Innovation is core to Singapore's competitive success, she said. "At Singapore's stage of development, we can no longer compete just by being more efficient or implement better than our competitors. We can only compete if we innovate."
"Singapore government agencies have been working to energise and support an enabling environment for innovation to take place," she said.
"We are now seeing a vibrant technology start-up ecosystem take off. Patents granted for instance, has risen around 30 percent in the last two years, from 2010 to 2012. We have also seen several Singapore start-ups attaining international success; such as Viki, an on-demand video streaming website with user-generated subtitles; and YFind, which focuses on indoor positioning and real time analytics." She also mentioned another Singapore start-up, Third Wave Power, which developed a portable multi-function solar charger known as mPowerpad.
According to Ying-I, IDA sees the data explosion as a big opportunity for Singapore. "Now Singapore already has the infrastructure in place, the connectivity in our hands, a sophisticated customer base with high expectations, to be a Smart Nation," she said.
The IDA Chairman pointed out several ways in which the leading government agency is fostering innovation in Singapore. This includes how the Singapore Government is encouraging open data and the proactive sharing of government data sets, to spur innovation; developing a "tinkering environment" by setting up IDA Labs; providing over a $1 billion funds (for five years funding period) to support schemes offered by a variety of government agencies in the name of innovation; and building the enabling environment for data innovation by strengthening both hard infrastructure and soft infrastructure. (Read the full report here)
However, many innovators in Singapore pursue "me-too" ideas in highly competitive spaces, she said. "I urge our budding innovators to have the resilience and courage to seek differential competitive advantage," she said. She urged the local innovators to consider pursuing areas that leverage Singapore's competitive strengths, much like how YFind focused on indoor positioning for mobile phones using wi-fi and Digify focused on security.
The other point she made was that innovators should take advantage of Singapore's small size. "I believe Singapore's strength lies in our interconnected ecosystem, and the ability to come together to create innovative and useful solutions for the future," she said. "There are many disadvantages to being small, but being able to bring the ecosystem into one Big Tent is our strength and advantage. There is no other nation in the world better placed than Singapore to unify policy, technology and industry towards being a Smart Nation. I hope we can all work together - the industry, researchers, our universities and polys, government and our citizens must come together and collaborate. Let's write the next chapter of the Singapore story together."
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.