Singapore Economic Board’s Capital Goods Division Fosters Ecosystem for Invention

Singapore is reinforcing its role as a global center for aerospace by encouraging technology and innovation that can be exported to the world.

This strategy includes developing new repair techniques here for the global MRO industry, as well as developing new advanced manufacturing capabilities, says Lim Tse Yong, director of the Singapore Economic Board’s (EDB) capital goods division, which has the aerospace sector in its remit.

Singapore Technologies Engineering Aerospace (ST Aero) is a notable example because it has developed capabilities that have been applied to its overseas manufacturing and MRO units, he says.

The result is moving up the value chain in all aspects, he says. Lim says Singapore wants to develop “an innovation ecosystem here in the long run, but in order to be truly competitive internationally, we must be flexible with what companies need and how they want to work.” “We have over 130 aerospace companies here in Singapore, with strong capabilities in manufacturing and MRO. Our focus is on being flexible enough to host different innovation models, both with local and foreign industry partners.”

Lim says EDB is developing an innovation pipeline by fostering partnerships between the global aerospace industry, Singapore’s research institutes and educational institutions. He cites Rolls-Royce is an example because the engine giant has made a further S$8 million (US$5.8 million) investment in its joint laboratory with Singapore Aero Engine Services (SAESL) and Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star). Rolls-Royce has also, for the past eight years, been working with Singapore’s National Technological University (NTU) on research projects.

One project with NTU is electrification. Lim says Singapore has been working to ensure sufficient numbers of tertiary graduates are qualified and ready to enter Singapore’s aerospace sector. He says Singapore has about 2,000 graduates a year from aerospace-related courses. Singapore has had some successes – since the last airshow in 2018 – in getting large industry players to make further investments in Singapore. At Singapore’s Seletar Aerospace Park, Bombardier business jets is expanding its aircraft maintenance facility and GE is developing a factory that will make components for GE9X engines that power Boeing's 777X aircraft. Pratt & Whitney has announced plans for a pilot program called Connected Factory that will test new automation and other technologies that can help to drive efficiencies in MRO and aerospace manufacturing. Thales, meanwhile, has established a “Digital Factory” in Singapore, its first in Asia. The factory aims to develop digital technologies and services relevant to the aerospace industry. “The newest addition to Singapore’s aerospace industry is Collins Aerospace’s innovation lab, which opens in the first quarter this year. The lab, which develops and introduces low-rate production of additive manufacturing materials, is Collins Aerospace’s first outside the U.S. and the only one in the world to feature titanium capabilities,” adds Lim. “Even with the U.S. trade issue, Middle East geopolitical instability and events like the ongoing coronavirus [situation], long-term trends are still intact for the aviation industry,” says Lim. “Aerospace remains a bright spot for our economy. Since 2015, Singapore aerospace [compound annual growth rate] has been above 10%, contributing over S$11 billion (US$7.93 billion). Since 2015, total employment by the industry has grown…to 22,000 workers today.”