PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Opening of Dyson’s new global headquarters at St James Power Station on 25 March 2022.
Her Excellency Kara Owen, British High Commissioner
Sir James Dyson, Founder and Chairman of Dyson
Mr Jake Dyson, Chief Engineer and Dyson Board Member
Mr Sam Dyson, Chairman of Weybourne and Dyson Board Member
Mr Roland Krueger, Chief Executive Officer of Dyson
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
A very good morning to all of you
I am delighted today to join you here to open Dyson’s global headquarters at St James Power Station.
This is a milestone in our partnership with Dyson. As you heard, when Dyson opened its first facility in Singapore in 2007, it had just 10 employees. Today, Singapore is home to over 1,400 Dyson staff, across R&D, advanced manufacturing and global headquarter functions such as supply chain and finance. Singapore is a key hub for Dyson products. We are the lead manufacturing site for Dyson Hyperdymium motors, which are at the heart of most Dyson devices. We have helped to develop many popular Dyson products, such as the Dyson Airwrap hair styler and Dyson V15 Detect vacuum. And we are strengthening our partnership with Dyson. In addition to opening its global headquarters here, over the next four years, Dyson will invest close to S$1.5 billion in its Singapore operations, and expand its R&D team by more than 250 engineers and scientists. This will open up exciting job opportunities for our workers, and develop new products for the global market.
Singapore works very hard to bring in investments. Companies like Dyson are sought after by many economies, and can site themselves anywhere in the world. They come to Singapore because we offer ease of doing business, political stability, ready access to talent, and the rule of law, amongst other factors, which include having buildings like the St James Power Station. These attributes give Singapore an edge over our competitors. But they did not come about by chance, and we must never take them for granted. We must keep working hard to protect them, and strengthen these lasting advantages.
This is all the more crucial because our external environment is becoming enormously more challenging. Competition is intensifying, countries around the world are stepping up efforts to attract investments, all looking to create jobs and recover from the economic impact of the pandemic. We are also seeing growing geopolitical tensions, even conflicts. The war in Ukraine poses risks of escalation and wider conflict. Even if escalation is avoided, the war will still fundamentally change the multilateral framework of economic cooperation. With sanctions and export controls increasingly prevalent, it will be more and more difficult for all countries to keep up trade and investment flows within such a multilateral framework, given their political differences. It is not just continuing to do business with somebody with whom we have disagreements or disputes with, but wanting to cut off and do harm to somebody whom you see as an opponent, even an enemy. And that means a multilateral framework in which everybody can fit in, work together and co-exist will come under enormous strain. Many countries are already on-shoring supply chains for resilience and national security reasons. These are serious threats to Singapore, which has long thrived on globalisation, and on a stable, rules-based international order.
There are limits to what a small country can do to influence these global trends, but Singapore can and must nimbly adapt to them in order to stay competitive and continue growing our economy, and ensuring our survival and security in a dangerous world. We are doing so in a few ways.
First, we remain open and connected to the world. This means not just physical connectivity – keeping our borders open, trading with the world, building our air and sea links – all of which we are doing. But more importantly, the ethos of our society must remain open – welcoming of new ideas and talent, always learning from others, never becoming resistant to change or complacent about the need to stay ahead. This is how we have built Singapore – drawing in the best scientists, designers, and engineers from around the world, embracing the diversity of ideas and cultures that congregate here, adding our own Singapore touch to make it work in our context. It is not easy to sustain this, particularly in an environment where there is every temptation, especially politically, to turn inwards and raise barriers to the outside world, to non-Singaporeans to come to work here. But if we succumb to the temptation to close our doors, we will surely end up hurting ourselves. Our economy will stagnate, Singaporeans will have fewer rather than more job opportunities, and the country’s long-term prospects will be endangered.
We also have to build new ways to connect with other economies. Free Trade Agreements have been a mainstay of our economic strategy, complementing the multilateral WTO framework, but the domains of trade have expanded, and we need to participate in shaping new rules of the game in these emerging areas. That is why we have been pioneering new forms of cooperation, such as Digital Economy Agreements, which facilitate cross-border data flows and digital trade, as well as Green Economy Agreements. Each such agreement we conclude serves as a pathfinder for future deals with like-minded countries, just like how the P4 FTA, a free trade agreement between Brunei, Chile, Singapore and New Zealand, progressively evolved into the CPTPP, which currently has 11 members across the Asia Pacific. It also gives parties a shared stake in one another’s success, which in turn contributes to peace and stability.
Second, we must continue building a culture of innovation throughout our economy and society, with close collaboration across industry partners, researchers, and government agencies. Under our Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 plan, we have committed to invest S$25 billion in research, innovation, and enterprise over 2021 to 2025, of which one third is allocated to basic research. This builds on earlier sustained R&D investments, which have built up our universities, research institutes and academic medical centres into internationally well-regarded establishments, and fostered many partnerships between enterprises and public research institutes to generate innovative products, services and solutions. We will work closely with industry partners, like Dyson, to strengthen translational research, so that the fruits of our R&D can be developed into products and services to grow our economy.
Third, we continue to welcome and develop talent, especially STEM talent, people in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. We strive to nurture our students’ interest and skills in STEM from a young age. We have introduced new options to promote STEM education – we offer undergraduates STEM internship opportunities at A*STAR research institutes, we allow graduate students to enrol in industry-relevant doctoral degree programmes such as industrial PhDs, we introduce a multi-disciplinary curriculum in our institutes of higher learning, including recently merging the NUS Faculty of Engineering with the School of Design and Environment to form the College of Design and Engineering. I am happy that these investments are bearing fruit. A group of young inventors from NUS Engineering recently became the International winner of the James Dyson Award. The team created a wearable device called HOPES – Home Eye Pressure E-Skin Sensor – that uses advanced sensor technology and artificial intelligence to help glaucoma patients monitor their condition easily and painlessly at home. It is an example of how good engineering, when combined with good design, can touch lives in a very tangible way. I hope that young Singaporeans will be inspired by science and technology, and go on to be explorers, inventors and pioneers of their generation.
Companies like Dyson create many opportunities for Singaporeans, help to groom local talents, and give their local employees every chance to do well and succeed. Let me cite two examples. Kevin Chiam, who is the National Winner of the James Dyson Award 2018. He won the award for his kitchenware designs, which were created to enable visually impaired persons to make their own meals easily and safely. Kevin pursued a Master’s in Innovation and Design Engineering from the Royal College of Arts in the UK on a DesignSingapore Council scholarship. He is now a Senior Industrial Designer with Dyson, working on product innovation. Another example is Saiful Jumari, who joined Dyson’s Graduate Program as a software engineer in 2018, after graduating with a physics degree from NUS. Since then, Saiful has risen to become a Senior Robotics Engineer, and was sponsored by the company to complete a robotics nanodegree. He now does cutting-edge work, programming intelligent robots that sense and respond autonomously to their environment. This is the future for tech companies – to go wherever talent is available and made welcome. It is also the future for Singapore – to welcome companies and talent, which can help make us a hub of new ideas and scientific progress.
Building an Inclusive Society
I have spoken about staying open and connected to the world, building a culture of innovation, welcoming and developing talent.
These are all important strategies to build a more vibrant and dynamic economy.
But for Singapore to continue to prosper, beyond getting our economic strategies right, we must also pay close attention to our social policies. Even as we bring in investments and talents to grow Singapore’s economy, we must ensure that this growth is inclusive and lifts everybody up, that Singaporeans across all segments of our society can benefit from the fruits of growth, that those at risk of being left behind are given an extra helping hand, and those who may be displaced or disrupted by technological change are assisted and trained to stay employable and productive.
This year’s Budget aims to do just this – to build a fairer and more inclusive society, to make sure that there is something for everyone, while giving a little more support to those who need it.
Because ultimately, everyone must have a stake in Singapore’s growth, so that Singaporeans will support keeping our country open, will continue to welcome others who are keen to fit in and play a part in our society, who are able to contribute to our development, and thereby enable us to maintain the virtuous cycle of growth and prosperity that Singaporeans now enjoy.
Singapore has developed into a successful global city over half a century. We are one of the world’s most competitive economies, and a strong social compact underpins our government’s policies and Singapore’s success.
But we must work hard to build upon these hard-earned achievements, to strive to stay ahead of our competition. At the same time, to continue to meet the hopes and aspirations of Singaporeans.
I have every confidence that we can do this well, and continue to forge a better future for Singapore and Singaporeans.
Finally, congratulations again to Dyson on the opening of your new global headquarters in Singapore. We look forward to doing much more with you. We wish you every success in designing, engineering and building products in Singapore, and for the world. Thank you very much.
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