DPM Heng Swee Keat at the Distinguished Partner in Progress Award Ceremony

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 24 September 2019

Speech by DPM and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at the Distinguished Partner in Progress Award Ceremony for Applied Materials, Inc. on 24 September 2019.


Mr. Gary Dickerson, 
President and CEO of Applied Materials, Inc. 
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon everyone. 

Today, we honour Applied Materials for the significant contributions it has made to Singapore over the years. 

As a global leader in the semiconductor industry, Applied Materials’ presence in Singapore has greatly strengthened our ecosystem. 

It has made substantial investments here, worked with many of our companies, and created good jobs for our people.

We are very happy to have Applied Materials as one of our trusted partners – one who believed in us, and are committed to work with us over the long term. 

Growth of our semiconductor equipment industry 

Building win-win partnerships with world-leading companies, such as Applied Materials, is how we have grown our semiconductor industry. 

Our semiconductor industry started in 1968. Back then, several companies took a leap of faith, and made their first manufacturing investments in Singapore. 

In just three years, we created more than 7,000 jobs. 

Even though we were a young nation then, we showed the world that we could host and grow semiconductor manufacturing activities. 

Fast-forward 50 years to today, our semiconductor industry has transformed by leaps and bounds. 

Its total output is now 100 billion1 dollars per year, accounting for 11% of the global market share.  

Many leading companies, from across the semiconductor industry value chain, have a base here.

But what might be lesser known is that besides making semiconductors, we also manufacture the equipment required to produce them. 

The total output of our semiconductor equipment industry was 21 billion dollars last year. This represents more than 20% of the global semiconductor equipment market!2 

We were able to achieve this, because world-leading semiconductor equipment OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) have built up a significant presence in Singapore.

Among them, Applied Materials stands out as highlighted by Swan Gin earlier, Applied Materials established its Singapore Operations Centre in 2010. 

This was the company’s first large-scale investment in Asia for the manufacturing of advanced semiconductor equipment. 

Over the last 10 years, the company invested more than 100 million dollars in Singapore. 

The 300,000 square-feet manufacturing facility produces a wide array of equipment – from factory interface modules, to integrated deposition platforms, to individual process chambers. 

Today, Applied Materials’ Singapore Operations Centre remains the largest manufacturing facility by a semiconductor equipment OEM here. 

About half of the company’s global semiconductor equipment production is manufactured here in Singapore, and shipped directly to customers worldwide.  

The company is also the single largest employer in our semiconductor equipment industry, accounting for more than 10% of the 9,000 workforce.

Strengthening our manufacturing eco-system through partnerships

The partnerships that Applied Materials have built with companies here, have greatly strengthened our manufacturing ecosystem. 

These include established global contract manufacturers, like Ichor Systems, which supports Applied Materials’ local and regional supply chain needs. 

Our local small- and medium-sized companies have also stepped up. 

Richport Technology (“Richport”), a home-grown family-owned business, is one such company. 

Richport provides secondary processing solutions for the semiconductor equipment industry. 

Over the years, Richport expanded its range of activities to support Applied Materials. These include plating, cleaning and electro-polishing.

Both companies are working together to develop a new surface treatment technology that can produce more advance products from Singapore. 

Another company that Applied Materials has partnered with is SAM, a subsidiary of Accuron Technologies. SAM is a precision engineering company based in Singapore.  

Applied Materials started working with SAM on structural frames assembly more than a decade ago. 

Since then, SAM has invested in new capabilities, allowing it to undertake complex and large format machining for Applied Materials. 

Partnerships like these have allowed our manufacturing ecosystem to become greater than the sum of its parts. 

Through such collaborations, our companies have been able to grow their capabilities and together, we have been able to grow Singapore into a global manufacturing base for high-tech products. 

The Singapore Government is committed to strengthening partnerships between companies.

Last year, the Government introduced a 100 million dollars top-up to support the integrated Partnerships for Capability Transformation (PACT) programme. 

By fostering partnerships between our companies, the PACT programme aims to accelerate capability and business development in Singapore.

I therefore urge companies, big and small, to tap on this programme, as you explore and deepen your industry partnerships.

Driving innovation through collaboration

Another aspect of partnership is between Applied Materials and our public research institutions, including the National University of Singapore (NUS) and A*STAR’s Institute of Microelectronics. 

In October last year, I opened the Applied Materials-NUS Advanced Materials Corporate Lab.

Within a year, this Corporate Lab has developed several successful proof-of-concepts. This is good progress!  

Such progress highlights the win-win nature of partnerships on research and innovation.  

The Government has actively supported greater collaboration between industry and academia.  

Through such partnerships, we hope to deepen the capabilities of our researchers, and to strengthen our ability to translate research discoveries into innovative market solutions.

On our part, we have committed 19 billion dollars over five years, towards our Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 plan. A key thrust of the RIE 2020 is in advanced manufacturing 

Manufacturing is a key pillar of our economy.   

In light of greater global competition and Industry 4.0, advanced manufacturing will be critical to transforming our manufacturing sectors, developing new growth areas and boosting productivity. 

I am therefore pleased that Applied Materials is planning to transform its facility at Changi into a smart factory, using data analytics, process automation, and greater systems integration.

This is Applied Material’s first dedicated advanced manufacturing initiative, and I hope the lessons learnt can be scaled globally.

As you deepen your capabilities in advance manufacturing, I encourage you to work more closely with our research institutions to co-create your smart factory of the future.    

People at the core 

The success of Applied Materials in Singapore, through its many strong partnerships, has created many good career opportunities for our people. 

This should not be surprising, since the company gives strong emphasis to career development. Applied Materials is voted among the 100 ‘best places to work in IT3’.  

A number of our people in Applied Materials have been groomed to take on leadership positions, regionally and even globally. Some of whom are here with us today. 

Ms Yvonne Lee’s journey within the company is a good example. 

She joined Applied Materials nine years ago, starting out as a manufacturing programme manager. She was part of the pioneer team that started the Singapore Operations Centre.

To do her job well, Yvonne underwent intensive training to build up her technical knowledge and operations skills. It was not easy, but her efforts paid off.

Today, Yvonne is a Senior Director of Worldwide Operations, heading up one of Applied Materials’ global product lines. She leads a team of over 300 people in Singapore and the US. She’s also doing good CSR work! 

Applied Materials is also working closely with us to upskill our workforce.  

For example, the company partnered EDB and NUS on the Industrial Postgraduate Programme last year. 

As part of this programme, Applied Materials provides opportunities for postgraduate students to develop their skills in a corporate R&D setting. 

By the end of the programme, they can look forward to good R&D opportunities in the industry. 

The company also has an active partnership with our universities to provide other internship opportunities. It is also one of three strategic partner companies of the NUS Engineering Co-operative Education programme, which was launched last year. 

More broadly, our people are at the heart of our efforts to grow the economy. I hope that companies will do more to invest in their people, so that we can continue to create opportunities for all.

Growing together for the long term

I am glad that we have a strong and committed partner in Applied Materials.  

Applied Materials’ commitment here is a vote of confidence in Singapore.

As a small and open economy, we are vulnerable to uncertainties in the global macroeconomic environment.

The capabilities that we nurture in our companies and our people are extremely important for us. They buffer against the present headwinds, and enable us to ride the eventual upturn.

But capabilities can only be built if we have strong partners who have confidence in us, who are willing to stick with us through business cycles, and ride the upturns together.

Let me once again thank Mr Dickerson and the team at Applied Materials, for your continued trust and confidence in Singapore. 

We deeply appreciate your commitment and contributions to Singapore.

We look forward to many more decades of successful partnership, and to grow together with you.

Thank you. 


[1] Based on preliminary 2018 data from EDB’s Research & Statistics Unit.

[2] According to SEMI, the 2018 worldwide semiconductor equipment market clocked a total revenue of US$64.5 billion (~S$89.5 billion).

[3] Computerworld’s List of 100 Best Places to Work in IT, 2019.