Saturday, 21 November 2020

Emerging Stronger Taskforce: Singapore's new collaborative approach to reignite economic growth in a post-Covid-19 world

7 Singapore Together Alliances for Action (AfA) are working with the Government to act on key growth opportunities
Private, public sectors to work as partners to propel economy; medtech a new area of focus
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 20 Nov 2020

As Singapore resets its economy to navigate a post-pandemic world, it has decided to take a fresh approach to growth and initiated several projects that could hold the key to the future.

These range from the safe and gradual resumption of large-scale conferences to a trial of autonomous shuttles, revealed the Emerging Stronger Taskforce (EST), six months after it started exploring new ideas to reignite the economy.

The EST is also adding a new area of focus, medical technology, which will look into developing diagnostics for diseases like Covid-19 and cancer. It is also looking at tie-ups with South-east Asian partners.

Giving an update on the work of the task force yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat noted that it has taken a new approach to collaboration under which industry-led groups dubbed Singapore Together Alliances for Action are given leeway - much like start-ups - to prototype new ideas.

"This is in keeping with the spirit of Singapore Together, where we work in partnership to achieve more than the sum of our parts," said Mr Heng, referring to the movement he and his fourth-generation colleagues started to give citizens more say in policymaking.

"This new approach to economic growth will propel our economy through Covid into a new normal post-pandemic," he added.

Members of the task force said at a press conference that this has allowed the private and public sectors to work alongside each other as partners - rather than as regulators and the regulated.

PSA International group chief executive officer Tan Chong Meng, an EST co-chair, described it as "crossing the stream while feeling the stones", rather than feeling all the stones and mapping out the way before crossing the stream.

This has borne fruit. A project by the meetings, incentive travel, conventions and exhibitions alliance, to pilot rapid testing at mass events, saw all visitors to last month's Singapore International Energy Week tested on the spot before being allowed into the venue.

The alliance on robotics has initiated a project which will see early versions of autonomous vehicles deployed by the end of the year.

And the alliance on supply chains has brought together 50 organisations to create a set of data standards that will allow different segments of the supply chain ecosystem to work together.

The other four alliances are looking at sustainability, digitalising the built environment, smart commerce and education technology.

In all, the seven alliances have collectively engaged over 600 people and over 330 businesses, trade associations and chambers, and public agencies, among others.

Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, the other EST co-chair, said this agile approach to collaboration can be a competitive advantage for Singapore and may soon become the norm.

He added that it is key to be nimble as the task force has identified six shifts in the global economy from which opportunities will emerge: A changing global order; a rebalance between efficiency and resilience in supply chains and production; digital transformation and innovation; changes in consumer preferences; greater focus on sustainability; and accelerating industry consolidation and churn.

In navigating these shifts, the task force is guided by two themes, Mr Lee said, that must underpin the future economy: A Singapore that is connected to the world, and one that is sustainable for the environment and inclusive for its people.

He called on people to share their ideas through the EST's new website, saying: "The EST needs both the support and the ideas and creativity of Singaporeans to build a Singapore that enables virtually unlimited possibilities."

6 shifts in global economy where opportunities may emerge after Covid-19 crisis, says Emerging Stronger Taskforce
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 20 Nov 2020

In devising economic strategies for a post-Covid world, the Emerging Stronger Taskforce is working on the premise that there will be no return to the old normal, even after the health crisis recedes.

To this end, the task force has identified six shifts from which opportunities could emerge, said Minister for National Development Desmond Lee and PSA International group chief executive officer Tan Chong Meng, its co-chairs. These six key shifts that are reshaping the economy have been accelerated by the health crisis, they added.

• One shift is a change in the global order. As the direction for geopolitics shifts towards Asia, intra-regional trade flows could grow, said the task force.

• The pandemic has also laid bare the drawbacks of supply chains pursuing efficiency at the cost of resilience, as companies and countries found themselves without buffers to overcome disruptions on a global scale. This could lead to a rebalancing between "efficiency" and "resilience" in supply chains, which may result in shorter supply chains with production bases located closer to consumer markets, and stockpiling of essential materials for production, said the task force.

• With people forced to stay at home to stem the spread of the coronavirus, consumers turned to online shopping and digital technologies to keep in touch with family. As a result, businesses have had to speed up digital transformation and innovation, and this could alter the way business is conducted, said the task force.

• Another shift is in consumer preferences, which have not returned to pre-pandemic norms. The task force said demand for e-commerce, e-services and digital channels will increase, and there will be a growing emphasis on services that affect individual health and wellness.

• Covid-19 has also brought an increased focus on environmental, economic and social sustainability, which could result in new business opportunities such as in the green economy.

• With significant pressure on businesses, industry consolidation and churn will also accelerate. The task force said large private companies will reinforce their market dominance, and those with available capital can acquire distressed assets, leading to industry consolidation. There may also be more caution in investments due to higher debts and greater uncertainty.

Singapore Together Alliances for Action: Industry-led groups working to spur growth in seven key areas
By Lim Min Zhang, The Straits Times, 20 Nov 2020

The gradual resumption of events in the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) sector, in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, is among seven areas being studied by industry-led coalition groups that were set up in June.

The Alliance for Action (AfA) team that has been tasked with bringing back travellers aims to take steps to re-establish Singapore as a leading destination for such events. It also aims to maintain the country's position as one of the top 10 cities in the world according to international visitor traffic.

This group is among seven industry-led alliances convened by the Emerging Stronger Taskforce to work closely with the Government and act on key growth opportunities. The others range from e-commerce and robotics to developing Singapore as a sustainability hub or "Little Green Dot". An eighth alliance on medtech is being formed.

Updates on the work of the seven alliances were given at a press conference yesterday that was held by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and the task force's co-chairs, National Development Minister Desmond Lee and PSA International group chief executive Tan Chong Meng.

Mr Lee said that in the past four months, the seven groups have held discussions with more than 600 people from more than 330 organisations, including businesses, unions, trade associations, social enterprises and government agencies.

Unlike past efforts, the seven AfAs adopt a "start-up" approach, in which they aim to take action and build prototypes quickly, while keeping an eye on opportunities in the longer term.

Here is a look at some of their projects in the works.


Last month's Singapore International Energy Week conference marked a milestone in the country's tackling of the pandemic, with visitors getting tested for the virus on the spot before they were allowed into the trade show.

This was made possible through the AfA's focus on safe and innovative visits or experiences.

The group is working on other ideas in the Mice sector. They include designing safe business events and leisure itineraries.

The pilot rapid-testing trial will continue to be refined at upcoming trade shows, like the TravelRevive conference later this month.


One idea to refresh the ailing retail sector involves the blending of online and offline shopping experiences - delivering the personalised approach shoppers want, while helping traditional retailers expand their reach.

It was achieved earlier this month by the AfA for smart commerce through a tie-up between mall developer CapitaLand and virtual retailer Shopee. As part of the campaign, shoppers could win discount vouchers for six CapitaLand malls by playing a game on the Shopee app.

The goal is to help traditional retailers go digital and expand their customer base beyond Singapore.

The AfA has also started an incubation programme for Singapore brands to export their products.


This AfA aims to secure Singapore's competitive edge and enhance its supply chain agility, as the country's hub status is being challenged by the global shifts resulting from the pandemic.

PSA International group chief executive Tan Chong Meng, the AfA's co-lead, said: "We must advance Singapore's position as a digital trade and fulfilment hub to strengthen the efficiency and resilience of our supply chains."

The AfA has gathered more than 50 public and private stakeholders, comprising about 300 people, via workshops to identify pain points and push towards digitalisation.

Co-lead Tan Chin Hwee, Trafigura Group's Asia-Pacific CEO, said there were initial concerns, but they soon saw it was a unique model of working side by side.

It will culminate in the creation of a Common Data Infrastructure (CDI), which will enhance inter-operability among platforms used by different segments of the supply chain ecosystem. This will improve trade financing integrity and productivity of logistics-dependent players, and strengthen the resilience of Singapore's supply chain.

The Emerging Stronger Taskforce said a CDI-powered supply chain will give Singapore the opportunity to advance its position as a digital trade and fulfilment hub.


This AfA plans to position Singapore as a hub for carbon-related services and nature-based solutions, and transform the country into a "Little Green Dot" where sustainability efforts will serve the domestic and overseas markets.

One aim for the hub is to come up with a standard for companies to measure, mitigate and offset their carbon footprint.

National University of Singapore professor Koh Lian Pin, whose expertise is in conservation science, technology and policy, said: "What we hope to achieve is to identify new economic opportunities that could help to build Singapore's climate resilience and resource resilience, as well as protect and preserve our natural ecosystems."


By 2025, the total global expenditure on education technology is expected to grow to about US$400 billion (S$539 billion).

The AfA for edutech is kick-starting minimum viable products, or products with just enough basic features to interest customers, with the goal of turning Singapore into a global talent hub.

One ongoing project is a digital platform to analyse employees' learning abilities, in order to recommend solutions to improve learning and build better teams.

For companies, this means a tool to develop talent, improve communication and achieve business goals.


The coronavirus pandemic has badly hit the construction and built environment sector as infections in dormitories and work sites brought construction to a standstill for many months.

One of the AfAs is bringing together developers, construction firms and other players to transform the sector through digitalisation as well as more advanced building technologies.

National Development Minister Desmond Lee said: "This will enhance productivity by integrating work processes and connecting different industry stakeholders throughout the building life cycle and ecosystem."

The AfA aims to bring 300 firms on board the coalition within a year, with a target of 1,000 by 2025.


Recognising that achieving breakthroughs in productivity and addressing manpower challenges are key priorities for Singapore's economic transformation, this AfA is leading pilots to develop and test robotics solutions in public land transport and in the area of cleaning.

For instance, it is working to launch two deployments of autonomous vehicles by the year end.

Hope Technik chief executive Peter Ho and ST Engineering CEO Vincent Chong are co-chairing the alliance.

Mr Chong said the jobs transformation that will take place with robotics solutions will be gradual.

"In the process of transition, we will also be able to help workers address the pain points in their work using technology so that it is win-win for enterprises and workers."

• Additional reporting by Linette Lai and Fabian Koh

New alliance to steer efforts in medtech
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 20 Nov 2020

The medical technology sector will feature prominently in Singapore's next lap of growth, with a new industry-led coalition set up to lead the charge.

Its focus will be on in-vitro diagnostics, which involves the development of test kits to help detect and contain the spread of diseases like Covid-19.

The move builds on Singapore's strengths in manufacturing, as well as research and development, said Dr Loo Choon Yong, a member of the Emerging Stronger Taskforce in charge of charting the country's economic recovery.

"Healthcare manufacturing commands a premium because safety is big," he added. "You cannot be exporting healthcare products without very high exacting standards; people won't buy otherwise."

The executive chairman of Raffles Medical Group made the point when he spoke yesterday about the establishment of the industry-led alliance on medtech at a press conference. Dr Loo is one of the co-leaders of this latest alliance.

At the press conference, the task force members also spoke of the progress made by each of the seven Alliances for Action set up in June. The groups focus on potential growth areas such as robotics and environmental sustainability.

The task force unveiled six new members, raising its membership count to 23. One of them, Univac Group president and chief executive officer Amos Leong, also co-leads the medtech alliance.

The task force is exploring setting up another coalition to work on forging business partnerships in South-east Asia, a Ministry of Trade and Industry statement said yesterday.

Task force co-chair Tan Chong Meng, PSA International's group CEO, said: "We are just now starting to consolidate the possibilities within the top two or three markets."

The aim, he added, is to be successful in a few markets before scaling up the business.

Singapore's focus on medtech builds on its success in rapid testing, contact tracing and isolating Covid-19 cases during the pandemic, the ministry said.

Dr Fidah Alsagoff, a task force member and co-lead of the medtech alliance, said in-vitro diagnostics are a "high value" part of medical treatment.

Singapore has all the capabilities needed to rapidly respond in this field, from home-grown test kits to a responsive regulatory authority, he added.

Dr Loo estimated that the sector could create 4,000 jobs.

Dr Alsagoff, who is with Temasek International, said the technology can also be applied in areas such as cancer or cardiovascular diseases. "Because there is scale, it can have the potential to become a lucrative engine for growth after Covid."

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