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Next phase of industry transformation to consider industries in clusters, not isolation: Heng

AFTER the launch of sector-specific roadmaps, the next phase of Singapore's industry transformation efforts should look at possible overlaps between industries instead, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

"We really don't want to think of Industry Transformation Maps as just another set of vertical silos," he noted, referring to the 23 industry-specific roadmaps that the government has been rolling out.

Instead, it is important to consider "the convergence of sectors", as global and technological changes cause industry boundaries to blur. One example, he added, is the overlap between finance and technology, resulting in the growing area of fintech.

Mr Heng was speaking at the launch of a six-part forum series by the EDB Society and Singapore Management University on Wednesday night.

In the next phase of transformation, the government will therefore consider clusters of industries and see what synergies can be realised, he said, citing retail and real estate as another example of industries with potential overlaps.

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In his keynote speech at the event, Mr Heng also defended the Industry Transformation Maps, which had come under scrutiny earlier in January for potentially not addressing companies' needs.

He gave concrete examples of how sectors have benefited from these roadmaps. In food manufacturing, firms have come together to share high-tech facilities such as high-pressure processing, which extends the shelf life of food products while preserving quality. Others have grouped together to offer uniquely Singaporean food products such as bak kut teh and laksa cookies to the international market, helping them build their internationalisation capabilities collectively.

Much more remains to be done, including helping companies go global, added Mr Heng, who cited the merger of Spring Singapore and IE Singapore as a good move.

But firms have to do their part, he said: "I caution all our economic agencies that it is not our job to run business. It is our job to be helpful.

"If businesses expect us to design a plan for them to just follow, then they will also not succeed."

What is important is for businesses, government and others to work in partnership to achieve more, he pointed out. He called on trade associations and business chambers to step up and champion transformation, as well as on research institutes to partner companies in their journey.

Wednesday night's event was the first forum in the Enterprise & Enterpreneur Series. Supported by the Economic Development Board, the series will look at transformation and value-creation in areas such as digitalisation, advanced manufacturing, media and energy.

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