Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the Launch of the Temasek Polytechnic Advanced Manufacturing Centre (TP AMC), at Temasek Polytechnic

Published Date: 18 June 2021 08:30 PM

News Speeches

A very good afternoon to all

Colleagues and friends,

Guests from the industries,

And a special welcome to Mr Junta Tsuji-naga, who has joined us virtually from Japan,

Ladies and gentlemen,

1. Thank you very much for inviting me here. It is a special feeling to be here today in a slightly different capacity, as the Minister for Education, and yet continuing the journey that I had started with colleagues at the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and the Economic Development Board (EDB). Let me explain why.

Transformation in the Manufacturing Industry

2. Today, the Temasek Polytechnic Advanced Manufacturing Centre (or TP AMC), is one of the first in our polytechnics, but it is not the only one in our ecosystem. More importantly, it embodies an important component of our overall plan for education and the manufacturing industry.

3. When I was at MTI not too long ago, we said that the manufacturing sector is undergoing a revolution. This is the result of a combination of computing power, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, robotics and automation. Each of them by itself would probably have led to a certain level of change, evolution and transformation in the industry, but what is significant at this juncture, in this point in time, in the industry of manufacturing is that, when they are all combined together, the impact of all these technologies become exponential. What we know of as manufacturing in the past will need to change and change quickly, to keep pace with the developments that technology is bringing about, and in order to seize these opportunities.

4. In Singapore, we too, have embraced this revolution in manufacturing. We want not just to grow our economy but to make sure that we create a new generation of jobs for our people. A new generation of jobs that can make full use of their talent and potential. A new generation of jobs that will allow them to get on to a new trajectory in their lifecycle in terms of the skills that they acquire, and the kind of income and earnings that they can command. We are not just interested in the starting pay, so to speak, we are interested in helping our students become lifelong learners and get on to a new trajectory that will allow them to stay competitive in the years to come.

5. Our definition of success for our students is not just how well they do when they are with us in the Institutions of Higher Learning (IHLs). Our definition of success is how they can go beyond the IHLs, keep learning and improving, and stay at the forefront of the manufacturing sector. If they can do that, then I am quite sure Singapore will continue to have a strong manufacturing sector, and that our people will be future-ready.

6. We have set ourselves a stretch goal - by 2030, we want to continue to have a manufacturing sector that forms about 20 percent of our GDP, which means it has to grow about 50 per cent from where we are today. Now, that by any measure is a stretch goal. A stretch goal is not just a quantitative target. It is also a qualitative target. We are not satisfied with just scaling up what we are doing. Because if we only scale up what we are doing with the current level of technology, then we can be easily bypassed in time to come.

7. More importantly, we want to scale up qualitatively. We want our manufacturing sector to be in niche areas that will make us hard to displace down the road. So it is not just a quantitative target, it is also a qualitative target for our manufacturing sector. The question is: how do we get there? In order for us to get there, I believe we need to do three things well.

An Attractive Investment Destination

8. First, Singapore must continue to ensure that we remain an attractive investment location for significant manufacturing investments. Last year, EDB attracted more than S$17.2 billion worth of Fixed Asset Investments. This was not an easy achievement, especially in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the COVID-19 crisis has also provided opportunities for us because corporations are looking for destinations where they can plant their investments for the long term. Not just based on the current cost competitive advantage, but also based on political stability, the skill of the workforce, the ability to protect intellectual property, and the ability to mobilise capital and aggregate talent from across the globe.

9. In this array of considerations, Singapore must distinguish ourselves. The world is not slowing down, instead corporations are looking for a safe harbour to park their capital and intellectual property. In this aspect, we have an advantage because of our stability. In the short term, we will need to make sure that we can progressively open up our economy and remain one of the most connected systems with the rest of the world.

10. We have never distinguished our success on the basis of the size of our local market. We have always distinguished ourselves on the basis of connectivity with the rest of the world, and by carving a critical role for Singapore as part of the global value chain, particularly in niche areas. We will continue to do this.

11. Now, in this phase of the fight against COVID-19, every country is racing against time. Countries are racing against one another to maintain connectivity with the rest of the world. Countries are looking to open up their economies safely, not just domestically but also to the world. Singapore has our challenges cut out for us, but we too will open up progressively and safely.

12. As we continue to increase the vaccination rate, and implement a suite of safe management measures, we will have greater confidence to accelerate the pace at which we open up our economy safely, while balancing health and economic considerations. If we can do this successfully, I am quite sure we will continue to distinguish Singapore as a choice location for premium manufacturing investments. Attracting quality investments into Singapore is but the first step. There are two other things that we need to do.

Importance of partnerships in catalysing the transformation of the advanced manufacturing sector

13. The second thing is that we need strong partnerships in our manufacturing ecosystem to uplift the entire sector. We need the Queen Bees, both local and foreign, and we also need an entire ecosystem of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that can provide the products and services that are required by the larger companies. This is why the TP AMC plays such an important role.

14. TP AMC, together with other advanced manufacturing centres, seek to help our ecosystem of SMEs, to all level up. There is no point in having a few companies that are at the frontier or at the cutting edge of technology, without a supporting ecosystem. These centres must be part of many in the entire ecosystem to help everyone to move along.

15. I have visited for example the Siemens' Advance Manufacturing Transformation Centre, and I have visited A*STAR's Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre. EDB has created the Smart Industry Readiness Index (or SIRI), to help our companies to level up. All these are part of efforts to compete not just as individual companies, but as Team Singapore. To compete as an ecosystem that provides the best services and products, as a system, vis-a-vis our competitors elsewhere. This is one of the first roles that this centre will need to do – help the industry to level up.

Equipping Our People with the Right Skills

16. That brings me to the third and most important thing. We talked about attracting quality investments, and levelling up our SMEs capabilities as an ecosystem. But ultimately, the key determinant of success is our ability to train the next generation of workers that can embrace all the technologies that we spoke about, the Internet of Things, robotics, and so forth. This is a critical role of centres like TP AMC, where we want to groom the next generation of skilled workers who will thrive in the next wave of advanced manufacturing.

17. Enterprise transformation must be complemented by workforce transformation. Only so can we distinguish Singapore as one of the key manufacturing nodes in the entire global value chain. This is a challenging endeavour, but what I am happy to see is that our IHLs and industries are working hand in hand. This will catalyse similar centres like the TP AMC across the island in different forms, specialising in different fields, but all with the common goal - to build up an ecosystem for our students to learn about the technologies of today and tomorrow.

18. I hope that the partnership between TP and companies like Beyonics, will inspire the new generation of students to enter the advanced manufacturing industry, stay in the industry, hone their skills in the industry, and successfully leverage new technologies. This will enable our workforce to seize a broad array of emerging opportunities.

19. The task and challenge that TP AMC has is not just to inculcate and impart the skills of today to our students. The most important thing is to imbue in them the desire and spirit to excel in this field, for once they have the desire to excel in this field, they will keep learning and mastering new skills. If we can set in motion these positive virtuous circles, we can be very confident that our manufacturing sector will produce products and services that will make us hard to displace in the global value chain, and nurture niche capabilities, in addition to contributing to our GDP and economic growth.

Conclusion

20. To conclude, I will recap what our strategy is – attract frontier investments to be anchored in Singapore, help our local ecosystem to transform and compete as an ecosystem, and groom a new generation of workers that are inspired to keep honing their skills in this sector. If we can achieve these, I am very confident that we will be able to achieve our goal of having manufacturing remain at about 20 per cent of our GDP in 10 years' time.

21. On that note, thank you to all our stakeholders who are here with us. We are all in this journey together to provide new and exciting jobs for the next generation of workers, and I hope that we will continue to work together to realise our vision for the manufacturing sector, and create ever better jobs for our people now and into the future.

22. Thank you very much.

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