Singapore gets new innovation centre in boost to advanced manufacturing sector

Singapore gets new innovation centre in boost to advanced manufacturing sector

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AN innovation centre in Changi Business Park launched on Tuesday will aim at boosting the competitiveness of Singapore's electronics and advanced manufacturing sector.

The PlanetSpark Innovation Centre will nurture Singapore-grown hardware technology startups and small and medium-sized enterprises in the artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) sectors.

The centre was developed by mainboard-listed electronics components distributor Excelpoint Technology, in collaboration with Enterprise Singapore over two years. Both parties will pump in an initial investment of S$5 million to grow more than 30 startups over the next three years, said PlanetSpark's managing director Phuay Li Ying.

Through PlanetSpark, companies can accelerate their product development journey and deliver a proof-of-concept within six months.

The centre will also connect startups to a network of key semiconductor partners and manufacturers such as Analog Devices, Xilinx, Qualcomm and NXP. The partnerships will let startups access the tools they need and help commercialise their products locally and internationally.

PlanetSpark's panel of mentors from the private and public sectors will share their expertise and experience with companies. The centre will also establish partnerships with venture capital firms to provide funding to grow high-potential startups.

The opening of PlanetSpark complements the government's efforts to grow the electronics industry and develop Singapore as a resilient base for advanced manufacturers in the region, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, the guest-of-honour at the opening ceremony.

"As a global trading hub for electronics components, Singapore is a key node in the global supply chain for products ranging from semiconductors, storage and memory products to microelectromechanical systems," he said.

In 2019, Singapore exported more than US$84 billion of electronic components, about 10 per cent of global electronics exports.

Mr Chan said the nature of manufacturing is undergoing a transformative change, propelled by advancements in AI and IoT, and huge amounts of computational power.

The global IoT industry, which was valued at US$151 billion in 2018, is forecasted to grow to US$1.6 trillion by 2025. Furthermore, overall IoT adoption within Asean is expected to be even greater than global averages due to the growth of "smart cities" and Industry 4.0 efforts.

"Going forward, it is not enough just to try and play the arbitrage game," said Mr Chan, referring to how players in the electronics industry started out by "buying cheap and selling high" to make a margin.

"Nor is it enough to just produce things for other people. If we do not have our own products, intellectual property and value-added services, it will be very difficult for us to survive in this harsh competition."

The minister added that to enhance Singapore's supply chain resilience, the government is also looking to boost local production to strengthen the country's supply chain across its portfolio of needs.

The hardware industry is a challenging one to break into because of the long gestation period of development, said PlanetSpark's Ms Phuay. The innovation centre will help bridge this gap to allow more startups to thrive in the fast-paced and competitive industry, she said.

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