This was a speech in Parliament on 8 March 2010 by NCMP, Sylvia Limwp.sg.during the Committee of Supply debate, on the budget for the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI). Read other Workers’ Party speeches and statements at
Since the year 2000, Singapore has spent $33 billion on R&D, also referred to as the Gross Domestic Expenditure on Research and Development, or GERD. Of this, about $12 billion was funded by taxpayers.
I agree that it is necessary for Singapore to invest heavily in R&D for our nation’s future. However, it is critically important to measure the output and impact of our R&D investments to ensure that it is money well-spent.
This is admittedly not an easy task. The results from research may take years to materialise, and some R&D may be undertaken for strategic reasons, the benefits of which may not be easy to quantify. Nevertheless, any public spending needs to be accounted for.
R&D output measures
How are we currently measuring the output and impact of our R&D investments?
I note that A*Star (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) puts out annual R&D Surveys covering input factors such as the expenditures on various fields of R&D and the overall GERD as a percentage of GDP. There is also mention of certain outputs like sales revenue from commercialised products and processes, licensing revenue from patents and technology produced here, and the number of patent applications.
However, the Singapore Competitiveness Report 2009 by Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy observed that government-funded research institutes did not seem to be translating the scientific research into new products and services at a significant scale. Does MTI agree with the authors’ allusion to some under-performance?
What other output/outcome indicators are tracked by the government? How are we doing in terms of R&D output or outcomes vis-à-vis other countries at a comparable stage of their R&D?
The numbers of full-time post graduate research students who were citizens or PRs was only 26% in 2008, with 74% being non-PR foreign citizens. The Economic Strategies Sub-Committee on Growing Knowledge Capital correctly noted that we should boost the numbers of local students pursing PhDs in R&D fields. What plans will the government be putting in place to up the numbers of local students doing PhDs in R&D?