SMEs to get access to high-tech equipment with new A*STAR initiative

SINGAPORE: A new scheme to help small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) develop technological capabilities was on Friday (Sep 8) launched by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). 

First announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat during this year’s Budget speech, the scheme – named the Tech Access Initiative – will give SMEs access to 19 equipment, such as a metal cold spray and laser power beds, to test prototypes and product measurements. 

The equipment will be available at the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC), Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) and the Industrial Additive Manufacturing Facility (IAMF), which was launched on Friday. 

SMEs that wish to use the equipment may inform A*STAR via an online portal, and the research agency will then follow up with them. Companies signing up for access to the equipment will have to pay a fee depending on the type of equipment and duration of use, A*STAR added. 

Staff members can also be sent for training to use the equipment, including inspection tools for quality checks and automated 3D scanners.

A*STAR said it will partner with the Singapore Precision Engineering and Technology Association (SPETA) and the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF) to promote tech access to their members.

Homegrown optical solutions firm Moveon said the initiative has helped them with cost savings as it allows them to identify equipment that is worth the investment in the long run.

“It is important for us to continuously innovate to remain relevant and competitive,” said Mr Chee Teck Lee, the company’s founder and CEO. “We have been able to access advanced equipment and research and prototyping, build our in-house capabilities and scale up our business.”

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon, who was the guest-of-honour at the event, said this is part of Government’s efforts to help SMEs innovate.

“The Government is committed to partnering our companies to upgrade their technological capabilities to ensure that they succeed in their new paradigm. Under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020, we have committed S$3.2 billion from 2016 to 2020 to develop technological capabilities in the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering domain,” he said. 

Dr Koh added that the initiative is part of public-private partnership platforms. 

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