DPM Teo Chee Hean at the Singtel-A*Star & Singtel-NTU Master Research and Collaboration Agreements Signing Ceremony

DPM Teo Chee Hean at the Singtel-A*Star & Singtel-NTU Master Research and Collaboration Agreements Signing Ceremony

DPM Teo Chee Hean | 4 December 2017

DPM Teo Chee Hean, who is also Chairman of the National Research Foundation, delivered this speech titled "Research Partnerships to Seize New Opportunities in the Digital Age" at the Singtel-A*Star & Singtel-NTU Master Research and Collaboration Agreements Signing Ceremony On 4 Dec 2017, at the Singtel Comcentre, Singtel Futurenow Innovation Centre.


Ms Chua Sock Koong, Singtel Group CEO,
Mr Lim Chuan Poh, A*STAR Chairman,
Professor Subra Suresh, President-Designate NTU
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon.

Congratulations to Singtel, NTU and A*STAR on your new partnerships to research and develop digital technologies.

Growth in Digital Economy

Digital technologies are a key driver of new products and services as more consumers transact online today. In our immediate region, China, India and ASEAN account for about 40 %[1] of global internet users, and offer good market opportunities.

The digital economy in ASEAN alone is expected to be one of the top five globally by 2025[2]. ASEAN Member States have drawn up the ASEAN ICT Master Plan to help realise this potential, and are implementing various initiatives for our ASEAN community to be more digitally-enabled, inclusive and integrated.[3] As Singapore assumes ASEAN Chairmanship in the coming year, this will be one of our focus areas.

Many of our Singapore-based companies have operations in this region.

Supporting our Companies in the Digital Age

In Singapore, the Government is working closely with our companies, unions and workers so that we can succeed in the Digital Age. At the national level, we are advancing our Smart Nation initiative. At the sectoral level, under the Industry Transformation Maps, each sector is developing its digitisation plan and coordinating efforts to upgrade the digital capabilities of our companies and our workers.

We are also prepared to invest up to S$400 million over five years, for the Services and Digital Economy domain under the 2020 Research, Innovation and Enterprise Plan. These investments will strengthen and deepen our digital capabilities and advance our Smart Nation initiative.

Our research institutes and universities have built up expertise in digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and data science. We encourage our companies to be engaged with our researchers. For instance, AI Singapore[4] and the Singapore Data Science Consortium[5] are working on projects with our companies. This includes matching companies with research performers and start-ups, and jointly developing new digital products and services in focus areas such as healthcare, fintech and the urban environment.

It is encouraging that many Large Local Enterprises such as Singtel, SembCorp, ST Engineering and Keppel have developed joint laboratories with our public research institutes and universities.

Singtel’s Collaborations

The two Master Research & Collaboration Agreements (MRCAs) that Singtel is signing today with our public research institutions are further examples of how public-private partnerships can deliver more impactful outcomes. Our public researchers will have a better gauge of market demand for their research domains, while our Large Local Enterprises can develop a good pipeline of products and services for the future.

Singtel – NTU MRCA

Under the first agreement, Singtel and NTU will establish a corporate laboratory in Cognitive & Artificial Intelligence. This laboratory will leverage the Smart City expertise of Singtel’s subsidiary, NCS, and the artificial intelligence capabilities of NTU, to develop solutions in Anticipatory Analytics & Services, Edge Intelligence as well as Condition-based Maintenance. These solutions have the potential for cross-domain applications, particularly in digital services and urban solutions. For instance, businesses can better analyse and anticipate customer behaviour in real time, and provide smart solutions in resource management.

Over the next five years, this corporate laboratory is expected to contribute 10 new product lines to NCS’ portfolio, and train more than 200 engineers, research staff and students. This is indeed a valuable opportunity for NCS and NTU to enhance their digital capabilities, and also provides Singtel and NCS with new products for the local and overseas markets.

Singtel – A*STAR MRCA

Under the second agreement, Singtel and A*STAR will undertake R&D activities and projects in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics as well as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). These technologies can be applied in a wide range of sectors such as healthcare, urban sustainability and airport services.

For instance, concierge service robots and assistive robots can help serve Singtel’s industrial and retail customers. This partnership will also allow Singtel to test-bed and fine-tune its high-value services such as Narrow Band IoT[6] and high-speed 5G networks at the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre Model Factory to be launched next year.


I would like to congratulate Singtel and the partners, NTU and A*STAR once again on your new partnerships. I wish you a fruitful partnership, and look forward to the exciting new digital solutions you will be developing in the next few years. Thank you.

[1] International Telecommunication Union, Jun 2017.

[2] A. T. Kearney, “The ASEAN Digital Revolution”; Temasek Holdings and Google, “e-commerce Southeast Asia: Unlocking the US$ 200 billion digital opportunity in Southeast Asia”, 2016.

[3] ASEAN ICT Masterplan 2020, http://www.asean.org

[4] AI.SG is a $150million programme under RIE2020 announced in May 2017, aimed at boosting Singapore’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities till 2022. It is driven by NRF, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO), EDB, IMDA, SGInnovate and the Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS). AI.SG will (1) address major challenges that affect both society and industry; (2) invest in deep capabilities to catch the next wave of scientific innovation; and (3) grow AI innovation and adoption in companies.

[5] Announced in May 2017, the Singapore Data Science Consortium was established by NRF in collaboration with NUS, NTU, SMU and A*STAR. It seeks to deepen Singapore’s existing strengths in data science and analytics, by strengthening collaborative research linkages between IHLs, research institutes and industry in data science and developing a pipeline of data science talents.

[6] Narrow Band IoT refers to long-distance, low-power communications systems which use mobile networks to transmit relatively small data volumes.