Speeches

Speech by Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Manpower, at the 2011 Biotech Fair Award Presentation Ceremony, on Thursday, 28 July 2011, 2.15pm, at Suntec City hall 401

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

Mr Chia Mia Chiang,
Principal, Ngee Ann Polytechnic,

Mrs Tang Guek-Im,
Director, School of Life Sciences and Chemical Technology, Ngee Ann Polytechnic

Distinguished Guests

Teachers and students

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good afternoon.

Introduction

It is my honour to be here at the 2011 Biotech Fair Prize Presentation Ceremony. Biotechnology is a rapidly growing sector and has been identified as one of nine key technologies critical to Singapore’s growth and global competitiveness in today’s knowledge-based economy.

Singapore’s rapidly growing biotechnology industry

Singapore presents a stellar bio-cluster in Asia that has established a strong track record and foundation in biomedical sciences manufacturing and research and development (R&D) activities. In June this year, International Enterprise or IE Singapore announced the formation of a biomedical R&D consortium, comprising seven Singapore-based biomedical R&D companies that will offer a complete suite of product development services to global partners. This is part of our aspiration to be a global centre for a number of things, including biomedical services. The consortium will aggregate key capabilities of companies along the biomedical R&D value chain to provide a ‘one-stop solution’.

It is easy to see the advantages of such a consolidation—a competitive edge for niche players, a reduction in financial and logistical burdens and the ability to identify the right local and global partners efficiently. With this rapid growth of the industry into one of Singapore’s key economic pillars, the need for more trained and skilled scientists and technicians ever increases. Working in the Biomedical Sciences or BMS can be one of the most fulfilling careers as you will have a direct impact upon the health and lives of people around the world. From undertaking cutting-edge research to providing first-rate healthcare services or developing new drugs, therapies and medical devices, the BMS field is indeed dynamic and exciting. In short, this field allows you to have a very strong impact on the quality of life of people in the world, not just now, but especially so in the future. Just imagine, in the context of changing demographics in Singapore—where the population is ageing and people are living longer—what kind of medicine would people need as they grow older? What would strengthen the body or muscles of the elderly? What would help the elderly to be continuously mobile? All these things will definitely help the people to enjoy quality of life, even as they age. This is a challenge for scientists, and this is a challenge that this sector will provide to those who want to be involved in this profession.

Industry collaborations & impact

To this end, I applaud the collaborations and efforts by industry players and like-minded partners that have helped nurture the next generation of young scientists in the making. Such collaborations and instituted programmes should never be underestimated for their impact and influence on our youths.

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research, (A*STAR) launched a national scholarship programme back in 2001 to nurture 1,000 local PhD graduates in the world’s top universities, with about 800 awarded to date. I am also pleased to see a fruitful collaboration between A*STAR and the Science Centre Singapore for the annual Biotech Fair, now in its 21st year. For the Fair to be sustainable, it must have drawn partnership and collaboration among key players, such that the two bodies have been able to organise the Fair for the last two decades. This attests to their determination, passion as well as ability to get partners to work together. I think it is commendable to be able to provide opportunities for the young to learn more about biotechnology. Thus, I would like to congratulate both the Science Centre and Ngee Ann Polytechnic as well as all the other partners for putting in the effort to organise this.

Biotech Fair 2011

The Biotech Fair aims to create awareness and interest in biotechnology among youths. This year, it has been incorporated as part of the national Singapore Science Festival. With the current emphasis on life science initiatives, the Fair now includes talks on life science issues and DNA workshops.

I understand that this year’s Fair received close to 100 entries, all of which require substantial research and experimentation. I was told the judges had an unenviable task in deciding the winners from among the many quality projects!

I would like to congratulate all participants and award winners for their dedication and efforts in making this competition a great success. I also applaud the teachers for their work behind the scenes. Their support is no less important to the success of each project.

I am sure through this learning journey, each of you have now gained first-hand experience in working on a biotechnology project. Not only that, I believe you would also have come to understand the challenges and passion that drive our scientists to bring Singapore’s biomedical industries to the forefront of the global stage.

Conclusion

In the years ahead, as Singapore builds on its foundation of good science and capabilities in translational and clinical research, our city-state is well-positioned to support the industry in its efforts to accelerate the drug discovery process with next-generation technologies. I would like to invite all you aspiring young scientists here today to continue with us on this exciting journey of discovery and exploration into the wonders of biomedical sciences.

Thank you.