a SWITCH community, I believe we will benefit from enriched interactions and wider networks, as we combine our strengths to tackle the next major challenges of our time.

Singapore is facilitating ASEAN-China exchange of innovation, in the ASEAN-China Year of Innovation 2018

3. Recognising the value of these interactions, we are happy to work more closely on innovation with partners from around the world. This year, we have made remarkable progress with Australia, France, ASEAN, and China, to add to our regular partners from the US and Europe – let me elaborate on our joint efforts.

4. In 2018, we celebrate the ASEAN-China Year of Innovation, and the deepening of ASEAN-China cooperation on areas of shared interest, including the digital economy, Smart Cities, and infrastructure.

a. As Chair of ASEAN this year, and a long-time friend of China, Singapore aims to be the place where players from the ASEAN and Chinese ecosystems can meet, and partner each other.

b. For example, Baidu and Asia Mobility Industries launched their joint $200 million “Apollo Southeast Asia” Fund in Singapore, to invest in autonomous driving and smart transport technologies. This tie-up between a Chinese technology giant and Singapore mobility company will boost the region’s mobility startups, and advance the development of transportation infrastructure and smart mobility in the region.

c. We look forward to more of such win-win partnerships in the future.

5. This is why SWITCH gathers ASEAN and Chinese communities of innovators, companies and experts to explore topics of mutual interest.

a. This year, SWITCH has introduced an ASEAN-China track into our line-up. Among other highlights, the Monetary Authority of Singapore will stage a preview of the Global Investor Summit within the Singapore FinTech Festival, on financing growth for technology startups in the ASEAN region. This forum will bring entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and tech giants together to discuss opportunities and perspectives on technology investing in ASEAN.

b. In addition, we have two new China-focused events debuting at SWITCH 2018 – DemoAsia, by CYZone, and Origin, by TechNode. They bring key players and the latest insights from the Chinese innovation ecosystem to our SWITCH community. Both CYZone and TechNode are established media platforms in the China innovation and startup ecosystem2.

c. I encourage you to attend these segments, and find the starting point of many lively discussions and future collaboration between the ASEAN and China ecosystems.

Singapore strengthens links with Europe, highlighting the France-Singapore Year of Innovation 2018

6. This year, we also celebrate the France-Singapore Year of Innovation 2018, and the advancement of our bilateral ties in scientific research, entrepreneurship and innovation, and technology cooperation.

a. In conjunction with Bastille Day in July, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was invited by French President Macron to Paris, where we jointly issued the France-Singapore Road Map for deepening cooperation in digital innovation, internet governance and cybersecurity.

b. This road map follows two MOUs inked by France and Singapore this year, aimed at strengthening connections and collaboration between our startups, enterprises and research institutes.

7. We had a large Singaporean team at the French tech convention, VivaTech, earlier this year. We are delighted, in return, to welcome many friends from France here at SWITCH 2018.

a. Mr Mounir Mahjoubi, the French Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, as well as Business France, L’Oreal, the French Investment Agency, will all be involved in SWITCH festivities.

b. I hope you seize the opportunity to explore all that our ecosystem has to offer, and find the beginning of many more exciting collaborations, built on our complementary strengths.

Singapore as Australia’s Launchpad, highlighting September Australian Festival of Innovation

8. It is indeed an eventful time of the year. In addition to SWITCH and the Formula 1 Night Race, Singapore is very happy to be hosting the month-long Australian Festival of Innovation this September.

9. As part of the Festival, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) will be launching its ASEAN Hub this evening in Singapore.

a. The Hub will build on existing partnerships to enhance regional innovation, scientific excellence, and collaborative networks, and deepen the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Singapore and Australia.

b. SWITCH participants will have the opportunity to catch CSIRO at their SWITCH booth, which will showcase selected spinoffs from CSIRO’s R&D.

c. Congratulations to CSIRO on opening their Hub in Singapore. I look forward to growing our partnership on innovation in regional markets.

Singapore’s impact as a startup launchpad: SWITCH examples

10. Through cultivating strong international networks like these, Singapore can act as a springboard for regional enterprises embarking on international expansion.

a. As a key tech event for the region, SWITCH aims to raise the global profile of promising regional enterprises through pitch competitions, and matching events with overseas investors.

b. These platforms have helped companies like AEvice, a medtech startup that beat 680 startups to win a pitch competition at SWITCH 2016. AEvice’s founder and CEO, Adrian Ang, was named in the 2018 Forbes Asia’s ‘30 Under 30’ list for entrepreneurial achievements in Healthcare and Science.

c. We are also proud of DC Frontiers, a SWITCH 2017 participant that went on to partner a Chongqing firm to develop a cross-border business information portal, to facilitate trade between China and Singapore.

d. This year, the SLINGSHOT@SWITCH startup competition received more than 1,000 applications from over 80 countries. I look forward to learning about the impact they will go on to make, by this time next year.

Launch of new initiatives that improve ecosystem connectivity

11. I’ve shared that we hold SWITCH to bring about a meeting of minds from diverse backgrounds, so that we can tackle even bigger challenges together. Today, I am happy to launch two new initiatives to further facilitate the cross-pollination of ideas and expertise, between Singapore and innovation ecosystems around the world.

a. The first is the Innovators Academy, a national programme that will facilitate overseas internships in 17 cities, for more than 1,300 students, over the next few years.

i. The Innovators Academy is an initiative under the Global Innovation Alliance, a global network that aims to help Singapore’s students, entrepreneurs and businesses to connect and collaborate with overseas partners in technology and innovation.

ii. By exposing Singapore students to a diverse range of innovation ecosystems abroad, the Innovators Academy hopes to groom future innovators and business leaders with a global perspective.

iii. The Innovators Academy is led-off by our first four partners – NTU, NUS, SMU and Ngee Ann Polytechnic – with more partner institutions to follow3.

b. The second initiative is the Startup SG Network, developed by Enterprise Singapore. Going ‘live’ tonight, the Startup SG Network will be a dedicated online database of Singapore’s startup community, making it easier for the world to ‘plug and play’ in Singapore’s startup ecosystem.

i. By aggregating profiles and resources on a single platform, the Startup SG Network enables Singapore’s startups to find and make connections within our ecosystem, and to put them on the radars of global players, expanding their opportunities for growth.

ii. For the first time, investors and collaborators from anywhere in the world will be able to search for, and connect to, Singapore startups, venture capitalists, mentors, and other players, all within a few clicks.

iii. I welcome you to plug into the Startup SG Network at tonight.
Leveraging science and technology to drive Singapore’s industrial competitiveness

12. I have a third exciting announcement to share with you today, related to our efforts to help Singapore’s industries compete at the global forefront of innovation and enterprise, by tapping world-class expertise in our scientific research community.

13. I am pleased to announce that the National Research Foundation has launched a $25 million Quantum Engineering Programme, or QEP, that will prototype and develop quantum technologies and devices, helping to establish top-notch quantum engineering in Singapore.

a. Quantum technologies have the potential to deliver capabilities that are beyond the reach of existing hardware. For example, quantum clocks achieve unprecedented accuracy, unlocking new possibilities for deep space or deep sea exploration. Quantum computing, if realised, would break today’s most prevalent cryptographic systems in minutes.

b. The QEP leverages Singapore’s significant strengths in quantum science, built over 20 years of research at our universities, and at the Centre for Quantum Technologies, which has become a globally leading research centre in the field.

c. A national programme hosted by NUS, the QEP will facilitate collaboration between researchers and industry partners, to demonstrate use-cases and commercial applications of quantum technologies, in domains like communications, sensors, cybersecurity and diagnostic imaging.

d. I hope that the QEP, along with our other programmes in research and innovation, will lead to many exciting breakthroughs.

Concluding Remarks

14. Singapore is committed to driving technological innovation for positive economic, social and environmental impact.

a. SWITCH 2018 explores how we may achieve this, through topics on renewable energy, sustainable innovation and gender diversity in tech, among others.

b. I trust you will find these discussions stimulating, and that we can all arrive at a deeper understanding of how we can organise our combined ingenuity, and resources, to solve the world’s most pressing problems, and improve lives.

15. I hope that all of you – adventurous, creative, and enterprising folks – will seize this week in Singapore to make connections and forge lasting friendships; to learn from, and share with one another; and to get inspired to make a positive impact, together.

It’s time to SWITCH it up,
Hack the change you wish to see in the world, and
Make today’s reinventions, tomorrow’s reality.

Thank you.

1 The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

2 is a media platform that aims to help Chinese startups get better integrated into the world’s business environment and expand their business globally. CYZone also holds various events and activities to this end. TechNode is a leading China tech blog that aims to bridge the Chinese technology sector and the English speaking world. TechNode also organises TechNode Touch, a monthly meetup for startups, and ChinaBang Awards, an annual event that highlights the best startups in each Chinese city.

3 Although Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) is not an AU, both NP and NTU will open their overseas internship programmes to all AU students, with programme costs supported by the Innovators’ Academy. NUS’ and SMU’s programmes are open to their own matriculated students only, and are also supported by the Innovators Academy.

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