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Singapore carving itself a spot on new global manufacturing value chains, says Tharman


SINGAPORE is poised to be part of new global value chains in manufacturing amid a technological revolution in the sector, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Thursday, at the launch of a new research and development hub here.

Electronics company Jabil was unveiling its first Asian innovation centre for advanced manufacturing technologies, which is set to add more than 100 new jobs in areas such as precision engineering.

The Blue Sky Singapore Innovation Centre, to be fully operational by 2020, will focus on additive manufacturing and flexible hybrid electronics - for example, organic light-emitting diode process development and deployment.

Mr Tharman, who is also co-ordinating minister for economic and social policies, noted that emerging technologies are shortening many value chains and enabling products to be made closer to the customers.

"This manufacturing revolution is both a challenge and opportunity for Singapore. We are positioning ourselves to be part of this revolution, and to be part of the new global value chains."

This would entail not only being where cutting-edge goods such as biosensors are made, but also supporting the high-value activities that accompany manufacturing - from research and development and data analytics to intellectual property protection and logistics management.

"We are developing a thick and inter-connected ecosystem around advanced manufacturing", Mr Tharman said.

Singapore workers must also develop deep skills and continually augment these skills, he added, saying that this was a task for the private sector, the tertiary institutions and public research agencies.

Jabil now has more than 400 employees in Singapore, home to the company's electronics manufacturing services division's headquarters.

Mr Tharman said the firm "can also play an active role in shaping the curricula in this game of agile development of skills and capabilities".

Chief financial officer Forbes Alexander said at the launch: "As we expand in Singapore, we remain committed to investing in our local workforce to build their capabilities and equip them with essential skills to take on more advanced roles."

With the upcoming Singapore innovation centre - which joins two others in the United States and one more in Spain - executive vice-president Erich Hoch said Jabil is doubling down on its commitment to the region and to its digital transformation.

By next year, it will expand its footprint in Singapore with a new facility in Changi, for semiconductor equipment assembly and testing.