6 November 2006
Business Times Singapore
© 2005 Singapore Press Holdings Limited
63 projects, staffed by 1,00 research scientists and engineers
It could involve mutual incubators, says Israeli official.
SINGAPORE and Israel have begun exploratory talks on 'major new cooperation' for R&D commercialisation and research and could make an agreement within a year, says the chief scientist with Israel's Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labour.
Eli Opper told BT in an interview last week that this could involve having 'mutual or sister incubators' in each of the two countries that could work together.
Dr. Opper: "What is important is that for the earlier stage of R&D, for example seed funding, the government should be dominant"
"Maybe it will be something greater than that, it is just an example of what we can do," Dr Opper said.
"We have started to speak about this (to Singapore officials), but nothing concrete has been planned yet. I think we can look at a common agreement ... and in a timeframe of a year, we may do something nice."
The foundation already has agreements with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and ETH Domain, a top European group of research and teaching institutes, to set up joint research centres as part of a larger framework to build a community of top scientists and research talent in Singapore.
Established in 1997, SIIRD exists to promote, facilitate and support joint industrial R&D projects between companies and organisations from Israel and Singapore that will lead to successful commercialisation.
To date, there have been some US$65 million worth of funds committed to the SIIRD, and the foundation has funded some 63 projects involving about 1,00 research scientists and engineers. Dr Opper - who has degrees in electronic engineering, encryption and computers - was in town to speak about Asia-Pacific business incubation at a forum held as part of the Global Entrepolis@ Singapore 2006.
Describing Singapore as a 'kind of miracle', he applauded the government's efforts to promote R&D and said Singapore is on the right track.
He also said Singaporeans have great 'entrepreneurial spirit' in terms of business and finance, though he feels the country needs to develop a greater entrepreneurial spirit for technology.
"I see great future for Singapore because of the entrepreneurship with respect to business that you have, (but) you should also do something with respect to science and technology," he said. "It will take time, but people will realise that this is important. It also takes a lot of drive - but Singaporeans are hard workers."
Asked how governments should be involved in R&D funding, Dr Opper said this differs from country to country though the 'basics' are the same - the amount invested is not as important as the stage governments at which choose to provide funding.
"What is important is that for the earlier stage of R&D, for example seed funding, the government should be dominant," he said. Citing biotechnology research, Dr Opper said venture capital firms worldwide tend not to invest 'real money' into early-stage biotech research because of long development times and high capital requirements.
"There is no way, for example in biotech, real industry will flourish without the government promoting it in the early stages," he said. "So Singapore is doing the right thing."