DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam at the Opening of the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Regional Headquarters for Asia

SM Tharman Shanmugaratnam | 26 October 2017

DPM and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, spoke at the opening of the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) regional headquarters for Asia on 30 October 2017 at GSK Asia House.


Ms Emma Walmsley, CEO, GlaxoSmithKline
Mr Scott Wightman, British High Commissioner to Singapore
Mr Andy Detaille, Belgium’s Ambassador to Singapore
Distinguished Guests and everyone in the GSK Team


It is a real pleasure to be back at GSK’s regional headquarters for Asia with you, barely two years after we did the ground-breaking for the project. GSK Asia House (GSKAH), as it is known among its employees, is a significant facility, and part of GSK’s continuing journey with Singapore.

A significant milestone in the long-standing partnership between GSK and Singapore

We can say that GSK has been synonymous with Singapore’s Biomedical Sciences (BMS) industry. Its first office in Singapore was established in 1959 - the first global healthcare company to sink roots here, as CEO Emma Walmsley has just reminded us. Since then, it has invested more than S$2.5 billion in Singapore, with its “Factory of the Future” in Jurong being a major recent example.

Steadily, GSK has complemented its manufacturing footprint here with upstream, innovation efforts - such as its Sustainable Manufacturing Centre of Excellence that is developing waste-to-energy and other technologies for its Factory of the Future. It is also growing its downstream, commercialisation capabilities, so what we see in Singapore today is an integrated and holistic presence of GSK.

It is testimony of GSK and Singapore’s confidence in each other, and the bright prospects for the BMS industry in the years to come.

Singapore’s role in serving Asia’s healthcare market

The underlying drivers are well-known, and in Asia especially the demand for healthcare is growing at an exponential pace. In a little over a decade from now, Asia should have overtaken the size of the European and North American healthcare markets, respectively1.

GSK’s decision to locate the GSK Asia House here, alongside 30 other top BMS companies’ regional headquarters, also reflects Singapore’s continued role as a strategic hub for businesses to anticipate and meet these new demands in Asia, and to manage their pan-Asian operations.

Strengthening Innovation Networks

There is a further reason for our growing partnership: innovation is the key to both Singapore and GSK’s future.

We know that innovation succeeds best in networks and clusters. New ideas spread more quickly, and are contested and refined faster.

We are thickening our innovation networks and clusters in Singapore. This includes strengthening the links between public research and the innovation efforts of leading private enterprise, and developing platforms to bring together multiple players, each bringing different capabilities and innovation assets.

a) We will continue to foster partnerships between our public research performers and private enterprises. For example, just this month the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre commenced a new study with GSK that should help enhance clinical-decision making. Clinicians and researchers will create a respiratory diseases database for research, as well as electronic dashboards for tracking and management of asthma and COPD2 patients in Singapore. (Data from 13,000 patients will be collected a year.)

b) One recent example of a platform for multiple innovation players is the Pharma Innovation Programme Singapore (PIPS) launched last month, with GSK, Pfizer and MSD partnering A*STAR and the National University of Singapore (NUS) to improve and transform manufacturing operations in the pharmaceutical industry. Some hoped for outcomes: more sustainable manufacturing of complex chemicals through the use of bio-catalysis technologies; and a fully automated supply chain that can predict and respond better to patient demands and market trends.

c) Finally, we continue to facilitate leading companies in their efforts to develop new capabilities, which will have a tangible impact on both their Singapore-based and global innovation efforts. Strong digital and data-analytics capabilities are critical to the industry’s future. The Shopper Science Lab in the GSK Asia House is a good example of this. The digitally-enabled lab utilises virtual reality technology to simulate multiple retail scenarios and environments, in ways that are both more cost-effective and impactful than traditional market research.

Developing Leadership For Asia

Beyond investments in hardware and software, we must continue to invest in our people. 

GSK is a strong partner in our SkillsFuture journey. The Learning Centre in the GSK Asia House is responsible for GSK’s Asia Leadership Programme that aims to develop a pipeline of high potential leadership talent from Asia who can be considered for global leadership roles. The programme is projected to train more than 250 individuals over 5 years, of which 50 are expected to be Singaporeans. Particular emphasis will be placed on developing competencies such as the risk-taking disposition that facilitates innovation – something which does not come too easily within large corporations anywhere – and cultural intelligence, including the ability to influence and inspire diverse teams and in different environments in Asia and beyond.

a) Ms Cheong Wai See is a Singaporean who is currently benefiting from this Asia Leadership Programme. Since joining the programme 8 months ago, Wai See has been pushed out of her comfort zone - or to put it more positively, given “the chance to build new relationships and new perspectives” as she put it.


In closing, I would like to congratulate the GSK team again on the opening of GSK Asia House. I am confident that your deepening relationship with Singapore, whether in future manufacturing, clinical innovations or talent development, will position both of us well for the opportunities in Asia and beyond. It has been an important partnership for GSK and Singapore, and remains so for the future.

. . . . . . . . 

[1] Frost & Sullivan, Vision 2025 - The Future of Healthcare: Projecting Market Transformations and Growth Opportunities

[2] Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease