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  Today Online 9 Jul 06
A $1.4b bridge to the future
Investment in 3 core R&D areas, but culture change also needed, says PM Lee
Tan Hui Leng huileng@newstoday.com.sg

Channel NewsAsia 7 Jul 06
Research council approves 3 strategic areas to drive Singapore economy
By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia Related News

A high-powered council looking into these areas and chaired by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has approved three strategic research programmes in biomedical sciences, environmental and water technologies and interactive and digital media.

They will be implemented in the next five years. And the target is to provide 86,000 jobs with an added value of S$30 billion by 2015 in the three sectors.

At its first meeting the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council (RIEC) comprising ministers and top international academics and industrialists got down to identifying niche areas which Singapore should focus on and excel in the next five years.

PM Lee said: "Our problem is not so much that we have a lot of bureaucracy as that we have an environment which is very systematic, where a lot of things are managed rather than left to grow from the ground. We have to shift the environment and we have to change our climate and shift to an environment where things grow from the ground up and people act on their own and make things happen.

"We are committed in Singapore to invest in R and D as a driver for economic growth and as a foundation for our long-term competitiveness. We have two key priorities - first to build up our core competencies in selected strategic areas and, secondly, to attract and develop a significant concentration of talent to sustain research activities in the long term. And if we can achieve this, we will create more career opportunities in R and D and this will attract more students to go into higher post-graduate education"

In biomedical sciences, the next phase will build on Singapore's basic research and drug discovery capabilities.

In the area of environmental and water technologies, the Council believes that Singapore is well placed to take a leading role in developing new technological solutions.

PM Lee said: "We believe that over the next ten years many new opportunities will emerge because technology will improve. The weather is changing, climate is going to change, places which are wet are going to be drought, places which were able to conserve water, now with more population will find themselves short of water. If there is high energy it puts more pressure on technology to come up with more efficient ways to use clean water. In fact there will be many opportunities."

And in the interactive and digital media sector, games and edu-tainment are potential focus areas for Singapore.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, said: "One big area of opportunity in interactive and digital media is really in content creation, content customisation and in being able to transmit content trans-culturally and this require people with artistic and linguistic and scientific perspectives being brought to bear in one brain or better still in teams which are then assembled in research labs and corporate labs and businesses."

For all these plans to roll out, the council has approved S$1.4 billion over the next five years to fund the development of the three strategic research programmes.

And a good number of jobs created by these sectors will be for Singaporeans. Dr

Tony Tan, Deputy Chairman, Research, Innovation Enterprise Council, said: "It would be a shame for us to create all of these jobs and find that we don't have Singaporeans who can actually have the skills to do the job and we have to import foreign talent to do it. Singaporeans must make an effort to be educated and trained."

The National Research Foundation has set up three executive committees to implement some of the recommendations which the Council has made to develop the three strategic areas of growth for Singapore.

In the meantime, the Foundation will also be on the lookout for new emerging markets to ensure that Singapore always remains on top of the research arena. The Council will hold its second meeting in March next year. - CNA/ch

Today Online 9 Jul 06
A $1.4b bridge to the future
Investment in 3 core R&D areas, but culture change also needed, says PM Lee
Tan Hui Leng huileng@newstoday.com.sg

OVER the next five years, $1.4 billion will be set aside to fund the development of three areas of R&D that will drive Singapore's economic future.

They are: The biomedical sciences, environmental and water technologies, and interactive and digital media, which are targeted to provide 86,000 jobs with added value of $30 billion by 2015.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who is chairman of the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council (RIEC) said on Friday the two priorities were to "build up core R&D capabilities in selected strategic areas" and to "attract and develop a significant concentration of talent to sustain a critical mass of advanced research activity into the long term".

The RIEC, which boasts a high-level panel of international experts from the public and private sectors, had convened over four days last week to discuss R&D proposals in the three areas.

In the area of biomedical research, in which the country has been actively involved, the focus would be on the second phase of translating basic research to clinical applications.

The programme for environmental and water technologies will build on Singapore's capabilities in water recycling and water resource management.

And in the realm of interactive and digital media, games and edutainment are potential focus areas.

What is also needed, however, is a cultural shift one that Singapore is working on on many fronts, including education. Said Mr Lee: "We have an environment which is very systematic, where a lot of things are managed rather than left to grow from the ground up. We have to change our climate and shift to an environment where things are grown from the ground up and where people act on their own and make things happen."

Details of projects in each sector are expected to be presented by the various steering committees as early as next week. The RIEC will meet for the second time on March 15 and 16 next year.

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