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Blueprints for building capabilities

Twenty-three industries to have tailor-made development plans drawn for them; cross-industry synergies will also be explored.

The ITM for the logistics industry can help the firms better understand emerging trends.

DRIVING many of the key strategies outlined in the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) report are the customised industry-level restructuring blueprints, termed the Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs). In the CFE's vision, they not only will drive productivity and growth of individual industries, but can also foster synergies across multiple ones.

The ITMs aim to transform and strengthen industries by bringing together stakeholders in each industry to collaborate with each other. The purpose is to equip all stakeholders in each industry with the means to grow, innovate, and to be nimble in the face of future challenges.

"Our approach is not to pick winners, but to build capabilities to give our enterprises and workers the best chance of succeeding in the open market," says the CFE report.

First proposed in the 2016 Budget, the ITMs are overseen by the Council for Skills, Innovation, and Productivity (CSIP).

The maps will be rolled out for 23 industries (which collectively account for about 80 per cent of the economy) by the end of FY2017; six have been launched so far.

Therefore, the CFE recommends that the early learning points from the first batch of ITMs be used to strengthen subsequent maps that will be implemented. This will mean that the industries, through the ITMs, have a tailored approach so that Singapore can be "focused on where the potential can be best realised in each case".

The ITMs will lay out plans to drive innovation and productivity within each industry. At the same time, they will sharpen the industries' focus on the jobs, skills and government support that are needed to drive these plans forward.

For example, the ITM for the logistics industry can help the firms better understand emerging trends such as additive manufacturing and omni-channel retail. It can also sharpen its focus on the industry's challenges in securing sufficient land and labour, as well as in tackling competition from the region and globally.

But beyond industry-focused roadmaps, the CFE report also lays out plans for a cluster approach to the ITMs, so that synergies can be fostered across multiple industries. This way, industries in the same cluster can take advantage of skill adjacencies between them to support the provision of skilled manpower. For instance, the food services and hospitality industries, both in the lifestyle cluster, have similar employee skill needs.

Through the cluster approach, the CFE sees scope to strengthen linkages across industries - for example, upgrading the capabilities of precision engineering firms so that they become core suppliers to large corporations in other industries.

This approach also allows the Singapore economy to be ready for any changing industry trends that may come. Noting that new industries that do not fit into existing classifications, such as the wearables sector, will emerge, the report says that "when they do, we should facilitate, not impede, such developments".

With the ITM approach, the onus is upon companies to do their part in staying ahead of the curve. "While some enterprises will succeed, others that are slow to adapt will not, and we should accept this," adds the report. Overall, the role of ITMs as an enabler in Singapore's future economy is a noted departure from earlier broad-based, prescriptive approaches to economic restructuring. The government will "increasingly perform the role of facilitator and enabler of industry transformation", while trade associations and other stakeholders in each industry will act as multipliers, the report says.

"A customised approach for each industry probably makes more sense than a broad strategic thrust given rapidly changing industry, technology and business configurations," says Selena Ling, economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC). "This is a mindset shift from picking winners and a one-size-fits-all approach."

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