Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the Launch of the Entrepreneurial Partnership & Innovation Community (EPIC) at Republic Polytechnic

Published Date: 25 August 2021 07:30 PM

News Speeches

A very good morning to all of you.

1. When Li Pheow first invited me to launch this centre, I was curious about its name, and also rather intrigued by whether it is possible for us to train enterpreneurs. In fact, in the world today, there are some who hold the belief that "you cannot teach entrepreneurship". Entrepreneurs are only produced by two types of forces, as they say. Firstly, hunger – entrepreneurs believe that if they do not innovate, they cannot survive. This is the traditional school of thought that entrepreneurship is driven by hunger, and since you cannot teach hunger, it's very hard to nurture entrepreneurship.

2. The second school of thought is that, today, entrepreneurs such as the Bill Gates of the world, are not so much driven by hunger, but the desire to make a difference to the world. They want to create services that improves lives. This leaves us with an interesting question: for a community like Republic Polytechnic (or RP), how do we engender the entrepreneurship drive, and the spirit of innovation? From my perspective, I think there are many things that RP has gotten right in setting up this centre for enterpreneurship, innovation and partnerships, and its very name embodies the kind of spirit that we want to foster in RP.

3. Let me start with the word innovation, that is the "I" in Entrepreneurial Partnership & Innovation Community (or EPIC) . Many people think that innovation stems from inspiration at the spur of the moment . But actually, innovation is a very disciplined pursuit of excellence, a very deliberate attempt at improving things, and most of the time, it requires a lot of hard work. This is one of the defining characteristics that I have seen in RP, which I believe will train the students to have this disciplined pursuit of inquiry. This is a key characteristic.

4. The second characteristic that is important has to do with community. Innovation and entrepreneurship cannot happen unless the students have a deep sense of purpose that goes beyond themselves, that they want to do something to improve what they see around them everyday – be they processes, products or services that they come across. Without a deep sense of understanding of the challenges faced by the community or the markets, it is impossible to innovate.

5. The third key aspect is the drive for entrepreneurship itself, because once we understand a problem, and we have students who want to make a difference, and are driven by the desire to make a difference to the world around them, then I think we have the fundamentals for entrepreneurship. As encapsulated in the name of this centre, entrepreneurship is underpinned by a disciplined heart and spirit, a deep understanding of the community needs, and clarity on what we can do better through the entrepreneural spirit.

6. These three factors, while necessary, may not be sufficient to bring projects to fruition. This is why this centre is so important – it fosters partnerships and collaborations. There are essentially three layers of collaboration - collaboration amongst the students from different disciplines, collaboration between the students and the community, and that includes the alumni, many of whom are here today, and then there is a deeper sense of collaboration to help the larger world out there. I'm very glad to see that the students at RP already start with the mindset of not just serving the domestic market and the local community, and this is very important to all start-ups.

7. Even as we build a base from Singapore, we must always think global by seeing the world as our potential market, and explore how we can scale up. Indeed, many of the RP alumni who are with us here today, they have gone beyond Singapore to serve the regional community. But whether it is collaboration at the student level, collaboration with the community, or collaboration beyond Singapore, it is the spirit of partnership that will bring entrepreneurial ventures to fruition.

8. As I was reflecting on your name, I thought it was very apt that all these core elements of entrepreneurship are embodied in EPIC. I believe that the students who go through this programme will not only comprise those who want to start a business. Of course, those who want to start businesses will indeed benefit from this programme. But this larger spirit of embarking on disciplined inquiry, gaining a deep understanding of the community's needs and having the courage to try something new. These core elements reflect what RP stands for.

9. I am very proud that RP has taken this step to bring all this together in this centre, to benefit budding entrepreneurs, and bring forth the larger spirit within RP. I wish you all the very best, and I want to make a special call out to all the alumni who are here today.

10. RP is a very young polytechnic. Unlike the other more established polytechnics, it doesn't have a long list of illustrious alumni yet. But never underestimate what the alumni of RP can do, to help RP scale greater heights. I thank you all for giving back by sharing your knowledge, and helping RP's current cohorts of students and staff to benefit from your networks, so that we can bring this programme to the next level.

11. Congratulations on the launch of EPIC and thank you very much.

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