Speeches

Speech by Mr S Iswaran, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Education, at the Launch of “iNVENT!” Exhibition on Tuesday, 20 July 2010 at 6.10 pm at the Science Centre Singapore

Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng,
Chief Executive, Science Centre Singapore

Distinguished guests,

Good evening,

I am delighted to be here today to launch the “iNVENT!” Exhibition, the Science Centre’s new permanent exhibition.

Celebrating Inventions and Inventors

The “iNVENT!” Exhibition chronicles cherished characteristics of inventors and inspirational stories of human endeavour. Most importantly, the exhibition is a celebration of ideas and embodies the pioneering spirit personified by a special group of people – the inventors.

Inventors challenge conventional wisdom with their uncanny knack of seeing what others miss, or take for granted. They also push the boundaries of knowledge and technological capabilities through their passion, ingenuity and innovations. With their creativity and indomitable drive, inventors have touched and transformed every domain of study from the arts to mathematics and science.

The “iNVENT!” Exhibition will strike a chord with many of us as it details how we all share certain characteristics with successful inventors, such as their boundless curiosity, perseverance and the ability to make connections. It is with such traits, along with a Eureka moment, that innovation can come about and add economic value to a nation. It is an important ingredient for a country whose economic success hinges on advances in science and technology.

The Need for Innovation in Singapore’s Knowledge-Based Economy

As a knowledge-based economy, Singapore recognises that science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship are the critical drivers of our economic success. For Singapore to survive in competitive global economic conditions, it is imperative that we encourage critical thinking, risk taking and technological innovation.

At the same time, Singaporeans must be open to opportunities and adapt to dynamic markets and the demands of an evolving consumer culture. As developed nations strive to compete and gain competitive advantage, Singapore must establish blue ocean markets to achieve true invigoration. Such markets or concepts can only be carved out if our people are endowed with the same characteristics that allow inventors to break new ground. Grooming a Generation of Innovators

Hence, it is important that our various institutions and sectors complement the government’s efforts in nurturing a generation of innovators who are given access to resources and platforms to execute their ideas. In 2008, MOE launched the Innovation Fund which offered polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education up to $10 million a year to develop innovations suited for technology transfer. In the same year, a $25 million Translation Research & Development (TRD) Grant Scheme by the National Research Foundation was awarded to the five polytechnics to build on the research results of the universities and research institutes and turn them into commercialisable products and applications. The establishment of the School of Science and Technology is yet another move to provide an immersive experience aimed at nurturing inventive and innovative youths, who can make their mark in a range of high value industries in the future.

While the government will play a role in facilitating and cultivating the seeds of innovation, support from institutions such as the Science Centre, academia and industry is also essential to inspire our future generations to take up the challenge of crafting new technologies and services that serve unmet needs in the world.

A Spectrum of Support and Recognition for Inventors

It is therefore heartening to see that various sectors are increasing their support for the inventions of our youths. Early this year, the Singapore Manufacturers’ Federation, Singapore Environment Council and Temasek Polytechnic signed a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding to develop environment and manufacturing polices and emerging technologies. Besides being involved in joint research and development opportunities, the three parties will look into commercialising technology and projects undertaken by engineering students, as well as the research-based Temasek Polytechnic Clean Energy Centre. The collaboration will also focus on matching students and their inventions with local manufacturers, in particular to undertake technology and applications development leading to test beds in the companies’ premises and operations.

It is also noteworthy that awards that accord recognition can spur the inventive spirit amongst our youth. Last month, two siblings aged 12 and 9 from Henry Park Primary won the Tan Kah Kee Young Inventors’ Award for creating the “Just-In-Time Door Guard” that prevents doors from being slammed. Another two students from Nanyang Polytechnic also won the award for inventing “The ElderlyClock” which allows the elderly to read time clearly and without difficulty.

Sharing the Success Stories of Inventors

Such success stories need to be shared so as to motivate our youth to emulate the successes of these inventors. One of the highlights of the “iNVENT!” exhibition is “InnovASIANS” where inventors and entrepreneurs share their success stories and give advice on how to meet the various challenges of invention head-on.

In conjunction with this installation, the Science Centre has also arranged a host of specialized educational programmes to augment and add dimension to the perspectives and goals of the exhibition. One example of such a programme draws on the experience of Institutes of excellence, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to foster creativity and problem-solving skills among the young patrons of the Science Centre.

Conclusion

With such efforts spearheaded by our educational institutions, and with help from the business community, I am confident that we can nurture future generations of innovators who will underpin Singapore’s success and progress to higher levels of achievement.

It is now my pleasure to declare the “iNVENT!” Exhibition open. Thank you.