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Speech by Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry, at the A*STAR Aerospace Technology Leadership Forum on Monday, 5 February 2018 at RWS Convention Centre, West Ballroom, Singapore

Mr Lim Chuan Poh, Chairman, Agency for Science, Technology and Research,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good Morning.

Introduction

It gives me great pleasure to join you today for the fifth edition of the A*STAR Aerospace Technology Leadership Forum.

About 400 guests from the aerospace industry, partner agencies and institutes of higher learning are here with us today. The gathering of so many thought leaders from the aerospace community at this Forum is testament to Singapore’s role as a leading aerospace hub in the Asia-Pacific.

Aerospace has experienced strong growth over the past two decades, and will continue to be a key growth sector for Singapore.

Singapore is currently the top Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) hub in Asia, with over 25% of the Asian MRO market. Contributing 10% of the global MRO output, we are home to over 130 aerospace companies offering an array of nose-to-tail MRO capabilities for fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, including airframe maintenance, engine overhaul, as well as structural and avionics systems repair. Global industry leaders present in Singapore include leading Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) like Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney and UTC Aerospace Systems (UTAS), all of whom have component manufacturing activities in Singapore. Our home-grown industry leaders like ST Aerospace and SIA Engineering Company are among the world’s largest MRO service providers with a global customer base of leading airlines and airfreight operators.

Over the past two decades, Singapore’s strengths and achievements as a leading aerospace hub have been driven by strong growth in the local aerospace industry, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 7%. Employment in the aerospace industry has grown in tandem at close to 4% CAGR over the same period, reaching over 20,000 workers in 2016. More than 70% of these workers are in high-skilled areas such as precision engineering and electronics, reflecting the knowledge and technology-intensive nature of the industry.

We are confident that opportunities across the aerospace value chain will continue to grow riding on sustained economic growth in the Asia-Pacific. Over the next decade, Asia is projected to remain the world’s fastest-growing region, accounting for the largest share of global GDP at around 40% and two-thirds of the global middle class by 2030. Asia and Oceania are expected to account for over a third of new aircraft deliveries over the next two decades, ahead of North America, Europe and the Middle East.

We must continue to position ourselves to benefit from the opportunities arising from these trends, not only in MRO but also other segments like aerospace manufacturing and aftermarket services. For example, with airlines seeking to differentiate themselves by transforming in-flight cabin and customer experiences, the airline refurbishment and completions sector is projected to grow at 5.6% CAGR from 2016 to 2026.

Today, Singapore has the capabilities to manufacture some of the most complex aircraft components such as avionics computers and engine fan blades. We have also started to build our space and satellite industry in tandem with the growth of the aerospace industry, expanding the value chain and creating more opportunities for our businesses and our workers.

Singapore will continue to build on our status as the leading aerospace hub in Asia-Pacific, and leverage technology and innovation, including advanced manufacturing technologies and digitalisation, as a key driver to enhance our competitiveness.

Technology and innovation will continue to play a critical role in shaping the future of our aerospace industry. As with many other industries, advanced manufacturing technologies and digitalisation have opened up new pathways for the aerospace sector. Technologies such as robotics, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), additive manufacturing as well as virtual and augmented reality are transforming not only shopfloor and hangar operations, but also business models and entire value chains.

For example, augmented reality (AR) tools are being used for aircraft maintenance and inspection, with graphics of maintenance records and assembly instructions overlaid on actual equipment using AR headsets and glasses. This technology has the potential to improve productivity by up to 30% without compromising the quality and accuracy of the process.

The Government will support our aerospace companies in upgrading their technological capabilities across the continuum, from development to adoption of advanced technologies. Under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 (RIE 2020) plan, the Government has set aside S$3.2billion from 2016 to 2020, to develop technological capabilities in the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (AME) domain, with Aerospace identified as one of the key industry verticals.

The Aerospace Industry Transformation Map (ITM), which was launched last month, focuses on innovation as a key pillar to support the continued growth of the aerospace industry. We will work with industry players, both global aerospace OEMs and local enterprises, to identify technology focus areas for the industry, including themes such as advanced materials and unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

To enhance the competitiveness of our aerospace industry, it is vital that our local enterprises, in particular SMEs, seize the initiative and undertake higher value activities such as product development and innovation.

Last year, one of our local SMEs, Addvalue Technologies, signed an agreement with Inmarsat, a leading provider of global satellite telecommunications, to jointly offer the world’s first commercial on-demand communications service for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, which is a fast-expanding market segment worth almost US$4 billion. This partnership was made possible by Addvalue’s development of its Inter-Satellite Data Relay Service (IDRS) terminal, which will be mounted on board LEO satellites. Until the introduction of IDRS, communications with LEO satellites has only been available when the satellite is within line-of-sight of an earth station, with limited connectivity due to the rigid orbit schedule of the satellite and geographic location of the earth station. IDRS will allow LEO satellite operators to have 24/7 on-demand communications with their satellites, enabling them to respond quickly to customer requirements and operational anomalies in the satellites.

I am happy to note that Addvalue is building on its innovation efforts, with the establishment of a joint lab with A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R) to develop Internet of Things (IOT) solutions for satellite communications. The joint lab will be home to six researchers from I2R and five researchers from Addvalue, who will conduct R&D to bridge the infrastructure and technology gaps in the existing LEO and Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO) inter-satellite communication links.

Government will continue to foster partnerships between the public and private sectors to drive value for the industry and capture emerging opportunities. In this respect, public-private partnerships in R&D, such as the A*STAR Aerospace Consortium, play an important role in driving the development of new solutions which benefit the aerospace industry.

Addvalue’s partnership with A*STAR’s I2R is an example of how collaboration through public-private partnerships can accelerate the development of solutions based on real industry needs. Platforms such as the A*STAR Aerospace Research Consortium bring together leaders from major aerospace companies with supporting players in an ecosystem-wide approach to develop key solutions to benefit the industry.

When the A*STAR Aerospace Consortium was launched in 2008, it had just four founding members – Airbus, Boeing, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce. Over the past decade, the consortium has grown four-fold and counts leading global aerospace OEMs and MRO companies such as Honeywell, Safran, and ST Aerospace as its members. The consortium has undertaken more than 120 research projects since its inception, developing solutions for technological challenges faced by the industry, such as data analytics for avionics systems and lighter, hardier materials for aircraft components.

The Smart Manufacturing Joint Lab between A*STAR, Rolls-Royce, and Singapore Aero Engine Services Pte Ltd (SAESL), announced in September 2017, will be a key driver in developing next-generation aerospace manufacturing and MRO capabilities in Singapore, enabled by advanced processes, automation and digital technologies. With up to S$60 million invested in the joint lab over five years, A*STAR, Rolls-Royce and SAESL will focus on developing advanced manufacturing technologies, such as additive manufacturing for complex aero-engine components and advanced robotic solutions. These would eventually be used at Rolls-Royce and SAESL’s facilities for improved productivity, costs savings and business competitiveness.

The Government will continue to foster such partnerships between the public and private sectors, in order to harness our collective strengths and capabilities, to participate in emerging opportunities in the aerospace industry.

Conclusion

The future of the aerospace industry is an exciting one, and Singapore is in a strong position to build on our status as a leading aerospace hub to capture future opportunities through technology and innovation.

Today, you will hear from industry leaders on how technology and innovation is driving the development of new frontiers for the industry. This forum offers an excellent opportunity to share insights, explore new collaboration opportunities while strengthening existing partnerships. I wish you a fruitful discussion at this forum, and an exciting week ahead at the Singapore Airshow 2018. Thank you.

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