Speech for Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Trade and Industry, at the Launch Ceremony of TP-HRG Robotics Innovation Centre, at Temasek Polytechnic

Published Date: 21 February 2019 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Mr. Hong Xiaoyong, Ambassador, Embassy of the People's Republic of China in The Republic of Singapore

Mr Wang Meng, CEO, Harbin Institute of Technology Robot Group,
Mr Peter Lam, Principal & CEO, Temasek Polytechnic,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Introduction

1. Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to join you today, at the launch of the TP-HRG Robotics Innovation Centre. Good things come in pairs. I am also glad to witness the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing between HRG Jiangsu EDUBOT and TP-HRG Robotics Innovation Centre. Congratulations to Temasek Polytechnic (TP) and Harbin Institute of Technology Robot Group (HRG) on these noteworthy collaborations.

2. The Boston Consulting Group forecasts that as robots become more affordable, more adaptable, and easier to programme, uptake of robots in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) could help spur productivity improvements of 30% by 2025.

3. Across the world, many economies and industries are pursuing transformation under Industry 4.0, through adoption of technologies like robotics and automation. Asia remains the world’s main growth engine in terms of manufacturing and services. And for the industrial robotics market, we also expect Asia to be a major growth engine, with China leading the way with 36% share of the world’s total supply in 2017. We have also seen strong growth in Southeast Asia, with a doubling in the number of industrial robots sold in 2017 compared to 2016.

4. Some people have asked me – why is it that China, which has 1.4 billion people and is not short on manpower, invests so much in robotics, automation and smart technologies? It is not about how many people you have. At the end of the day, it is about how productive and how competitive your companies can be. I think China has shown vision and foresight in investing in these smart technologies early. Today, whether it be artificial intelligence, data analytics, or robotics, China is not only in a good position to upgrade its own companies and industries, but also to

Enhance workforce capabilities in robotics and digital skills

5. However, it is insufficient for enterprises to only invest in technologies. I believe businesses can achieve greater success if they also focus on other important areas such as process re-engineering and worker training. The transformation may be driven by technology, but it should remain human-centric and people-led. Investments in technology must go hand in hand with investments in training to upskill the workforce, and enable workers to make good use of the new equipment. Human workers augmented with technology.

6. Indeed, this man-machine combination has been found to out-perform humans or machines working separately. IBM’s Deep Blue, a chess-playing computer using artificial intelligence and machine learning, became so good at the game over time that it was able to defeat human chess masters. However, it lost out to a team of scientists, who were good chess players but not at the grandmaster level, equipped with a computer. The man-machine combination can make use of the computer’s strengths to perform complex analysis, while retaining the human player’s ability to think out of the box and come up with new, unexpected moves.

7. This is where the TP-HRG Robotics Innovation Centre can make a significant impact, by spearheading new workforce capabilities to support Industry 4.0 transformation, combining the best of both machine technology and human capabilities. Supported by SkillsFuture Singapore, this collaboration provides customised technology services and intelligent equipment systems to companies. It also guides employers and workers through the transformation, providing mentorship and training along the way. The training curriculum in the Centre will be based on actual projects from the industry. That is the best way to show value to our companies, and for our workers to receive the training, as it is directly linked to what they do on a daily basis.

8. The Centre will enable Temasek Polytechnic to deepen its Continuing Education and Training (CET) capabilities in emerging areas through industry and best-in-class partnerships. Through the Centre, TP will expand its SkillsFuture Series offerings in Advanced Manufacturing, to include industrial robotics, smart manufacturing systems, and automation operating skills. These are important areas that will benefit our workers and companies.

9. We encourage such collaborations between our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) and international research institutes. I commend TP for taking the lead in this regard, and adding to its capabilities to deliver industry-oriented solutions in support of skills development and workforce transformation in Singapore.

10. I wish the Centre success, and may this partnership lead to more win-win collaborations. Thank you.

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