INDUSTRIES IN SINGAPORE

INDUSTRIES IN SINGAPORE

Important industries: electronics, chemicals, financial services, oil drilling equipment, petroleum refining, rubber processing and rubber products, processed food and beverages, ship repair, offshore platform construction, life sciences, entrepot trade.

Singapore’s economy is dependent on exports. In 2012, Singapore’s biomedical industry overtook electronics as the biggest contributor to manufacturing, making up 25.5 percent compared to the other cluster’s 25 percent. In 2005 electronics accounted for 32 of Singapore’s manufacturing, pharmaceuticals were 19 percent. [Source: Sharon Chen, Bloombergm February 26, 2013]

GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 0 percent; industry: 26.8 percent; services: 73.2 percent (2012 est.). Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 0.1 percent; industry: 19.6 percent services: 80.3 percent; Industrial production growth rate: 0.1 percent (2012 est.) country comparison to the world: 143. [Source: CIA World Factbook =]

Industry accounted for 33.6 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2005. Singapore’s primary industries in order of value were electronics, chemicals, oil drilling equipment, petroleum refining, rubber processing and rubber products, processed food and beverages, ship repair, and offshore platform construction. Manufacturing output grew by 12.8 percent in 2005 and employed 20.5 percent of the workforce. [Source: Library of Congress, 2006]

Singapore is a major oil refining and distribution center, major supplier of electronic components and a leader in shipbuilding and repairing. It is also a leader in precision engineering. It produces the world's best ball bearings. Singapore is also a leader in chemicals, especially petrochemicals. A number of foreign chemical companies have operations in Singapore. Jurong island is being developed as a center of the chemical industry. Singapore also makes stamps for many countries.

Jurong Town Corporation

The primary responsibility for acquiring, developing, and managing industrial sites, belongs to the Jurong Town Corporation, established in 1968. The corporation provided manufacturers with their choice of industrial land sites on which to build their own factories or ready-built factories for the immediate start-up of manufacturing operations. In the 1950s, when the idea of establishing an industrial estate was first conceived, Jurong was an area of dense tropical forests and mangrove swamps on the southwestern quadrant of the island, and it was not until 1960 that the government decided to undertake the project. During the first few years, entrepreneurial response was disappointing, but after independence the pace of development accelerated. By 1989 Jurong had quadrupled its original size, and the corporation also managed twenty-three other industrial estates, including the Singapore Science Park, a research and development park adjacent to the National University of Singapore. Although the emphasis in the 1970s had been on the development of labor-intensive industries, in the 1980s priority was given to upgrading facilities to make them more attractive for the establishment of high value-added and high technology industries. [Source: Library of Congress, 1989 *]

The industrial estates were designed to be self-contained urban centers and included such facilities as golf courses, banks, shopping centers, restaurants, child-care centers, and parks. As of 1988, they contained some 3,600 factories employing a total of 216,000 workers. The Jurong Town Corporation also provided infrastructure and support facilities, including the Jurong Industrial Port, which was the country's main bulk cargo gateway, and the Jurong Marine Base, which serviced offshore petroleum operations. *

The Jurong Town Corporation shared responsibility for coastal planning and development control with the Housing and Development Board, the Urban Renewal Authority, and the Port of Singapore Authority. The coastal zone, dominated by its entrepôt facilities, was the traditional foundation on which Singapore's economy was built. Between 1965 and 1987, the coastal zone was enlarged by about fifty square kilometers through reclamation of tidal flats, shallow lagoons, and wetlands. The two largest landfill operations were the East and the West Coast Reclamation schemes adjoining the Central Business District. The former was the Housing and Development Board's largest project, in which a "sea city" almost the size of the present-day downtown area had been developed by both the private and public sector. Experts estimated that in the 1980s Singapore, including the offshore islands, had the potential of increasing its existing land resources by about 10 percent. *

Industrialization Policy in Singapore

The manufacturing sector was a mainstay of Singapore's economic growth despite the absence of natural resources or an agricultural base. By the mid-1970s, the country had undergone a quarter-century of rapid industrial advance based on low-cost labor, low- to middle-level technology, and a rapid increase in exports. At that time, Singapore's planners settled on a policy emphasizing high technology, particularly information technology. In 1988 Singapore's 3,694 manufacturing establishments, employing 352,600 workers, were responsible for 29 percent of the GDP. Industrial production, valued at S$14,509.7 million, was fractionally higher than earnings from financial and business services, double those from commerce, and nearly equal to the total of commerce and transport and communications. This represented a 20-percent increase over 1987. The manufacturing sector's continuing success was largely a function of Singapore's ability to attract foreign investment through a favorable business climate and then provide investors with an educated, trained, and disciplined labor force. [Source: Library of Congress, 1989 *]

Singapore entered nationhood with a mixed legacy. The industrial sector was small, its productivity low. Manufacturing in 1960 was a mere 11.4 percent of the GDP; commerce, far and away the largest sector, accounted for 32 percent. The industrial policy in 1959 sought to promote industrialization as a way of diversifying from Singapore's traditional role as an entrepôt. Reliance was placed on private enterprises whose basic decisions were determined on the expectation of a common market with the neighboring Federation of Malaya. A system of import quotas was introduced for a limited number of goods, along with controls on how many enterprises could enter a particular field. Circumstances altered strategies. After separation from Malaysia in 1965, quotas were mainly replaced by a low level (for developing countries) of protective import tariffs. A traditional import substitution strategy was implemented. *

In 1968, when the British announced their intention to withdraw from their Singapore bases, import substitution was succeeded by a strategy promoting export-oriented, labor-intensive industrialization. At that time, the government began its central role in formulating and implementing the industrialization program through the Economic Development Board. *

The new approach became official policy in 1967 with the government's proclamation of the Export Expansion Incentives (Relief from Income Tax) Act and was further enhanced by the 1968 Employment Act. Direct foreign investment was welcomed both to help Singapore penetrate export markets and to bring in advanced technology. As early as 1970, when full employment was attained, there was some thought given to upgrading the industrial structure in order to provide more higher paying jobs. By 1979 efforts to upgrade the overall industrial structure and to accelerate the trend toward skill- and technology-intensive, higher value-added economic activity were intensified. The government implemented the large, three-year wage increases recommended by the National Wages Council, which began the easing out of labor-intensive, low valueadded activities in Singapore. *

The machinery industry was increasingly in the forefront of technological innovation as a result of the Economic Development Board's promotion of computer-controlled production, industrial robots, and flexible manufacturing systems. The industry's output increased by 17 percent in 1987 and 20 percent in 1988. *

Domestic enterprises played a lesser role in industrialization. The government argued that the emphasis on large industry was a more effective stimulus to increased productivity and long-range economic development. Major promotional efforts sponsored by the government were focused on high-productivity projects, creating industries that officials claimed would not otherwise have been established in Singapore. Although institutional assistance for small-scale local industry, the majority of enterprises, was provided through a subsidiary of the Economic Development Board, the effectiveness of this aid was limited until after the mid-1980s recession, when greater emphasis was placed on encouraging and upgrading small-scale local industry. * Following a decline in the textile industry in the mid-1980s resulting from increased international competition, automation and the upgrading of product lines were encouraged. What had originally been a textile industry and then a mass-market clothing industry was encouraged to target high-fashion markets. A 10 percent growth in the fashion industry in 1987 reflected both the new trend and a strong market among Western trading partners.

Creation of the Information Technology Sector in Singapore

After 1979 there was a single-minded emphasis among policy makers on escalating the level of technology in order to implement the succeeding phases of Singapore's industrial revolution. They relied on information technology as the strategy's principal instrument. The Telecommunications Authority of Singapore (Telecoms) was a key to the strategy because of the high caliber of its services and products and because Telecoms and the telecommunications industry had an important role in the progress of every industry in Singapore. [Source: Library of Congress, 1989 *]

A second key was computers and related electronics, which in the late 1980s constituted Singapore's largest industry, measured both in numbers of jobs and in value added by manufacturing. In 1981 the 65,000 to 70,000 electronics workers comprised about 7 percent of the labor force; gross production of electronics at about S$5.9 billion was about 15 percent of total manufacturing output. By 1987 electronics accounted for 28 percent of manufacturing employment and contributed 31 percent or S$11 billion in output. By 1989, Singapore had become the world's largest producer of disk drives and disk drive parts. Other related products included integrated circuits, data processing equipment, telecommunications equipment, and radio receivers. *

The electronics industry began a calculated transition away from labor-intensive products toward higher technological content and worker-skilled products in 1974. Potential investors were encouraged to look elsewhere for low-wage, unskilled labor. Aside from producing high value-added exports, the computer and electronics industries played a vital role in raising manpower productivity in other technology-intensive industries through computerization and computer communications. The National Computer Board was formed in 1981 to establish Singapore as an international center for computer services, to reduce the shortage of trained computer professionals, and to assure standards of international caliber at all levels. *

Copyright and "intellectual property" issues served as an impediment to computer and other industrial development in the early 1980s, when Singapore, as well as other Asian countries, was known for producing pirated versions of everything from computers and computer software to designer handbags. Following threats by their major Western trading partners to impose trade sanctions and by international computer and software companies not to do business, Singapore passed its first copyright law in 1986. There was fairly rigorous enforcement in areas in which Western pressure was applied (computer software, films, and cassette tapes), and nearly full compliance in the book trade, which had not been as serious a problem. The Asian "copyright revolution" (Singapore's was one of several such laws enacted in the region) was significant as a realization by those countries that they had joined the international knowledge network as producers as well as consumers. *

By the mid-1980s, the small but growing printing and publishing industry had entered the high-technology world with computerized typesetting, color separation, and book binding. Its high-quality printing facilities and sophisticated satellite telecommunications network made Singapore a regional publishing and distribution center in 1989.

See Internet

In an effort to boost knowledge-based industries Singapore has attracted top American universities such as MIT, Johns Hopkins, Wharton, the University of Chicago and the Georgia Institure of Technology.

Petroleum Industry in Singapore in the 1980s

Petroleum and petrochemicals were another base of Singapore's industrial and economic life. In the late 1980s, Singapore was the world's third largest oil-trading center and also the third largest center for petroleum refining. It was the second largest builder of drilling rigs, and its facilities for repairing and maintaining rigs and tankers were the most competitive in East Asia. [Source: Library of Congress, 1989 *]

When oil prices began eroding in 1981 and collapsing toward the end of 1985, Singapore felt both negative and positive consequences. The collapse of oil prices dealt a severe blow to oil exploration. The impact was felt widely and immediately in everything from reduced orders for rig construction to lowered occupancy of luxury apartments as foreign petroleum workers returned home. With both of its immediate neighbors, Indonesia and Malaysia, heavily dependent on oil and gas exports for revenue, Singapore had a resulting loss of trade in both goods and services. *

Singapore benefited, however, from the availability of cheaper energy, which in 1986 amounted to a savings of about S$2.5 billion (US$1.12 billion). Furthermore, Singaporean refineries invested in the equipment and technology necessary to enable them to refine a wide variety of crude oils and obtain a greater proportion of highvalued products from the refining process. Petroleum refining alone made up 28 percent of Singapore's manufacturing output in 1985, although by 1988 it had dropped by half as a result of a decline in petroleum production and growth in other industries. Singapore also benefited indirectly when large oil importers such as Japan and the United States obtained higher real incomes from lower oil prices, enabling them to increase their imports from Singapore and other countries. *

Electronics Industry in Singapore

Singapore is known for its cutting edge electronics industry. Singapore used to be the world’s largest producer of disc drives. It is also a major producer of semiconductors, computer components and other high-end electronics. The Singapore economy has traditionally relied in the electronic industry. Electronics for a long time made up half of all manufacturing investment.

Singapore began as an assembler and manufacturer of simple electronic devices. Top 5 radio producers (radios per year) in the 1980s: 1) Hong Kong (47,986,000); 2) China (19,990,000); 3) Singapore (15,165,000); 4) Japan (13,338,000); 5) USA (11,089,000).

Over time the Singaporean electronics industry became more sophisticated. Companies like Toshiba, anxious to take advantage of Singapore’s skilled, English-speaking work force, set up plants in Singapore. Singapore invested heavily in electronics. In the early 2000s, it had Southeast Asia's most powerful super computer, a U.S.-made Cray T94. Advancements also hiked up wages, labor costs and real estate values and began pricing Singapore out of the market.

In the 1990s, the Singapore government urging companies to move their manufacturing plants to countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia and spend more of their research and development budget in Singapore.

The Singaporean government wants to diversify the economy and not be so reliant on the electronics industry. It In the early 2000s it said it wanted to reduce manufacturing investment in electronics to about 40 percent and put more money into other fields, particularly sciences. In 2003, the U.S. hard drive maker Maxtor moved some of its production facilities from Singapore to China, costing Singapore hundreds of jobs.

Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing

Chartered Semiconductor was created in 1987 as a venture that included Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd. It has made chips used on the Xbox 360 and video Ipod. Prior to 2010, it was the world's third largest dedicated independent semiconductor foundry, with its headquarters and main operations located in the Woodlands Industrial Park, Kranji Singapore. In 2000, ST Engineering (Singapore Technologies Semiconductors), a wholly owned subsidiary of Temasek Holdings wholly acquired Chartered. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Chartered provides comprehensive wafer fabrication services and technologies to semiconductor suppliers and systems companies. Chartered's customer base is primarily high-growth, technologically advanced companies operating in the communication, computer and consumer sectors. It does not provide design services and works from customers' designs to produce communications chips. Besides its own fabs, Chartered operates joint venture facilities with other firms, it offers chip assembly and test services through sister firm STATS ChipPAC. Chartered owns 6 fabrication facilities, all of which are located in Singapore, including the newest, Chartered's first 300-mm facility which started commercial shipment in June 2005. The other major semiconductor foundries include TSMC and UMC, Taiwanese-based companies, which are primarily Chartered's main competitors. +

In 2006 AMD announced that it will manufacture CPUs with Chartered on a 65 nanometer process. It also has alliances with IBM, Infineon, Samsung and Agere Systems. In September 2009, it was announced that Chartered Semiconductor was about to be acquired by the main stockholder of GlobalFoundries, a joint venture between AMD and Advanced Technology Investment Company(ATIC), of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. By acquiring Chartered, ATIC is expanding its investments and expertise in technology in the semiconductor industry which currently consist of a GLOBALFOUNDRIES facility in Dresden, Germany. The transaction was completed at the end of 2009, making ATIC the sole owner of Chartered. +

Creative Technology

Creative Technology Ltd. is a Singapore-based global company headquartered in Jurong East, Singapore. The principal activities of the company and its subsidiaries consist of the design, manufacture and distribution of digitized sound and video boards, computers and related multimedia, and personal digital entertainment products. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Creative Technology dominated the PC audio market and remains unchallenged by a major competitor since the late 1990s which saw a legal tussle between Creative and Aureal Semiconductor. A series of lawsuits was filed by Aureal in 1998 which alleges infringements over various technology patents such as PCI audio and 2D/3D positional sound APIs. Creative responded by counter suing with a series of lawsuits for false advertising and various other claims. Aureal won the case but went bankrupt as a result of legal costs, so its assets were acquired by Creative in September 2000 for US$32 million. +

In November 2012, the firm announced it has entered into an agreement with Intel Corporation for Intel to license certain technology and patents from ZiiLABS Inc. Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Creative, and acquire certain engineering resources and assets related to its UK branch as a part of a $50 million deal. ZiiLABS (still wholly owned by Creative) continues to retain all ownership of its StemCell media processor technologies and patents, and will continue to supply and support its ZMS series of chips to its customers.

Key people; Sim Wong Hoo, (CEO); Ng Keh Long (CFO); Products: Multimedia, IT, Consumer electronics; Revenues: US$ 231 million (2010); Profit: US$ -47 million (2010); Employees: 800 (2012); Subsidiaries: ZiiLABS, E-mu Systems and Ensoniq (merged), Cambridge SoundWorks.

History of Creative Technology

Creative Technology firm began as a computer repair shop, where Sim Wong Hoo developed an add-on memory board for the Apple II computer. Later, they started creating customized PCs adapted in Chinese. A part of this design included enhanced audio capabilities, so that the device could produce speech and melodies. The success of this audio interface led to the development of a standalone sound card. [Source: Wikipedia +]

In 1987, they released a 12-voice sound generator sound card for the IBM PC architecture, the Creative Music System (C/MS), featuring two Philips SAA 1099 chips. Sim personally went from Singapore to Silicon Valley and managed to get RadioShack's Tandy division to market the product. The card was, however, unsuccessful and lost to AdLib. Learning from this, Creative produced the first Sound Blaster, which included the prior CM/S hardware but also incorporated the Yamaha YM3812 chip (also known as OPL2) that was found on the AdLib card, as well as adding a component for playing and recording digital samples. The firm used aggressive marketing strategies, from calling the card a "stereo" component (only the C/MS chips were capable of stereo) to calling the sound producing micro-controller a "DSP" (for "digital sound processor"), hoping to associate the product with a digital signal processor (the DSP could encode/decode ADPCM realtime, but otherwise had no other DSP-like qualities). +

The firm's Sound Blaster sound card was among the first dedicated audio processing cards to be made widely available to the general consumer. The card soon became a de facto standard for sound cards in PCs for many years, mostly by the fact that it was the first to bundle what is now considered to be a part of a sound card system: digital audio, on-board music synthesizer, MIDI interface and a joystick port. This continued until the 2000s when OEM PCs began to be built with sound boards integrated directly onto the motherboard, and the Sound Blaster found itself reduced to a niche product. +

Monaural Sound Blaster cards were introduced in 1989, and stereo cards followed in 1992 (Sound Blaster Pro). Wavetable MIDI was added with the 16-bit Sound Blaster AWE32 and AWE64 with 32 and 64 voices. In 1998, Sound Blaster Live! was the company's first PCI-based sound card. Over the years, the Sound Blaster line has been enhanced to provide 3D audio and home theater quality sound directly from a PC. +

In the mid 1990s, Creative's venture into the CD-ROM market proved to be unsuccessful. The firm was forced to write off nearly US$100 million in inventory when the market collapsed due to a flood of cheaper alternatives. In April 1999, Creative launched the NOMAD line of digital audio players that would later introduce the MuVo and ZEN series of portable media players. In November 2004, Creative Labs announced a $100 million marketing campaign to promote their digital audio products, including the ZEN range of MP3 players. +

The firm applied for U.S. Patent 6,928,433 on January 5, 2001 and was awarded the patent on August 9, 2005. The ZEN Patent was awarded to the firm for the invention of user interface for portable media players. This opened the way for potential legal action against Apple's iPod and the other competing players. The firm took legal actions against Apple in May 2006. In August, 2006, Creative and Apple entered into a broad settlement, with Apple paying Creative $100 million for the license to use the Zen patent. Creative then joined the "Made for iPod" program. +

On March 22, 2005, The Inquirer reported that Creative Labs had agreed to settle in a class action lawsuit about the way its Audigy and Extigy soundcards were marketed. The firm offered customers who purchased the cards up to a $62.50 reduction on the cost of their next purchase of its products, while the lawyers involved in filing the dispute against Creative receive payment of approximately $470,000. +

In 2007, Creative voluntarily delisted itself from NASDAQ, where it had the symbol of CREAF. Its stocks are now solely on the Singapore Exchange (SGX-ST). In early 2008, Creative Labs' technical support center, located in Stillwater, Oklahoma, laid off several technical support staff, furthering ongoing concerns surrounding Creative's financial situation. In January 2009, the firm generated internet buzz with a mysterious website promising a "stem cell-like" processor which would give a 100-fold increase in supercomputing power over current technology, as well as advances in consumer 3D graphics. At CES 2009, it was revealed to be the ZMS-05 processor from ZiiLABS, a subsidiary formed from the combining of 3DLabs and Creative's Personal Digital Entertainment division. +

Sony Opens Lithium-ion Battery Plant in Singapore

In August 2008, Sony opened a lithium-ion polymer battery plant in Singapore. Sumner Lemon of IDG News Service wrote: “The US$105 million plant is designed to produce 8 million cell-phone batteries each month and employ 500 workers. It is housed inside an existing Sony factory in Singapore and is expected to reach full capacity in 2010. Sony announced plans to build the Singapore battery plant in August 2007, citing fast-growing demand for lithium-ion polymer batteries. About half of these batteries end up in cell phones, while others end up in laptops, camcorders and other electronic devices. [Source: Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service, August 27, 2008]

Sony announced plans to invest US$365 million over the next two years to expand its lithium-ion battery production. That money, which does not include the funds invested in the Singapore battery plant, will be invested in new production lines and used to upgrade existing lines at its factories in Japan. Alongside the new Singapore plant and plans to increase production at a factory in China, Sony expects the added production capacity in Japan to raise its total battery output from a current level of 41 million cells per month to 74 million cells by 2010.

Rolls-Royce Sets Up Shop in Singapore

In February 2012, Saira Syed of BBC News wrote: “ In a cavernous white room, about the size of an Olympic swimming pool, an aircraft engine is being tested. At full throttle, it will suck in a squash court full of air every second. The seven-tonne cylindrical Trent 900 engine, which powers the biggest passenger plane in the world - the Airbus A380, hangs in mid-air at the heart of the Rolls-Royce Seletar facility in Singapore. When engines like this one start rolling off the production line in a few months' time, it will take 14 days to put one together from start to finish. Such productivity levels - which the company insists are on par with the quintessential British manufacturer's main UK facility in Derby that also makes the Trent 900 engine - were central to Rolls-Royce's decision to start manufacturing here. [Source: Saira Syed, BBC News, February 2, 2012 <>]

"The decision to invest in Singapore is about growth," says Jonathan Asherson, director for South East Asia at Rolls-Royce's aerospace arm. "We are going to deliver double the amount of engines by the end of this decade than we do now. "To cater for that growth we need to invest, and the investments we make need to be near our customers, and in this case to the highest-growing region for us." <>

“Almost half of Rolls-Royce's new orders for aircraft engines in 2011 came from airlines in this region. And the company expects orders from Asia to keep rolling in consistently for the foreseeable future. This is not about transplanting activity from one place to another” The facility in Singapore, worth S$700m Singapore dollars ($562 million), is not only Rolls-Royce's first such capital investment on this scale in Asia, it is also the only one outside the UK. Once fully operational in 2015, it will assemble and test about 250 engines a year. In seven or eight years, it is expected to be producing about half of Rolls-Royce's global output. <>

“The decision to choose Singapore as a regional manufacturing hub was made easy by a few factors. For one, major government support came in the form of tax incentives, as well as training and innovation grants. Rolls-Royce has had a presence in Singapore for 50 years, through joint ventures and servicing for one of its biggest customers to date, Singapore Airlines. However, the biggest pull was the promise of a steady supply of highly skilled labour, through partnerships with local universities and polytechnics. Authorities, as well as the education sector, are working together to cater for Rolls-Royce's labour needs, by giving workers such as Kenneth Koh, 26, the education required. "When I heard that Rolls-Royce was setting up a start-up facility in Singapore it was one of the major reasons why I decided to do aerospace engineering," he says.

“Also, in Singapore all manufacturing and assembly will be in one building, as opposed to across five different facilities in the UK. "Work practices will be different and much more specialised in Singapore," he says. "They have fewer tasks, which they get really good at, so Rolls-Royce is expecting huge increases in productivity."

The investment from Rolls-Royce means a major boost of 15 percent for Singapore's aerospace industry. By 2015 the Seletar campus will account for 0.5 percent of the country's gross domestic product or some US$ 1 billion. The 65,000 square metre Rolls-Royce Seletar Campus is located on a 154,000 square metre site at Seletar Aerospace Park in Singapore and is the Group’s most modern manufacturing, training and research facility to date. The Campus was officially opened in February 2012 by the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Hsien Loong. When fully operational the Campus will create approximately 500 new jobs, bringing the total number of people employed by Rolls-Royce and its joint ventures in Singapore to over 2,000.

The new facilities include: 1) The Seletar Assembly and Test Unit – Trent aero engine assembly and test facility; 2) A Wide Chord Fan Blade manufacturing facility; 3) An Advanced Technology Centre; 4) A Regional Training Centre; 5) Shared services such as Finance, HR, HS&E, Group Property and Purchasing; 6) The regional headquarters for the Group's Energy business.

Rolls-Royce facilities: UK: 21,000 employees; Germany: 3,000 employee; North America: 8,500 employees; Singapore: 1,600 employees; Rest of world: 4,900 employees, Western-made aircraft engine market share: CFM International (a joint venture between GE and Snecma) 34 percent; General Electric 22 percent; Pratt and Whitney 19 percent; Rolls-Royce 9 percent. [Sources: Rolls-Royce, Ascend]

National Steel Singapore

The National Iron and Steel Mills Ltd (NISM) was incorporated on 12 August 1961 to manufacture and produce iron and steel products for Singapore, Malaysia and the region. Over the years, it built a tradition of production excellence and innovation, pioneering the following: 1) 1970 Installation of the first fume extractor systems in the region to minimise air pollution and improve working conditions for our workers; 2) 1 973 The National Iron Foundation to provide endowments and grant scholarships to deserving students.

Tasked to support Singapore’s nation-building efforts, NISM's products were used in most construction projects island-wide, such as HDB flats, MRT lines, Changi Airport Terminal 1 and OCBC Building. In 1990, NISM changed its name to “NatSteel”. Backed by profitable operations and a healthy balance sheet, it began to internationalise its operations. By the start of the 21st century, it had established a strategic footprint in the growing economies of the Asia Pacific as well as built a premium brand name, NatSteel, widely respected for its quality products and expertise. In 2004, NatSteel Asia (Singapore) Pte Ltd was incorporated — it was the steel business in Singapore which was divested by NatSteel and later renamed as NatSteel Asia Pte Ltd.

In February 2005, when NatSteel Asia was sold to Tata Steel in India, one of the most profitable steel companies in the world. Together, we have forged a partnership built on complementary strengths and purposes. And as part of Tata Steel, we are in a unique position to tap growth opportunities in Asia and create a formidable pan-Asian steel group. The entire business of NatSteel Asia Pte Ltd was transferred to NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd from 1 August 2008 as part of Tata Steel Limited's internal restructuring exercise of its Asia-Pacific subsidiaries.

Medical Technology in Singapore

Singapore is a world leader in cochlear implants, high-tech devices described as “bionic ears” that help children born deaf to hear. The implants are two-piece devices with a small receptor that is surgically mounted in the skull and is connected to a wire in the cochlea, the part of the inner ear that converts sound vibrations into nerve impulses sent to the brain. The second part of the devise, a separate speech processing unit, is mounted behind the ear. It contains a microphone that picks up sound and coverts it digital signals that are conveyed to the implants.

Singapore researchers are also carefully studying the human genetic code and comparing it with the genetic code of other of other organisms in hopes making medical discoveries regarded ailments that have a clear genetic link such as head and neck cancers. Other scientists in Singapore studying the genetic code are working to develop drugs “tailored for different ethnic groups” and using Singapore’s own multi-cultrual popualtion for studies.

Surgery on conjoined twins (Siamese twins) relies on virtual-reality software—developed in Singapore—that allowed scientists to see inside the skulls and organs of the twins months before any surgery is done so that doctors can develop could a game plan on what to do. The technology, called a VizDExter, features a 3-D simulator in which doctors wearing 3-D glasses manipulate digital images so it seems like brain and internal organs are in three-dimensional space.

Singapore as a Biomedical Center

In 2006 the Straits Times reports that biomedical sciences make up about 5 percent of Singapore's gross domestic product, up from virtually nothing five years ago. "The industry has created 10,200 jobs, and there are already over 50 pharmaceutical, medical-technology, and biotechnology multinational companies with substantial operations here," the newspaper said.

Singapore identified biomedical sciences as growth sector for its economy. It has tried to reinvent itself as the biomedical center of Asia and spending billions to do so. It is has offered substantial tax breaks to attract international biomedical companies and skilled foreign researchers and has poured money into schools to train students in fields like molecular biology, genetic engineering and industrial biotechnology. Hundreds of million of dollars has been earmarked for scientific research in the private sector.

Singapore has opened a “Biopolis.” a center that will house a full complement of research and development (R&D) activities, including medical research, drug-discovery efforts and medical-technology research. "The overwhelming demand for spaces at Biopolis leading to the accelerated Phase II development, signals the exponential growth of the biomedical sciences R&D community in Singapore," Yeoh Keat Chuan, deputy director of the Biomedical Sciences Group of the Singapore Economic Development Board, said in June. It is expected that the center will eventually encompass about 2000 researchers.

Singapore wants to establish itself as a biomedical center in part because it is facing increased competition in the electronic, industry and believes it has a better chance for success and making advances in the increasingly lucrative biomedical field.

Alan Colan, the Scottish scientist who cloned Dolly the sheep, moved to Singapore to do research on diabetes at Biopolis. Johns Hopkins University opened up a research center in Singapore in 1999, its first outside the United States. A neurosurgeon with the university told AP. “There’s a lot of good things going on in Singapore. It’s perfectly situated to be a magnet for that area.” GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly and Novartis and drug companies have production facilities and research centers in Singapore.

In 2003, AFP reported: “A multi-million dollar project funded by the Singapore government to find a cure for epilepsy and Parkinson's disease has been suspended after alleged breach of medical ethics, the Sunday Times reported. Researchers taking part in the S$10 million (US$5.75 million) project at the National Neuroscience Institute are alleged to have taken blood samples directly from patients without informing their doctors, the report said. This breached the confidentiality of patients who were not told why their blood were being taken. They thought their doctors had requested the samples. [Source: Agence France Presse, January 19, 2003]

“The alleged actions are in direct breach of the guidelines drawn up by the Bioethics Advisory Committee which says tissue samples can only be taken from patients provided they have given their consent and have been told of the medical facts and risks involved. "The most glaring point is that the doctors treating the patients were not informed that their patients' blood is being taken for research," said Michael Yap, head of the institute's executive committee. Yap is now heading the investigations into the alleged breach of ethics. The project, headed by world renowned epilepsy expert Simon Shorvon, tracks mutations in the DNA of epilepsy and Parkinson's patients.” [Ibid]

Declining Industries: Shipbuilding and Counterfeit Goods

Singapore also has a large shipbuilding industry with 30 shipyards and up to $2.2 billion worth of business a year at its peak in the 1990s. Order began falling in the 1980s after customers began taking their orders to less expensive shipyards in China, South Korea and the Middle East. The industry was given a boost in the early 2000s by the devaluation of the Singapore dollar. Singaporean shipbuilders have a reputation for completing complicated tasks on time. The biggest operations are owned by the government.

For many years, Singapore was a world leader in tape and record piracy. It was a big reason why half the records and tapes sold in 1994 were fakes. According to a 1994 United States Congress report the main producers of counterfeit good were Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil, Columbia, Mexico and Nigeria.

In the mid 1990s, it was estimated that 40 to 50 percent of the software sold in Singapore was pirated. Since then the Singapore government has cracked down on all forms of pirating and counterfeiting. In 1997, ten computer dealers apologized for selling pirated software to their customers in full page in the Straits Time newspaper and promised to donate computers to local children’s charities and paid $160,000 to Microsoft.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Singapore Tourism Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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