S'pore reaps results in increased R&D spend

The island-state spent US$2.4 billion on research and development in 2004, which also saw almost 600 patents awarded, marking an increase of 30.2 percent from 2003.

SINGAPORE--The country's research and development (R&D) sector looks set to grow, as expenditure in this segment and the number of patents awarded last year grew exponentially.

According to Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), the gross domestic expenditure on R&D last year was almost US$2.4 billion, an 18.6 percent increase from US$2.0 billion in 2003. The amount also represented 2.13 percent of the country's gross domestic product in 2004.

Said Boon Swan Foo, A*STAR's managing director, in a media statement: "Research and innovation will be key drivers to transform Singapore's economy in the next 10 to 20 years.

"Corporate R&D laboratories and top R&D talents have been drawn to Singapore by the government's strong commitment to R&D and education, an attractive environment for R&D activities, and access to high quality, well-trained Singaporean and foreign R&D talent."

The spike in the R&D expenditure, according to the agency, is mainly fueled by the private sector which splashed out almost US$1.5 billion last year. In contrast, the public sector's expenditure was almost US$0.9 billion.

Within the private sector, the manufacturing segment was the biggest spender, chalking up a total of US$0.9 billion. Of this amount, the electronics segment accounted for 69.8 percent, with companies in the semiconductor and infocomms end-products markets driving the growth, contributing US$278.2 million and US$208.7 million, respectively. Other key sectors include computer peripherals and data storage, which accounted for USS$99.6 million and US$72.2 million, respectively.

Paul Chan, senior vice president and managing director of Hewlett-Packard Asia-Pacific and Japan, noted that with the constant change in the technology industry, companies need to innovate in order to keep pace.

"The IT industry changes at such a rapid rate today that innovation through R&D is central to maintaining a competitive edge for ourselves and our customers," said Chan, in the media release. "We drive product and technology leadership, apply innovation across our product lines to create more meaningful experiences. And we're committed to advance research in key emerging areas that will shape the future of technology."

According to the A*STAR survey, more companies in the private sector are conducting R&D activities, a figure that grew to 765 last year from 617 in 2003. The R&D expenditures of these companies also increased, with 52 companies investing an excess of US$5.9 million in such activities in 2004, compared to 45 in 2003. Those with annual R&D expenditure between US$0.6 million and US$5.9 million increased from 202 in 2003, to 238 in 2004.

With the increased R&D spending, it is no surprise that there was also an increase in the number of patent applications last year, compared to 2003.

A total of 1,257 patent applications were filed last year, an increase of 25.6 percent over the previous year. The number of patents awarded also increased 30.2 percent to 599 in 2004. Of these, the private sector took the lion's share with 433 patents awarded from a total of 777 applications filed.