DPM Heng Swee Keat at the Launch of P&G iLab 2021

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 4 May 2021

Speech by Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at the Launch of P&G iLab 2021 on 4 May 2021.


Mr Magesvaran Suranjan, 

President, P&G Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa

Mr Karthik Natarajan,

CFO, P&G Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa

Mr Rafik Mansour,

Chargé d’Affaires, U.S. Embassy in Singapore

Mr Ted Tan,

Deputy CEO, Enterprise Singapore

Ms Cindy Koh,

Executive Vice President, EDB

Ladies and gentlemen,

A very good day and good evening to all of you.

I am happy to launch iLab 2021. This three-day virtual innovation festival brings together the best start-ups from Asia Pacific and around the world, to generate new ideas and create new solutions for the future of advertising, retail and supply chain.

You are holding iLab 2021 virtually, as a creative response to stay safe, while continuing our drive for innovation. Indeed, COVID-19 has accelerated the digital revolution and the pace of innovation, and we can expect more disruptive innovation such as AI personalisation and immersive experiences.

I thank P&G for organising the festival at this juncture. Over the last 35 years, P&G has been a part of the Singapore growth story and innovation journey. From a regional sales office of 100 employees in 1987, P&G has 2,300 employees here today, including in R&D and manufacturing activities. P&G has also significantly invested in innovation here. I was at your Singapore Innovation Centre five years ago on its second anniversary. And since then, it has become the lead R&D facility in Asia, with capabilities across 30 R&D disciplines.

You have since set-up a digital innovation centre or E-Centre, one of the largest such centres in Singapore, as well as a venture building unit, GrowthWorks, which aims to incubate three new businesses with billion-dollar potential. I am also glad that P&G is working closely with A*STAR, our universities and restructured hospitals, with up to $60million in joint collaboration.

iLab 2021 is yet another initiative by P&G to further promote innovation in Singapore and the region. iLab 2021 is put together in collaboration with EDB and ESG, and other parts of our innovation eco-system. For example, the iLab challenge was issued on our Open Innovation Network, which was set up to crowdsource new ideas, and encourage partnerships between large companies, SMEs and start-ups. P&G was also a sponsor for Slingshot 2020, a global start-up competition held in conjunction with SWITCH, the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology.

Now, as we navigate a more fast-moving, uncertain and complex post-COVID-19 world, we must be able to adapt even faster. How well we can innovate will determine whether we can emerge stronger in a post-COVID-19 world. This is why innovation is a key pillar of our economic transformation.

Singapore is committed to investing in innovation and R&D. First, we are redoubling our efforts to strengthen our start-up eco-system. Our start-up efforts have met with some success, having produced several successful companies, such as Sea, Grab, Razer and Nanofilm. Last year, we made several enhancements to Startup SG, which provides budding entrepreneurs with mentorship, funding and other support.

Second, we are growing the momentum of corporate venturing in Singapore. EDB is partnering large corporates to create new ventures, by deploying experienced officers to co-develop new ideas and providing risk sharing capital. We are also building up a base of venture studios to help corporates that are new to the venturing process.

Third, Singapore is investing $25billion in research, innovation and enterprise over the next five years. We are committed to investing in basic research to grow the scientific base for companies to tap on. We are investing in growth areas, including in the digital economy. And importantly, we are also working to better align our R&D efforts with our industry transformation efforts, so that our R&D investments are better focused on meeting industry needs and national priorities, and research discoveries can be better translated into business solutions and products.

Fourth, we are also piloting a new way of collaboration through the Alliances for Action, or AfAs. The AfAs have shown how we can collaborate and innovate in a new and more nimble way, with a boldness to experiment and a bias to action. One of the AfAs is on the digitalisation of supply chains, to improve supply chain efficiency and resilience – which may be of interest to some of our iLab participants.

All these efforts are part of our efforts to build Singapore as a Global Asia Node of innovation, technology and enterprise. Global Asia because in the earlier phases of Singapore’s development, we have drawn in investments from all parts of the world, particularly the developed world – US, Europe and Japan. In the last few decades, the Asian region has grown significantly and therefore, Singapore is very well positioned to be a Global Asia Node, linking the world to Asia and Asia to the world. And also, I believe that technology, innovation and enterprise will be the future – to not only solve many of the major challenges that the world is facing, but also to ensure that we can continue to achieve sustainable economic development. 

P&G has contributed in many ways to innovation in Singapore. I am confident that you will further intensify your efforts in the years to come.

Let me take this opportunity to also encourage more companies to also do so, by working closely with our start-ups, partnering our scientists and research institutions, taking part in our Alliances for Action, and pursuing new initiatives and channels for innovation. 

To all participants of iLab 2021, I wish you a fruitful festival and every success in your endeavours. May you continue the pursuit of innovation with passion, for the world is yours to shape. And I welcome all of you to explore opportunities in Singapore, when the situation permits. 

Once again, I thank P&G for organising iLab 2021. P&G’s pursuit of innovation puts it on the path to be a Company of the Future, and we look forward to further partnering you as we build the economy of the future for Singapore. I look forward to our continued partnership in the years ahead.

Thank you.