COS 2021: National Research Foundation

Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied): The National Research Foundation is responsible for directing a huge amount of Government spending. The Research Innovation and Enterprise RIE 2025 Plan announced in December 2020 plans for investments of $25 billion between 2021 and 2025.

In other countries, we do hear anecdotally how government-supported R&D initiatives help seed IP to domestically based companies. In the US, for example, it is known that in the past, NASA might have seeded technology to American companies, technology that arose from the state-funded space effort. I have spoken in the House about this before.

The nexus between state research institutes and research centres on the one hand and local companies on the other, is not non-existent. For example, some new initiatives were rolled out in 2018 to try to ease the process by which local firms can engage with the R&D capabilities residing in our RIs and RCs. However, I still hear anecdotally that local firms find this process not altogether easy to navigate and that there is a perception that those local firms, able to write and present their proposals well or those that hire consultants, are best able to navigate this process as opposed to those with the best ideas.

I would like to suggest that the NRF be tasked with a number of hard mandates: firstly, that KPIs be set for engaging the local firms on co-generating or supporting the generation of commercialisable IP, with the economic impact and multipliers of that IP being measured and tracked going forward. This is in line with one of the themes of my Budget debate speech that we should score an “A” for outcomes, not only an “A” for effort.

Secondly can the NRF be given a more structured or built-in mandate to direct some of its spending towards green tech in ways that would help national and, indeed, global decarbonisation goals. The two objectives, of course, are not mutually exclusive.

Ministry of Finance
26 February 2021

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