S'pore to grow IDM market

update Government unveils plans to invest some US$325 million in driving the country's interactive and digital media market.
Written by Lynn Tan @ Redhat, Contributor

update SINGAPORE--The Media Development Authority (MDA) today revealed plans to back research and development (R&D) activities the country's interactive and digital media (IDM) industry.

Speaking at the inaugural IDM Jamboree, an industry networking event hosted by the MDA, Singapore's Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, said: "[The] focus on IDM R&D underscores the government's commitment to develop the IDM sector and to create a niche for Singapore to excel in."

In July last year, the National Research Foundation (NRF) announced plans to allocate S$500 million (US$325.7 million) over the next five years--from 2006--to fund the development of a strategic IDM research program. These plans included the establishment of the multi-agency IDM R&D Program Office within MDA to oversee R&D initiatives in IDM.

Dr Balakrishnan unveiled "four interlinked initiatives" that aim to build a "high-growth and self-sustaining ecosystem which will propel Singapore into the forefront of IDM R&D, and establish [Singapore] as a significant node in the IDM space".

Dubbed i.Rock, i.JAM, Futurescape and Flagship2B, the initiatives will involve four key groups of stakeholders and industry players, institutes of higher learning (IHLs), consumers and the public sector, said Michael Yap, executive director of the IDM R&D Program Office.

"We aim to bring together all the stakeholders including IHLs and businesses, to build sustainable and vibrant industry sectors around these R&D focus areas," said Yap, who is also deputy chief executive officer at MDA. "The four initiatives unveiled provide the IDM R&D Program Office with the necessary means to do so."

MDA expects these programs to drive demand for IDM services, grow a network of local and international research organization "to augment the capabilities of the local IDM sector", as well as encourage innovative ideas and projects from the public for the IDM R&D landscape. The authority also hopes to establish Singapore "as an international testbed center for IDM-enabling infrastructure and applications".

According to MDA, three key R&D areas have been identified under the initiatives, focusing on:

  • animation, games and effects to strengthen investments in technology R&D, tools, platform development and explore new genres;
  • media intermediary services to cultivate technical capabilities in the organization, the distribution and security of digital media; and
  • "on-the-move" media services to identify new ways of reaching and interacting with mobile-connected people who are always on the move.

According to Yap, the IDM R&D Program Office will be a "one-stop shop" for information on the initiatives, and those interested in taking part in these programs can submit an application or enquiries via e-mail at idm_office@mda.gov.sg

Transforming the face of education
According to Dr Balakrishnan, an R&D program has been established at the Ministry of Education (MOE) to look at how IDM can also be used to transform teaching and learning processes.

The objective is to "nurture an IDM-savvy society with new literacy to flourish in rapidly-changing and globally-networked environments", and create a next generation of Singaporeans who can further drive this market, he said.

Initiatives such as FutureSchools@Singapore, will be set up to look into new teaching and learning practices, Dr Balakrishnan said, adding that successful processes and models arising from these schools will then be rolled out to the rest of the schools in the republic.

In October last year, the MDA announced that it formed a partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States to develop the Singapore-MIT International Game Lab (SMIGL)

Dr Balakrishnan said the lab will allow students and researchers to collaborate with MIT researchers, and games industry professionals, on international research projects. He added that the SMIGL will also give games researchers and professionals in Singapore access to cutting-edge technologies, as well as the latest conceptual developments and links to the international game development and research communities.

"[Under this program], some 200 of our best IDM students will have the opportunity to work side-by-side with the MIT researchers", he said.

In December last year, MDA kickstarted a new program to help local talent make their mark in mobile games development.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the global mobile entertainment and games market is expected to be worth US$73 million by 2009.

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