A survey of 150 technology industry professionals offers a small glimpse of sentiments on the ground.

A high percentage of research and development (R&D) and technical professionals based in Singapore believe the country will remain competitive as a global science and technology R&D and product development hub in the next 10 years.

In a study by SGInnovate about R&D talent pools and talent-related challenges, about 88% of the 150 respondents highlighted that the government’s strong support and clear direction are the top reasons why the nation will continue to retain its competitive edge.

Steve Leonard, Founding CEO, SGInnovate said: “Singapore’s consistent investment in high-quality scientific research, together with its record of academic excellence, has given the nation a strong foundation of human capital.” 

According to Leonard, the high-potential talent pool helps cement Singapore’s ability to shape how technology can help build a smart nation and a sustainable world. “If we can bring all this great science and technology talent together on some shared goals, Singapore could truly be a world leader in many exciting areas,” he noted.

Follow the money trail

Many of the respondents (84%) felt that pursuing an R&D or technical role in Singapore’s science and technology industry is rewarding in terms of career prospects and remuneration due to the numerous growth opportunities in this sector and the chance to experience and create cutting-edge technology.

Respondents were confident about the quality of talent across Singapore’s Computer, Science, and Engineering disciplines.

Additionally, seven out of 10 respondents (70%) indicated that the current R&D and technical professionals in Singapore’s engineering sector have high-quality technical skills sets as well as mindsets, which include attributes such as continuous learning, willingness to experiment and openness to new ideas.

For the other sectors, approximately three out of five respondents highlighted that professionals in Computer Science (62%) and Science (60%) fields have high-quality technical skills sets and mindsets.

When polled about whether the government should take the lead in developing local R&D and technical professionals, more than one-quarter of the respondents (26%) said yes, while another 22% believe national science and technology agencies should spearhead this area. 

Close to half of the respondents indicated that Singapore’s government and national science and technology agencies should take the lead in developing Singapore’s R&D and technical professionals in the science and technology industry.

Talent-related challenges in Science and Technology

Despite Singapore investments in developing human capital for the science and technology industry, more needs to be done to develop their soft skillsets and entrepreneurship spirit. The study found that less than half of the respondents believed that there is a high prevalence of soft skillsets (48%) and entrepreneurial spirit (47%)in the current talent pool.

Soft skillsets include attributes such as communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and computational learning.

However, for the hard skillsets, almost 7 out of 10 respondents (68%) felt that Singapore’s R&D and technical professionals are well-recognized, and there is a high prevalence of strong, hard skillsets in the local talent pool.

Concerning talent-retention, more than two in five respondents (41%) highlighted it is the nation’s biggest talent challenge. Talent retention will play an integral role in maintaining Singapore’s competitiveness as a global science and technology R&D and product development hub, especially when other markets continue to focus their resources and divert investments to drive science and technology developments. In fact, the respondents highlighted that in Southeast Asia, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia will be the nation’s greatest competitors when it comes to attracting R&D and technical talent.

Majority of respondents highlighted that the retention of existing professionals is the biggest challenge in the nation’s science and technology industry.

As small companies and startups are often unable to offer rich benefits or reputations to retain talent, they would need to develop alternative talent retention strategies or run the risk of brain drain and talent crunch in the near future.

SGInnovate’s Insights Paper, titled “Future Jobs for Industry 4.0 and the Digital Economy features quantitative findings from the surveyed respondents as well as qualitative insights from one-on-one interviews with 13 science and technology leaders based in Singapore.