Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Opening Ceremony of the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Finals Week (BLAZE) on 11 September 2023.
First, a very warm welcome to everyone here, especially those of you who have travelled a long distance to Singapore. My heartiest congratulations to the Singapore Management University (SMU) on this 11th edition of the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan competition. I am very happy to see that the Business Plan competition has grown from strength to strength and that we have attracted so many people from all over the world to take part in this.
I was walking around the Exhibition earlier and spoke to some of the finalists. I am happy that there is so much interesting work going on, and I hope that we continue this. Indeed, we are living in very exciting times.
I started my career as a policeman, and at that time we had to record statements from witnesses, accused persons and so on. In those days, we had neither photocopying machines nor computers. So, I used part of my first month's salary to buy a manual typewriter learnt typing on my own. Every time you typed a statement, you had to make it in duplicate copies using carbon paper in some cases. I think the older ones among us will remember that if you were careless and you put the carbon papers on the wrong side, you would end up having to retype the whole thing. It was not until a few years later that we had the first word processor, and today most of you have a computer in your hand, with your smartphone, that is more powerful than the one that landed the man on the moon. You see what significant improvements technology has brought to our lives.
We are living in a world of great potential for us to make change. But at the same time, we are also living in a time of great challenges, such as climate change. Climate change is an issue that affects the whole world, particularly island nations, but even bigger countries with long coastlines will be similarly affected. As a tiny, low-lying island, Singapore is especially vulnerable to the impact of climate change. So, we have to take it seriously.
Therefore, I am very happy to hear from Prof Lim earlier about the focus on sustainability at SMU. I hope young people and every one of us in this room will seek to make a difference, as we tackle these global challenges.
Two, Prof Lim mentioned that we are emerging from this COVID pandemic. And one lesson that COVID has taught the world is that ‘no one is safe until everyone is safe’. A microscopic virus could wreak such havoc and take so many lives of people on this planet. But at the same time, we developed vaccines in record time. I hope the progress in science, technology and innovation can keep up. In fact, I am confident that it will be so, given the changes and the big challenges that we are facing.
I am very glad that we have launched this Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan competition. When it started, it was more of a business plan competition. Since 2017, we have pivoted towards innovation, science and technology. With a room filled with big believers in innovation – judges, innovators, academics and venture capitalists – we can have a very good discussion about innovation and how to innovate better.
I want to thank David Su for being very generous in donating that seed money to develop student entrepreneurship. There is nothing like learning by doing. And that if you have an idea, I would encourage you to test it and prototype it. We can then think about how we can scale it, to make an impact to people around the world and to the planet.
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