chairs the Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC),1 Edison Liu, the executive director of Singapore’s Genome Institute,2 and Kerry Sieh, the director of Singapore’s Earth Observatory.3 Singapore currently is a world leader in per capita metrics of innovation, including U.S. patents.

More impressive is the concerted federal approach to transitioning the results of R&D to the private sector. The government shifted its focus from cost-effectiveness and efficiency toward knowledge as the driver (Vedem et al., 2009). Although the Singapore Economic Development Board executes strategies to make Singapore a global hub for business investment and talent, the Standards, Productivity, and Innovation Board (SPRING) supports the development of small- to medium-sized enterprises with funding to execute intellectual property (IP) strategy, hire external experts, and contract R&D from the research institutes. Grants of up to $10 million are among the support vehicles available for companies to commercialize Singapore-based technology. The 14 research institutes are increasingly tasked with developing a pipeline of research talent to meet industry needs; for example, education products have been produced for school children, and for undergraduate, master’s, and nascent doctoral-level programs—including a joint engineering and business doctorate (Vedem et al., 2009).

Many of these new initiatives are bearing fruit. Venture capital firms are working closely with the research institutes and technology incubators to develop spin-off companies. As of 2008, 72 percent of R&D funding was supplied by the private sector (Yeoh, 2010). As an example of knowledge-based economic growth, the number of nanotechnology-related companies has grown from 10 in 2004 to 58 in 2009 (Vedem et al., 2009). Other successful spin-off companies are developing medical devices, organic photonics, high-efficiency solar cells, water purification and waste treatment systems, and ultra-low power electronics. Many of these products are directly applicable to defense and homeland security systems. The close personal relationships among government leaders and between civilian and military leaders in Singapore facilitate the transfer of R&D products for military as well as civilian applications.


Singapore has a well-defined vision for national security, based on establishing itself as a valuable partner in the information age and on making an attack on its territory prohibitively expensive for potential enemies. In order to realize these goals, Singapore has planned an S&T strategy around its unique national needs and its drive to create a highly educated and technologically developed society. The degree to which Singapore solicits international advice for planning and carrying out national initiatives is exemplary, and works very well in its highly centralized, stable, supportive federal system.

Singapore has identified a number of driving forces for R&D on the global stage. These are aging, renewable energy, climate change and sustainability, urbanization, infectious diseases, food security, and water supplies. In particular, the country wants to become a major economic powerhouse by finding innovative solutions to its identified challenges and selling the knowledge it has developed.

For example, Singapore is conducting considerable research on how to develop and process its water supply. As access to water becomes more important in countries like India and China, Singapore intends to sell its knowledge to cities in these areas. This is often referenced in Singapore as the “Singapore water story.”

Another area of focus is infectious diseases, and more generally biotechnology. Singapore has invested heavily in the development of basic understanding of biotechnology as well as the technology to detect and control the spread of infection. This type of knowledge enables it to respond quickly to emerging threats, as it did for the SARS epidemic, and provides technology for export to address global health problems.

In light of the continuing issues surrounding climate change in the world, Singapore is looking both at compact energy sources, especially renewable ones, and at geo-engineering. The need for compact energy sources is driven by the fact that Singapore is a small country. Given the lack of countries in the world that agree on climate

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