Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB), the government agency tasked with attracting foreign companies to Singapore, says there is a big push underway toward innovation. “Innovation is a big theme,” says EDB director of transport engineering division Tan Kong Hwee, adding that it is important for aerospace companies – such as MRO companies – to innovate, so they can create value.

To help with the push, the government announced on Jan. 7 that it has budgeted SG$19 billion (US$13.2 billion) to be spent on science and technology research over five years starting in April 2016. This money is to be shared by all sectors of the economy, but Tan says a huge part of it will go into advanced manufacturing, which includes aerospace manufacturing.

Tan says EDB is working to attract companies that want to do advanced and complex manufacturing. He also says Singapore companies are keen to do more design engineering work and be more involved in developing manufacturing processes.

One key aspect of manufacturing that aerospace companies in Singapore are focusing on involves ways to drive productivity. This is important in Singapore because the country has limited land and resources, including human resources. Rather than boost production by building larger facilities and employing more people, aerospace companies are looking at how they can increase the volume of work using the same facility and number of people.

Aerospace companies are investing in robotics and automation to drive productivity. If these firms can reduce the amount of “touch time,” then it also will help to reduce labor costs.

But if the industry is to grow in Singapore, there still will be a need for some additional people coming into the industry.

Tan says Singapore’s tertiary institutions are launching more aerospace courses. As an example, he cites Singapore’s Temasek Polytechnic, which opened the Temasek Aviation Academy on Jan. 8. And on Jan 4., Singapore Polytechnic opened a new building called AeroHub to house its aeronautical and aerospace electronics labs.

Tan says the tertiary sector is currently producing 1,600-1,700 graduates per year for the aerospace industry, which EDB feels is sufficient. But it is debatable whether this number is enough annually.

Some aerospace companies point out that while that number of aerospace students may graduate each year, not all decide to enter the aerospace industry. They say this means some aerospace companies still need to supplement their workforce with foreigners, particularly in lower-level positions such as technicians.