Billions for new sectors

BILLIONS of R&D dollars are to be pumped into two new sectors – environmental and water technologies, and digital and interactive media – in the hope that they will create thousands of new jobs and boost the economy in the next decade. 

And if the booming biomedical sciences industry is anything to go by, Singapore is set for major growth in the two new sectors. 

The biomedical sciences sector was built up virtually from scratch in 2000, and is now a S$10bil (RM22.9bil) industry that contributes 6% of the country’s total economic output. 

Emerging from the first board meeting of the new National Research Foundation – which coordinates the republic’s research effort – its chief, Dr Tony Tan, said the Government was pumping in S$5bil (RM11.4bil) over the next five years. 

Of this, S$2bil (RM4.6bil) is earmarked to develop the two new fields. 

The rest of the money will support the still-growing biomedical sciences industry, identifying and developing other sectors of growth, and encouraging local start-ups and companies. 

The three sectors together currently account for 40,000 jobs. 

By 2015, the NRF aims to increase this by another 40,000 and boost Singapore’s economy by S$18bil (RM41bil). 

“We are trying to identify areas in which Singapore has a competitive advantage and which are growing.”  

The two new areas were a natural choice, said Dr Tan. For instance, in environmental and water technologies – expected to grow 10% to 12% annually – Singapore has excelled through necessity, he said, developing innovative membrane technologies to produce clean water through both waste water recycling and seawater desalination. 

The NRF will be on the lookout for new technologies that Singapore can capitalise on. 

Over the next five years, it hopes to identify five sectors that can grow as successfully as the biomedical sciences. – The Straits Times / Asia News Network  

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