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A*Star to undergo major restructuring

This will help agency keep up with biomed industry and meet CFE objectives, says DPM Teo
Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - 05:50

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Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who broke the news to the media on Monday, said that the restructuring will enable A*STAR to keep up with a biomedical industry that has "transformed tremendously", and meet the objectives of the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE).

Singapore

A*STAR - the lead public sector agency that spearheads Singapore's research and development (R&D) work - will soon undergo a major restructuring.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who broke the news to the media on Monday, said that the restructuring will enable A*Star to keep up with a biomedical industry that has "transformed tremendously", and meet the objectives of the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE), which were unveiled just last week.

He said: "We've assembled over the years a good collection of people and knowledge which is now ready to be taken out into the industry.

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"What we're building now is the entire ecosystem together with the connections into the industry - to see how we can take this knowledge base, bring it into the industry, have deployable solutions ... and have an effect both economically and also on our healthcare system."

DPM Teo, who is also chairman of the National Research Foundation (NRF), said that a key objective of the CFE is to take Singapore deeper into a knowledge-based economy, in which R&D activity will create new innovations and even industrial sectors.

"What we're doing here with NRF and A*Star is to see how we can take many of the ideas that we have in the R&D institutions into the industry - to create economic value and jobs for Singaporeans."

He noted that the restructuring of A*Star will enable the agency to "do this better in the coming years".

Asked what else Singapore can do to accelerate the commercialisation of R&D, DPM Teo cited the need for more "intermediate type of biotech companies", as well as engagement with big pharmaceutical companies.

The minister was speaking to reporters on Monday at the sidelines of his visit to A*Star's Experimental Therapeutics Centre, which was set up to advance small-molecule drug discovery in Singapore. ETC will celebrate its 10th anniversary in March.

DPM Teo added that A*Star will be building a "similar centre for large molecules", which will be known as the Experimental Biologics Centre (EBC). No timeframe was disclosed.

The minister on Monday also stopped short of going into detail about A*Star's restructuring, only saying that plans will be shared by Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), S Iswaran, at the upcoming Committee of Supply debate.

A*Star chairman Lim Chuan Poh, when asked by reporters about the restructuring, revealed that the agency is transforming to be more closely aligned to the goals of the CFE and also of RIE2020, the S$19 billion research, innovation and enterprise plan for Singapore from 2016 to 2020.

Mr Lim added that the refashioned A*Star will adopt "domain-based" and "multi-disciplinary" approaches.

The first approach will allow it to organise itself in line with the four tech domains RIE2020 has identified: health and biomedical sciences; advanced manufacturing and engineering; urban solutions and sustainability; and services and digital economy.

The second will enable A*Star to bring together multiple institutions as well as people of diverse disciplines to create "impactful research".

Leslie Loh, serial entrepreneur, angel investor and founder of training services provider Lithan, praised A*Star's restructuring efforts.

Mr Loh told The Business Times: "It is timely, and the government support is welcome. Biomedical and advanced manufacturing, in particular, are highly research-oriented, deep-tech and expensive domains with long gestation periods, and are therefore difficult for the private sector to address."

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