DPM Heng Swee Keat at the 2nd Singaporean Researchers Global Summit 2021

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 20 September 2021

Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the 2nd Singaporean Researchers Global Summit 2021 on 20 September 2021.


Professor Subra Suresh,
NTU President,

Members and prospective members of our research community, including all of you joining us virtually, a very warm welcome.   

The inaugural edition of the Singaporean Researchers Global Summit was a success in helping the research community network and exchange ideas. I look forward to this second edition achieving even more.

Science and technology are changing the world

These are exciting times to be a researcher. Science and technology are pushing new frontiers at an exponential pace. 

Take COVID-19 for example. Advances in biomedical sciences have put humanity in a much better position to deal with this virus compared to past pandemics.

Scientists around the world responded swiftly. Diagnostic kits were developed very early in the crisis. Effective vaccines were rolled out within a year. The global scientific community also has in place a good monitoring system – GISAID – to track the virus as it evolved.

Scientists in Singapore contributed to this global fight.

You were among the first in the world to culture the COVID-19 virus.

You developed the Fortitude 2.0 PCR test kit in just 3 weeks. It is now used in over 45 countries.

You pioneered neutralizing antibody tests with the cPass kit, which was the first such test to be approved for emergency use by the US FDA. 

Our scientists also played a useful role in setting up and maintaining the GISAID genomic database for COVID-19.

But it is not just in biomedical sciences that global researchers are breaking new frontiers.

Additive manufacturing is transforming the way we design, manufacture and distribute products. When COVID-19 nasal swabs were in shortfall, our companies 3D-printed them locally. 

Automation and robotics are also changing the world. We are seeing more dark factories, where the manufacturing floors are fully automated. Automation has also been a gamechanger in COVID-19 testing, halving the processing time of PCR lab tests. 

Computer science is also advancing exponentially. Machine Learning and AI have helped us derive insights from big data. The coming breakthroughs in quantum computing will unleash even greater analytical power.

Yet another example is how climate science has made us more aware of the effects of global warming. Progress in green technologies has opened new possibilities in alternative energy sources and carbon mitigation.

Singapore is a good place for research and innovation

Science and technology will be critical for the world to emerge stronger from this pandemic. And Singapore is a good place to carry out research and innovation.

The exciting areas of research that I have touched on are also key research areas that we are pursuing as part of our Research, Innovation and Enterprise or “RIE2025” plans.

In the next five years – from 2021 to 2025, we have committed S$25billion to these plans.

Let me briefly set out the four RIE2025 domains, and why we are focusing on them. 

The first is in health and human potential. Our investments in health and biomedical sciences have contributed to our pandemic response. Beyond that, this domain also includes a new area of “human potential”. We want our children to grow up to be the best that they can be. As our people age, we want them to stay active and healthy, and to continue to learn and pursue their interests.

Second, is in manufacturing, trade and connectivity. With Industry 4.0, the focus on advanced manufacturing will enable us to be at the forefront of these changes. As global supply chains evolve, connectivity across borders will become more important.

The third is in Smart Nation and Digital Economy. The digital revolution will power the next wave of growth, including in the services sector. We must continue to maximise the value created by digital innovation, and better integrate technology and governance.

The fourth is in urban solutions and sustainability. As a city state, we are an ideal test bed for a range of urban and sustainability solutions, building on our efforts to transform Singapore into a ‘City in Nature’.

In addition, we are committed to invest in basic research – to grow our base of scientific talents and capabilities, and develop intellectual property.

But the key ingredient that Singapore has going, as a global node for research and innovation, is in the depth of our collaboration and our openness to new ideas.

The resources committed under RIE2025 are significant in terms of our national budget, but small relative to global investments in R&D.

We have been able to punch above our weight, because of the strengths of our partnerships – across academia, the private sector and the government; within Singapore, and beyond our shores. 

This spirit of collaboration is a strength of our system, and a quality that we must continue to nurture. 

This Summit is a good example, bringing together many different parts of our research eco-system – including other universities, and A*STAR research institutes.

Over the years, we have nurtured world-renowned universities. We have also grown leading research institutes, such as the Centre for Quantum Technologies and the Earth Observatory of Singapore. It is heartening that our institutions are not just pursuing research excellence individually, but by working collaboratively.

COVID-19 has shown how inter-connected issues are. Challenges are not confined to a single discipline. A greater shift towards greater inter-disciplinary research will be critical. 

So I am glad that NTU has identified six inter-disciplinary research clusters where it can make the most impact – including health and society, as well as brain and learning.

Outside of academia, Singapore has also benefitted from the strength of the partnership between academia and companies.

Within NTU, we have several corporate labs. These include labs with local companies, such as SingTel and Surbana Jurong, and with multinationals, including Rolls Royce and HP.

Tech consortia have also been formed, to enhance knowledge sharing and tech transfer between academia and industries. There are several consortia in areas such as AI, photonics, and synthetic biology. 

The strong linkages between academia and industries have also resulted in stronger translation from research discovery to industry application.

One example is material science unicorn Nanofilm, which I visited recently. Nanofilm was a spin-off from NTU. Building on the IP developed at NTU, it has become a fast-growing company with a global clientele.

We will continue to grow our budding start-up eco-system – nurture our start-ups and spin-offs, and help bring good ideas into fruition.

Last week, we announced the setting up of a new $1.5billion fund to help high-growth tech firms raise capital through public listings in Singapore. 

The strong linkages we have built go beyond our shores. 

Our CREATE campus hosts joint research collaborations with institutions from around the world – including MIT from the US, Shanghai Jiao Tong University from China, ETH Zurich from Switzerland, and HUJ from Israel, among others.

We will continue to strengthen international partnerships in various areas. This Summit is yet another opportunity to strengthen collaboration between researchers based here and those of you from abroad.

Through greater collaboration, our research eco-system is much greater than the sum of its parts. 

I encourage all of you to identify new areas of partnerships and collaboration.

Make the best use of this Summit.

Nurturing the people behind the science

On our part, my colleagues and I will do all that we can to help you grow in your chosen field. We will help you turn new ideas and insights into research discoveries, and real-world impact. 

To our researchers, there is a whole range of opportunities to help you develop at different stages of your career.

For example, the NRF Fellowship supports early career researchers while the NRF Investigatorship helps mid-career scientists pursue ground-breaking research. There is also the Lean LaunchPad Singapore Programme for those keen to bring research discoveries to market.

In addition, there are various tiers of Academic Research Fund, and other competitive grants that you can apply for.

For those of you based overseas, including fellow Singaporeans, I hope this Summit provides you with a better feel of our research priorities and the possibilities for collaboration. 

I welcome you to explore opportunities here, and to make a trip home when the situation permits.

For those of you who are considering a research career, this Summit highlights the exciting fields under RIE2025.

If your passion is in research, there are scholarships and awards that can help you realise your dreams.   


To sum up, to tackle some of the hardest problems facing humanity, we must gather the best minds in Singapore and beyond. We must collaborate extensively to make new breakthroughs that can make an impact to the world and to people’s lives.

After all, science knows no boundaries. While each of us can pursue research excellence individually, our efforts are greatly multiplied when we work together.

With a strong spirit of collaboration, Singapore can make a difference as a global node for research and innovation.

We have a Singapore research community, whose achievements we can be proud of. I hope that you will continue to make new discoveries and break new frontiers.

I wish you a fruitful Summit ahead. Thank you.