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Singapore is laying the groundwork for long-term support of and investment in its higher education institutions, as well as its research and development capacity. Specifically, over the last two months the government has signaled a clear intent to encourage progress in two main areas: the creation and strengthening of institutional endowments and a stable outlook for research and development funding.
The plan for stimulating donations and endowments was introduced by Prime Minister Loong on 29 August, on the occasion of Singapore’s National Rally Day, and is to be achieved through the mechanism of a Singapore Universities Trust. Some EUR 2.2 billion (SGD 4 billion) will be provided by the government over the next 20 years, and will be used to match funds donated to higher education institutions from individuals and private enterprises. From this fund, the government of Singapore will match donations made to existing institutions and programmes at a rate of 1.5 to 1, while donations to new institutions and programmes will be matched at a rate of 3 to 1. Singapore appears to be building enthusiastically on its previous—and fruitful— experience with matching funds schemes.
Meanwhile, the government has pledged approximately EUR 9 billion (SGD 16.1 billion) to support research and development activities over the next five years. This amount represents a 20% increase over the funding level for this sector for the previous five-year period and through this effort the government aims to shelter enterprises from a ‘feast or famine’ cycle of funding. Singapore’s Research, Innovation, and Enterprise Council (which the prime minister chairs and on which the corporate research head of Novartis, among others, also sits), has already identified three strategic sectors—environmental and water technology, digital media, and biomedical sciences—which will continue to receive special attention. However, Prime Minister Loong has stated that the production of real results in these and other areas is of fundamental importance to the government funders. Singapore is clearly writing some big cheques, but these are by no means meant to be ‘blank cheques’ for the beneficiaries.