Singapore's biomedical sciences R&D effort gets boost of S$3.7 billion ($2.8 billion)

December 28, 2010

The Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Executive Committee[1] announced at the 15th Biomedical Sciences International Advisory Council (BMS IAC) meeting today that the Government would be investing S$3.7 billion in Biomedical Sciences research for the period 2011 - 2015. This 12% increase over the investment by the Government for the period 2006 - 2010 is a strong signal that BMS R&D remains a priority in Singapore's long-term strategy to boost its economic competitiveness, achieve sustained growth and establish the country as Asia's Innovation Capital.

The BMS investment is part of the Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2015 fund of S$16.1 billion committed to R&D for the next five years. In line with the RIE2015 strategies, the BMS funding will support:This was endorsed by the BMS IAC chaired by Sir Richard Sykes, also Chairman of UK's Royal Institution.

Singapore's deep capabilities in both basic BMS research and TCR built up over the past 10 years lay the foundation for it to move into more multi-disciplinary, multi-agency research collaborations for greater economic and health impact in the next five years. Its success in facilitating dialogue between biomedical and physical scientists, clinicians and engineers to translate research findings into medically relevant applications will also pave the way for the BMS research community to engage meaningfully in research collaborations with industry. This will enable Singapore to create strategic growth opportunities, especially those available in the Asian markets.

BMS Industry Partnership Office (IPO)

In order to facilitate better integration of research performers across the BMS landscape and to continue to attract major R&D investments by multi-national companies, the BMS EXCO has established the BMS Industry Partnership Office (IPO). Specifically, BMS IPO is intended to be a one stop shop for BMS companies that wish to engage multiple Singapore agencies in research collaborations. These Singapore agencies, with their spectrum of capabilities that spans the entire value chain of basic BMS research and TCR, include research institutes under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), hospitals and universities.

A multi-agency office made up of A*STAR, the National Medical Research Council (NMRC) and Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), the BMS IPO will operate within the framework of the BMS EXCO. Mr Beh Kian Teik, Director, Biomedical Sciences, EDB, has been appointed the inaugural Programme Director of the BMS IPO. Mr Beh will hold the two appointments concurrently. More information on BMS IPO is at Annex A.

Said Mr Lim Chuan Poh, Chairman of A*STAR and Co-Chair of the BMS Executive Committee, "The setting up of the BMS IPO is timely and a significant value proposition to the industry. With the shift in demand from Western to the Asian markets, global industry players are now eager to tap the abundant opportunities in this region especially in R&D activities. With the steady and sustained investments in the BMS sector over the last 10 years, Singapore is now well-poised to partner with the industry to tap into this window of opportunities. The BMS IPO will generate enormous value for the industry as it seeks to seamlessly facilitate research collaborations between an industry player and multiple public sector research performers in Singapore. Efficiency in the drug discovery and development process is a major cost saver. At the same time, it also enables the public-private partnership to focus on what is important, namely, the research work and the smooth translation of that into novel and impactful healthcare solutions for Singapore and the wider Asian market and beyond".

Progress of BMS Efforts

The BMS IAC commended Singapore for its BMS efforts in basic research and TCR in the first two phases of the BMS Initiative. The capabilities built up over the past 10 years will enable Singapore to take on the challenges that lie on the horizon and thrive. Information on the achievements of BMS from 2001 - 2010 is at Annex B.

Said Ms Yong Ying-I, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health (MOH), and Co-Chair of BMS Executive Committee, "Translational and clinical research or TCR will continue to remain an important part of Singapore's BMS initiative and we are committed to sustain the development of our clinician scientists and various TCR programmes. We will continue to work closely amongst all our research performers from the healthcare clusters, academia and research institutes to strategise how our TCR efforts can bring about innovative healthcare solutions. Through the BMS IPO, we also look forward to greater industry participation so that such solutions can be brought to the market in a cost effective manner to benefit the general population in Singapore and the region."

On a macro level, the BMS Initiative has made significant impact and contributed much to the economy. Our BMS manufacturing output for 2009 was S$21 billion, up by more than three times from S$6.3 billion in 2000. In terms of BMS's share of Singapore's total manufacturing output, it was 10% in 2009 - an increase from 4% in 2000. The Compound Annual Growth Rate or CAGR from the year 2000 to the year 2009 was 14%, which is a good indication of Singapore's steady success in building up capabilities in BMS. In 2009, BMS also accounted for about 21% of the total manufacturing value-added in Singapore or $9.1 billion in value-added. This was a significant increase from the value-added of $3.8 billion in 2000. In terms of employment, in 2009, there were over 13,000 people employed for manufacturing in the BMS sector - more than twice the number of 6,000 in 2000. There were also over 5,000 people employed for R&D jobs in the fields of biomedical and related sciences, and bioengineering. Of the 5,000 people, more than 40% had PhDs, suggesting high value-added jobs in this sector.

Today, over 100 global biomedical sciences companies have leveraged Singapore's world-class manufacturing capabilities, excellent clinical and scientific infrastructure, connectivity to Asian markets and pro-business environment to carry out strategic business operations, such as cutting-edge research, manufacturing and regional headquarters in Singapore. They include Abbott, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck Sharp & Dohme, Pfizer, Roche, Becton Dickinson, Medtronic, Siemens and Hill-Rom. More information on industry partnerships is at Annex C.

Said Sir Richard Sykes, "I have been impressed by the speed of implementation of the many programmes in Singapore in the past 10 years of the biomedical sciences journey. The focus of the first phase from 2001 was building up the basic biomedical sciences capabilities and the focus of the second phase was building the translational and clinical research capabilities. Now, having got that integrated system working, Singapore is well-poised to enter into the third phase with the greater emphasis on economic and social outcomes. We can expect to see more economic benefits that come from attracting more and more pharma, biotech and MedTech companies here in Singapore, not just to do manufacturing, but also R&D. The attendant social benefits will come from having early access to novel health solutions."

Three key agencies in Singapore work in close coordination and in an integrated fashion to develop the BMS cluster. They are A*STAR, MOH and EDB.

Annex A - Information sheet on BMS Phase 3 & BMS IPO
Annex B - Information sheet on the Biomedical Sciences Initiative (The Past 10 Years)
Annex C - Information sheet on Singapore's Recent Strategic Partnerships with Industry

For queries and clarifications, please contact:

Evelyn Ho
Deputy Director, Corporate Communications
Agency for Science, Technology and Research
Tel: 6826 6273 (O);

Adela Foo
Senior Officer, Corporate Communications
Agency for Science, Technology and Research
Tel: 6826 6218 (O);

Joshua Woo
Manager, Corporate Communications
Ministry of Health
Tel: 6325 1346 (O)

[1] The Biomedical Sciences Executive Committee is co-chaired by Mr Lim Chuan Poh, Chairman of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and Ms Yong Ying-I, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health (MOH).

Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore

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