SPEECH BY MR GAN KIM YONG, MINISTER FOR HEALTH, AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE GLOBAL YOUNG SCIENTISTS SUMMIT@ONE-NORTH 2014 ON 19 JANUARY

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand

Eminent Scientists and GYSS Participants

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

1            Good Evening. I am delighted to join you for the Opening Ceremony of the 2nd Global Young Scientists Summit or GYSS @ one-north. To our friends who have travelled far and wide from overseas, a warm welcome to Singapore.

Recap of GYSS @ one-north 

2            The GYSS @ one-north is an international gathering in Singapore for bright young researchers from all over the world to be inspired by internationally eminent science and technology leaders. It is a multi-disciplinary summit, covering the basic sciences such as chemistry, physics, as well as mathematics, computer science and engineering. The inaugural GYSS was held at the University Town campus of the National University of Singapore last year. We saw 280 young researchers exchanging ideas with 15 world-renowned prize winners, from Nobel Laureates, Field Medallists, Turing Awardees to Millennium Technology Prize winners.

3            For GYSS 2014, we have with us 18 distinguished prize winners – 13 Nobel Laureates, three Fields Medallists, one Millennium Technology Prize Winner and one IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Medal of Honor awardee. I am heartened to see that eight eminent speakers who joined us at GYSS 2013, have returned again for this year’s event. I wish to take this opportunity to welcome all the 18 speakers, and hope that you will continue to lend your support to GYSS.

4            To inspire more young researchers, the organising committee has increased the number of participants from 280 last year to 350, a 25% increase. The participation at GYSS is diverse; you may find yourselves sitting amongst peers from China, Japan, Korea, India, Israel, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, US, Europe, the UK or Singapore. I encourage you to make use of the opportunities to network and exchange ideas. The campus-village at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), where you will be spending the next few days, is an ideal setting for doing so.  It is a microcosm of the cultures and R&D ecosystem in Singapore. The connections and friendships you make here will enrich your lives and serve you well in your collaborations with each other in the future.

Knowledge-based Society

5            Singapore has come a long way since our independence in 1965. From a labour-intensive economy in the 1960s, to a capital-intensive economy in the 1980s, Singapore is today developing into a knowledge and technology-intensive society, supported by two decades of investment in R&D.

6            Many of you might not be familiar with Singapore’s R&D story. Our journey started with the first National Technology Plan launched in 1991 with a budget of S$760 million. The public budget for Research, Innovation and Enterprise for the five years from 2011 to 2015 increased to S$16.1 billion, which is more than a ten-fold increase since we started. These R&D investments have helped to build a significant base of R&D capabilities, which is a source of innovation and value creation for Singapore and our economy going forward.

Nurturing Research Talent

7            As a small country, Singapore places great emphasis on human talent development. The Government nurtures home-grown research talent through educational programmes in science and technology with a strong focus in teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects in schools as well as through scholarships for tertiary education. The Government agencies also provide generous grants for research programmes in the universities and research institutes in Singapore. The National Research Foundation (NRF) has recently introduced the new NRF Investigatorship grant, which is targeted at established faculty members holding key appointments at local academic institutions. The scheme aims to support the outstanding research talents at our local universities and to strengthen their know-how and research expertise.

8            The Returning Singaporean Scientists Scheme, announced by Prime Minister Lee at the Research, Innovation & Enterprise Council (RIEC) in October 2013, is another new scheme by NRF to attract talented and established overseas-based Singaporean researchers back to Singapore for research leadership positions here. I am glad to hear that our local universities and NRF have begun discussions with several overseas Singaporean scientists.

9            The world is increasingly connected and the challenges are becoming more global and complex. Singapore must engage with the rest of the world to address these challenges because we do not have all the capabilities to go it alone, and we need a diversity of ideas and talent for innovation and enterprise. Only strong international partnerships among countries and collaborations across different scientific disciplines can solve the problems we face.

10        Singapore has been successful in attracting talented foreign scientists here to complement the local talent pool. The Singapore National Research Foundation Fellowship, which provides a research grant of S$3mil each, equivalent to US$2.3mil over 5 years, has been awarded to 59 outstanding young scientists. They have relocated to Singapore to take up tenure-track positions at our universities or research institutes to pursue research in areas of their interest. Our objective is to integrate them into our research landscape to work with local researchers to do good science, develop practical innovations and create economic opportunities for Singapore and Singaporeans.

Research Capabilities and Opportunities

11        Singapore now has two outstanding research universities in NUS and NTU, in addition to our Research Centres of Excellence and public research institutes, where world-class research is performed. The Principal Investigators (PIs) at one of our Research Centres of Excellence - the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT) in NUS are among the pioneers of device-independent quantum key distribution (QKD), which is now a major research area in the domain of device security. Device-independent QKD offers the possibility of certifying secure communication devices as trustworthy without the need to know the mechanism at work or to trust the supplier of the devices.

12        We have also steadily built up a suite of biomedical research capabilities over the last 10 years, and grown research strengths in neurosciences, ophthalmology, infectious diseases and cancer. We have also brought research from bench to bedside by connecting practising clinicians with research leaders. Today we have a vibrant and robust research ecosystem, comprising A*STAR research institutes, hospitals, corporate laboratories and universities such as the DUKE-NUS Graduate Medical School. 

13        Singapore will continue to develop research competencies within the universities in key strategic areas relevant to Singapore. NRF recently introduced the Medium-sized Centre grant for the local universities to build upon their research strengths and deepen their competencies. The grant will allow the universities to organize their research programmes and infrastructure across departments and faculties to have a critical mass of leading researchers in cutting-edge research areas, for example in advanced materials.

14        Singapore has also established research collaborations with world-renowned universities and research institutions. The Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise, or CREATE, brings together, in one location, research centres from 10 world-class research universities collaborating with ours to do research in Singapore.

15        I understand that the GYSS participants have signed up to visit our universities; the public research institutes and the CREATE later this week. During your visits, I encourage you to ask questions, and find out more about opportunities in research here. Maybe some of you might even consider returning to Singapore in the future to pursue your research career.

Conclusion

16        I would like to thank all our speakers for coming here to ‘Excite’, ‘Engage’ and ‘Enable’ the next generation of scientists and researchers. I am also thankful to the speakers who have agreed to speak to a wider audience beyond the GYSS at the public lectures organized by other agencies, such as the Singapore Science Centre, the School of the Arts and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE). I am confident these discussions will inspire many Singaporeans to embark on a career in science or research, and will help people better understand the importance of science and technology in modern society.

17        On behalf of the National Research Foundation, I would also like to thank the Nanyang Technological University for hosting GYSS 2014, as well as all the GYSS partners for their strong support, ideas and contribution to make this event a great success.

18        To our young researchers, I am certain that you will find the engagement with the 18 eminent scientists and other international peers during the course of the coming week enriching and memorable. I would also like to encourage you to find opportunity and time to immerse in other exciting sights and sounds around the city of Singapore.

19        With great pleasure, I now declare the Global Young Scientists Summit @ one-north 2014 open. Thank you.

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