1. First, let me say it is a pleasure to join you for the inaugural SG:D Techblazer Awards, which recognises innovation and the use of technology to achieve excellence.
Imperative for digitalisation and innovation
2. Let me start by saying that this gathering and what it stands for is a very important statement of where we are and the commitment that we are making not just as government but as a digital system. Digital technologies are changing our economy, our society, our lives. That is something we are all aware of. Borders are becoming less relevant, business models are morphing, and we are seeing unprecedented scale in terms of opportunities and also challenges.
3. We have been working with our businesses and our workforce in order to prepare for these changes through a number of initiatives.
4. One of these is the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) programme. Many of you know this. Basically, the aim is to help our people acquire the ICT skills. If you are in the ICT sector, it is about moving up. If you are not inside, it is about acquiring what is necessary in order to be more adept in dealing with the digital challenges. We allocated another about $145M towards the effort in order to broaden the scope of IMDA’s programme.
5. We have also launched the SMEs Go Digital programme. This is about helping SMEs adopt digital technologies with all its intended benefits. We also launched the Industry Digital Plans (IDPs), which are step-by-step guides on what technologies firms can do and the kinds of technologies they can use at each stage of their revolution. To date, we have four of these IDPs for SMEs in the environmental services, logistics, retail and security sectors, and we have a couple more to come.
6. On the whole, I would say our efforts are beginning to pay off because more companies are beginning to recognise the tangible benefits of adopting these technologies. It is one thing to talk about it in conceptual terms, it is another to actually bite the bullet, implement and recognise the payoffs as they materialise. And we want to encourage more of our companies to do this, to come on the digital journey and work with us. And this is what would drive the value creation and economic competitiveness for our future economy.
Recognising innovation and ideas
7. That is why we are here tonight, to celebrate innovation and our enterprises who are striving to be our Digital Champions of tomorrow. The SG:D Techblazer Awards is a national-level award that aims to recognise the achievements of these trailblazers, and to inspire others to emulate them. As you have heard, it comes about from the merger of the National Infocomm Awards (NIA) and the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF) awards.
8. There were 331 applications this year – more than last year’s SiTF Awards and in general the standard has been quite high. These companies have either produced outstanding tech solutions for their customers, or have used technology to transform their business models.
9. I would like to start by congratulating all of you on your achievements and no matter who wins the award, we expect more of you will come forward and receive awards in the future. Well done, everyone. Congratulations!
10. I wanted to highlight a couple of companies. M-DAQ is one of those that has been shortlisted for the Most Impactful Award category. The company developed a tech solution that allows e-Commerce platforms to offer their users multi-currency payment options, while allowing merchants to receive payments in their desired currency through a fixed conversion rate. I asked M-DAQ earlier in a conversation how is their value proposition different to that of the banks. I urge you to also ask them yourself directly and find out the answers. But let me make this point – I think in a broader sense, given the growth of electronic commerce in Southeast Asia and the potential that we see, I think these sorts of solutions and applications are going to have significant scope and traction.
11. Another example is Biofourmis Holdings, shortlisted for the Most Promising Award category. The company has developed a personalised data analytics platform using continuous data streams from bio-sensors to provide users highly accurate health predictions. This allows users to monitor and take charge of their health, and stay healthy. In an era where you are seeing a lot more of these health tracking devices, and we are really looking at how we can digitalise healthcare monitoring and action, I think these sorts of applications are going to be important.
12. And importantly at this event we are also recognising organisations that have not just generated tech solutions but have also used them in their operations. Smart Hub from Housing Development Board (HDB) is akin to the brain of an estate’s operations. It collects data from sensors all over the estate and is used to identify patterns, predict potential maintenance issues, allowing for proactive upgrading and replacement of systems. So meaning, the benefit is not just for the end consumer, but also in terms of optimised systems for HDB.
Accelerating innovation through start-ups
13. So all of these organisations exemplify the spirit of innovation that we want to nurture, especially among our home grown firms so that they can grow and thrive. We are trying to do this in different ways. Let me give you two examples to reinforce the point.
14. Accreditation@SG:D aims to do just that – to accelerate the growth of our Singapore-based innovative tech companies which can become the next digital champions in the region and beyond.
15. Over a four-year period, the Accreditation@SG:D programme has helped accredited companies create a pipeline of projects worth over $260m in both the Government and Enterprise sectors. I am also glad that our banks and insurance companies, among others, have come forward to support our ecosystem and offer these accredited companies more opportunities both in Singapore and also overseas. This has enabled at least 20 accredited companies to raise more than $150M in new capital during or after accreditation process to support their internationalisation.
16. Beyond the Accreditation programme, we can also do more to create a conducive environment for start-ups to get started and to grow. The reason is simple, startups are the base from which our future SMEs and tech champions will emerge. So, I am delighted to announce today, the launch of SG:D Spark – it is a new programme initiated by IMDA to support a wider and younger segment of promising ICM start-ups in building their capabilities for growth. These include both enterprise and consumer tech companies, hardware, as well as IT services enterprises.
17. I am glad that this programme has been able to rally support from important industry players and stakeholders. In particular, SGTech, our Institutes of Higher Learning and 16 established industry partners are working with IMDA in this journey to grow our tech ecosystem. These partners include Venture Capitalists, global consultancies, law firms, established Integrated Communications and Expert Product Design firms as well as tech giants like Facebook and Google. SG:D Spark aims to accomplish the following:
18. First, augment the corporate capabilities of our promising ICM start-ups and young companies through the support of our community partners. Through the support from subject matter experts within the community together with Government tools, we aim to provide the resources, knowledge and network that are essential to the companies’ growth.
19. The second, is to help these companies develop use cases. And in this regard, the digital economy, we know, brings forth greater business opportunities, and we want to use in particular the demand from the Singapore Government as an opportunity for these companies to build up reference customers in order to support their initial growth and the ability to expand into the region.
20. As a key growth driver of our economy, we need to develop the ICM sector and the next generation of digital businesses to serve new demand. We want to invite more industry players to come on board with us in building this vibrant ICM community and network in order to provide greater collaboration among companies and collectively drive the growth of the industry.
TACs have an important role to play in our innovation efforts
21. I want to make a specific point about Trade Associations and Chambers, like SG Tech, who have I think a critical role to play in this endeavour because ultimately, all the work that we are doing, in terms of innovation, in terms of raising the capacity of the industry can only succeed if we are able to do this in a collaborative way; working with our partners and in particular, the trade associations and chambers.
22. SGTech not only serves as a bridge between start-ups, SMEs and MNCs, but is also a bridge between the ICM community and the Government. So I am very glad that many partnerships have already stemmed from SGTech and IMDA, and the recently launched Open Innovation Platform (OIP) is another example. This platform is a crowd-sourcing portal that connects enterprises and their problem statements with a large community of tech solution providers. Launched in July this year, the first Innovation Call posted 13 challenges across different sectors, with total prize money of about $400,000. There are now more than 1,500 registered tech solvers on the Platform, with diverse expertise covering AI, IoT, Cybersecurity and Immersive Media – all areas that we are focused on.
23. SGTech has been instrumental in bringing its community of tech solvers on-board to this platform. The next innovation call will be opening shortly, with even more problem statements and opportunities. I want to encourage everyone in the community to step forward and participate and we are hoping that we can see some of them being featured in future Techblazer Awards ceremonies.
24. As aggregators of demand, trade associations and chambers like SGTech play an important role in helping their members overcome their limitations of size by aggregating demand and things like this OIP is one example of how we can do this and enable collaboration and co-innovation.
25. The other aspect is of course as the voice of the industry, SGTech can raise issues facing the industry and facilitate the important discussions, the dialogue between Government and the sector. You know the industry well, its needs and challenges as the environment evolves. We will work more closely with SGTech to prepare the industry for the dynamic demands of a Digital Economy and stay competitive. So I want to thank SGTech for working with us to create a vibrant ICM ecosystem, and encourage companies to join SGTech to tap on its networks, industry experience and resources.
26. If I may conclude, the key point is that innovation and collaboration will be crucial to Singapore’s progress in our digital transformation journey. Innovation because that is where the value is going to be created, so we need to draw on each other’s strengths in order to do this. Collaboration because it helps to mitigate the risks. We know innovation is a risky enterprise and we need to bring in different partners with their diverse experience and expertise in order to lessen the risks. Through the collective efforts of all our stakeholders, we will continue to build on our strengths and create a conducive and vibrant environment for the digital economy and digital innovation in Singapore.
27. I want to congratulate all the winners of this year’s SG:D Techblazer Awards and wish you every success in all your endeavours. Thank you.