SGInnovate unveiled the findings of its new study, “Understanding the Science and Technology Talent Landscape in Singapore”, which found that the majority of research and development (R&D) and technical professionals (88%) based here believe Singapore will remain competitive as a global science and technology R&D and product development hub in the next 10 years. The respondents highlighted that the government’s strong support and clear direction are the top reasons why the nation will continue to retain its competitive edge.

The study, which surveyed close to 150 R&D and technical professionals in the science and technology industry, aims to find out more about their perception of the talent pool in this sector and talent-related challenges.

Steve Leonard, Founding CEO, SGInnovate said,

“Singapore’s consistent investment in high-quality scientific research, together with its record of academic excellence, has given the nation a strong foundation of human capital. The high-potential talent pool is the cornerstone that cements Singapore’s ability to shape how technology can help us build not only a Smart Nation, but a sustainable world.”

He added, “If we can bring all this great science and technology talent together on some shared goals, Singapore could truly be a world leader in many exciting areas.

Singapore’s Success in Developing the Talent Pool for its Science and Technology Industry
Most respondents (84%) feel it is rewarding in terms of career prospects and remuneration when pursuing an R&D or technical role in Singapore’s science and technology industry. The tremendous growth opportunities in this sector and the chance to experience and create cutting-edge technology are why the respondents believe a career in this space is rewarding.

Besides making the science and technology sector more attractive and rewarding for current and future talent, the nation’s talent development efforts are also bearing fruits. The study found 7 out of 10 respondents (70%) indicated that the current R&D and technical professionals in Singapore’s Engineering discipline have high-quality technical skillsets as well as mindset, which include attributes such as continuous learning, willingness to experiment and openness to new ideas.

Additionally, approximately 3 out of 5 respondents highlighted that professionals in Computer Science (62%) and Science (60%) fields have high-quality technical skillsets and mindset.

Respondents were confident about the quality of talent across Singapore’s Computer, Science, and Engineering disciplines.

The government’s success in building up the talent pool for Singapore’s science and technology sector might be one of the reasons why respondents feel that they should continue to take the lead in developing local talent. More than one-quarter of the respondents (26%) believe that the government should take the lead in developing local R&D and technical professionals while another 22% believe national science and technology agencies should spearhead this area.

Close to half of the respondents indicated that Singapore’s government and national science and technology agencies should take the lead in developing Singapore’s R&D and technical professionals in the science and technology industry.

One example of a startup that has leveraged Singapore’s pool of R&D and technical talent to succeed is AIDA Technologies. In 2016, Dr Tan Geok Leng, the CEO of AIDA Technologies, founded the company together with a team of data scientists from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)’s Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R).  He believed that a strong team with deep technical capabilities will help put the company in a solid position to develop solutions and products of superior performance.

AIDA recently completed its Series A funding round and its list of customers include tier 1 banking and insurance players across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong and India. The company has also received multiple accolades, including awards at the Singapore FinTech Festival in 2016 and 2017 as well as the National TechBlazer Award 2018.

Talent-related Challenges in Singapore’s Science and Technology Industry

Despite Singapore’s success in developing its human capital for its science and technology industry and making it more attractive for talent, more that needs to be done to develop their soft skillsets and entrepreneurship spirit.

The study found that less than half of the respondents believe that there is a high prevalence of soft skillsets (48%) and entrepreneurship spirit (47%) in the current talent pool. Soft skillsets include attributes such as communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and computational learning.

However, the hard skillsets of Singapore’s R&D and technical professionals are well-recognised, with almost 7 out of 10 respondents (68%) indicating that there is a high prevalence of strong, hard skillsets in the local talent pool.

The other critical talent-related challenge in Singapore’s science and technology sector is the retention of existing professionals, with more than two in five respondents (41%) highlighting it is the nation’s biggest talent challenge.

Majority of respondents highlighted that the retention of existing professionals is the biggest challenge in the nation’s science and technology industry.

Talent retention will play an integral role in maintaining Singapore’s competitiveness as a global science and technology R&D and product development hub, especially when other markets continue to focus their resources and divert investments to drive science and technology developments. In fact, the respondents highlighted that in Southeast Asia, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia will be the nation’s greatest competitors when it comes to attracting R&D and technical talent.

Small companies and startups are often disadvantaged when it comes to competing and retaining professionals because they do not have the deep pockets nor the reputation. They would need to develop alternative talent retention strategies or run the risk of brain drain and talent crunch in the near future.

To find out more about the study, you can download SGInnovate’s Insights Paper, titled “Future Jobs for Industry 4.0 and the Digital Economy”, here: www.sginnovate.com/blog/future-jobs. The Insights Paper features quantitative findings from the surveyed respondents as well as qualitative insights from 1-1 interviews with 13 science and technology leaders based in Singapore.

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