SMEs can tap key polytechnics for expertise on robotics, automation and emerging food trends
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: SMEs can tap key polytechnics for expertise on robotics, automation and emerging food trends

Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong observing an air quality monitoring system developed by Ngee Ann Polytechnic during his visit to the SME Tech Day 2023 event held at Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Thursday. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) here will be able to tap polytechnics for expertise in developing robotics and automation solutions for urban environments, while food manufacturers can get help in seizing opportunities in emerging areas such as alternative proteins and sustainability.

Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG) will set up a Centre of Innovation (COI) for robotics and automation solutions in the built environment, while expanding an existing one for food manufacturing, said Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong. He announced these initiatives at the SME Tech Day 2023 event held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Thursday.

The COIs will work with SMEs to create new products, services and solutions, and function as one-stop innovation hubs offering businesses access to specialised equipment, laboratories and training. They will also provide support, including consultancy, validation studies, and co-development.

“We recognise the challenges faced by SMEs in developing their own in-house R&D (research and development) and innovation capabilities and facilities,” Mr Gan said.

For the new built environment COI, Temasek Polytechnic (TP) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) will work together to help SMEs develop and adopt robotics and automation solutions in built-up areas.

In total, this new COI will bring the number of such centres under EnterpriseSG’s auspices to 12.

Meanwhile, the COI for food manufacturing will expand its suite of resources and expertise to support companies interested in emerging areas such as alternative proteins, as well as in adopting sustainable approaches in their operations.

This centre, which brings together the strengths and complementary capabilities of Singapore Polytechnic (SP), Nanyang Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic and TP, will also groom and upskill talent through training courses and innovation projects, said Mr Gan.

Together, the two centres are expected to work with more than 800 local enterprises and embark on more than 100 projects over the next two years.

Separately, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) signed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with NP and SP respectively to ensure that the talent pool will continue to meet the needs of the evolving business environment.

The MOUs will enable the polytechnics to develop both the operation and technology road map for local enterprises as well as continuing-education and training programmes that will raise the skill level of the local workforce to support innovation and enterprise in the country.

The operation and technology road map is a government-led scheme to help SMEs use technology to develop their business for long-term profit, and falls under a programme called Growing Enterprises Through Technology Upgrade (GET-Up).

The MOUs also encompass the introduction of a new internship collaboration model with SP and NP, allowing students from both polytechnics to take part in the Technology for Enterprise Capability Upgrading (T-Up) programme, exposing them to invaluable R&D experiences, while being mentored by A*Star’s research scientists.

At the same time, the T-Up programme is being expanded so that SMEs can raise their capabilities in artificial intelligence (AI) through the secondment of AI Singapore’s experts for the first time.

Over the past 20 years, both of these programmes have contributed to the vibrancy of the country’s small and medium-sized businesses.

For example, some 1,500 local enterprises have benefited from participating in the GET-Up programme, while 1,000 A*Star scientists and engineers were sent out to an equivalent number of SMEs under the latter scheme.

“These programmes have helped local SMEs develop better products, improve business processes, and ultimately, allowed them to scale up and internationalise,” said A*Star’s innovation and enterprise group director Ho Yew Wee.

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.