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More than half of Singapore's S$19b war chest for research, innovation committed so far

ABOUT S$9.8 billion of the S$19 billion sum earmarked for the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 (RIE2020) plan has been committed as at the end of financial year 2018, with the five-year plan on track to meet its industry project target and having already exceeded its targeted number of startups.

The remaining funds should be sufficient to see through the completion of RIE2020, said the Ministry of Finance (MOF), which provided the update.

As at March 31, 2018, some 3,342 industry projects were achieved, with the end target being 4,100. As at March 31, 2019, 294 successful startups were achieved, beating the 250 target.

As for licences and licensing revenue generated, the achievements in the first three years of RIE2020 show that it is "on track to exceeding the achievements in RIE2015". As at December 2018, 1,092 licences were granted and S$28.2 million in licensing revenue was gained, compared to 1,432 and S$27.3 million respectively for the full five-year period of RIE2015.

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But MOF, which was responding to queries from the parliamentary Estimates Committee, stressed that these indicators "should not be the sole metrics used to measure the impact of R&D (research and development) translation and commercialisation".

The update on RIE2020 was included in the fourth report of the Estimates Committee, which was presented to Parliament on Wednesday and released on Thursday. Comprising eight Members of Parliament, the committee is tasked with examining the Budget.

While acknowledging MOF's view, the committee's view was that the government should "develop a comprehensive set of
analytics, taking into account short and long-term factors, to set KPIs (key performance indicators) and inform value and outcomes of R&D and RIE investments".

MOF also provided an update on Centres of Innovation, set up to support small and medium enterprises with technology innovation. Since the scheme began in 2006, the centres had reached out to more than 7,400 companies, with over 3,500 projects embarked upon.

The committee also queried the government in areas such as special transfers, supplementary estimates for FY2018, SkillsFuture, and resources set aside for cybersecurity.