Engineers for the Future

Engineers for the Future


Technology consistently drives humanity forward, from simple improvements in our standards of living to overcoming immense global challenges. The engineering of transnational pathways, sustainable energy, international transportation, and global communication networks are just a fraction of the achievements possible with the ability to harness technology. As the world evolves, unknown challenges will present themselves to all nations, which must be well-equipped to handle changing needs and circumstances. Engineers must continue to strike at the heart of new challenges, simplifying problems to their fundamental roots to provide systematic, elegant solutions for advancing society through uncertain territory.

Singapore, in her first 50 years since independence, has advanced from an economy reliant on low labour cost to a highly developed, reputable global player renowned for reliability and high value addition. Today, as the information-driven world shifts at rapid speed, Singapore can either isolate herself from the current of progress or embrace and evolve with the changes that disruption brings. As PM Lee aptly put it during his 2016 National Day Rally speech, “Old models are not working, new models are coming thick and fast, and we’re having to adjust and keep up”. Indeed, if we choose to adapt, amidst the differing challenges that disruption brings to various industries, there exists a wealth of opportunities and value-addition to unearth if disruption can be tapped upon.

On the governmental level, the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE), EDB, SPRING Singapore and Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) have been working on strategies and practices to spot trends and help companies adopt new practices to ride on technology. The ultimate outcome of such efforts is to make our companies more resilient and our future workforce more nimble and well-prepared to meet a shifting economic outlook. We will need a clear and effective plan that embraces a shared vision and commitment to the necessary restructuring and mind-set changes. Engineers For the Future (EFF) aims to be a statement on how we can revitalise the national engineering enterprise, and mobilise technologies and resources to create a resilient modern economy based on technological strength. EFF is also an action plan for improving the perception and enhancing the performance of engineers present and future.

To stay ahead of the competition, we need to develop a culture that is both entrepreneurial and adaptive, and that is holistically more inquiring. We need to acquire deeper skills to create value, and more importantly ensure that we can utilise our skills effectively on the job1 . We need a mind-set change that can address and reward efforts and determination to transform ideas into products and services of high quality and meeting global standards.

And the time has come for us to prepare for an aging population and leverage information and technology to enable us to live a good and healthy life. Furthermore, in this new millennium of low carbon future, our city state will require creative and elegant solutions to address the Grand Challenges on sustainability, and meet the need to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Among the famous Grand Challenges of the 21st Century collated by the US National Academy of Engineering2 , 6 stand out with stark relevance to Singapore. These are:

Grand Challenge 1: Make solar energy more affordable
Grand Challenge 5: Provide access to clean water
Grand Challenge 6: Restore and improve urban infrastructure
Grand Challenge 7: Advance health informatics
Grand Challenge 8: Engineer better medicines
Grand Challenge 13: Advance personalized learning

The above Grand Challenges map squarely those facing Singapore and nations in our region. In addition, Grand Challenge 14: Engineer the Tools of Scientific Discovery has particular relevance to transforming Singapore towards an economy that is driven by innovation and knowledge creation.

The millennium grand challenges were distilled from inputs solicited from prominent engineers and scientists and leading thinkers from around the world. No matter to which corners of the globe they may apply, the challenges await creative and elegant engineering solutions.

Singapore is dependent totally or to a large extent on imports to meet our domestic energy, food and water needs. The rising population, increasing demand for better quality of life, and the need to rein in carbon emissions will put a strain on our resources in the face of environmental challenges and rising costs. To ensure sustainable economic growth and remain attractive to investment and inflow of talent, Singapore cannot compete in low cost production and traditional manufacturing businesses. At the same time, Singapore’s economy is vulnerable to the influence of global economic shifts and geopolitical developments such as the developing China’s One Belt One Road initiative and the new US outlook on world trade. To build resilience and remain economically competitive, engineering will need to remain as a key enabler to a technologically driven global economy supported by well-trained professionals who are highly valued for their problem solving skills, and who can contribute to the growth of new industries.

At IES and SAEng, we ask “how should we craft our own national grand challenges, and how do we prepare ourselves to meet them in this new millennium”? Engineering challenges unique to Singapore include climate change mitigation and adaption, green manufacturing technology, corrosion technology for hot and humid climate, engineering solutions to improve food security, low energy air conditioning systems, technology solutions for enhanced personal mobility, electrification of our transportation system, enhanced water and energy production, intelligent homes and smart meters, biofuels and emissions control technology, and low cost high yield humanitarian technologies and innovations.

We believe we have some of the answers but we recognize that there are gaps, which for the most part concern the formation and retention of talented engineers. To meet future challenges in sustainable living and economic development, we aim to develop young talent in engineering so that in time these engineers will be well-prepared to lead in technology and innovation. If not addressed, the gaps caused by shortfalls of talented engineers will pose a huge handicap in the economic development of the next 50 years.

We recognize that education underpins the core of a resilient society that can hold its own against competition and is adaptive in a changing world. Education threads through our schools and institutions of higher learning (IHLs) to continuing professional training. The formation of the future engineer can be a collective effort by the IHLs, IES and SAEng leveraging experiential learning, internships and mentoring. To attract the young to take up engineering, enthuse the enrolled engineering students, and help retain career engineers, a holistic programme needs to be designed and delivered with focus on the following topics:

  • Engineers as Leaders
  • Sustainable Engineering
  • Engineering for Societal Impact
  •  The Global Engineer
  • Engineering Education for the Future
  • Sparking Engineering Interest
  • Engineering Contributions to National Development & Economic Competitiveness
  • Engineering to Support Local Enterprises
  • Developing Engineering Start-ups

Singapore has home grown engineering enterprises such as ST Engineering, Sembcorp industries, Keppel, Creative Technology, and SIA Engineering. In the past, we have had home brands in the manufacture of air-conditioning systems, and other household appliances. Despite decades of industry development, there is no home-made product or brand competing among international giants such as HP, IBM, Apple, Mitsubishi, General Electric, and others. Singapore’s semiconductor industry is one of the largest in the Asia Pacific region, fabricating about one in ten of the world’s integrated circuits3 , but we have no domestic firms capable of designing and making computer CPUs. We run many lines of public transport services but all our trains and buses are made elsewhere. We import virtually all our window systems, energy efficient lifts and the ubiquitous electric motors that equip our modern high rise buildings and keep much of our industry machineries humming. We have an urgent need to move beyond being strong in service and maintenance to being able to productize ideas and pioneer frontier technologies.

The IHLs are training thousands of engineering graduates every year. However, the lack of recognizable and rewarding career pathways is turning engineering graduates away from the engineering profession. At the same time, the current non-progressive curriculum may be responsible for diminishing the interest among engineering students to pursue engineering jobs. Furthermore, there is a lack of engineering jobs in research, development, and design of innovative products to attract talented engineers. The imbalance in supply and demand and the mismatch in expectation and reality form ultimate impediments towards a knowledge-based economy.

Singapore needs a coordinated outreach programme targeting schools and career counsellors, led by the engineering community. The programme should aim to improve awareness about engineering and what engineers do and to enthuse young people about engineering and engineering careers. It is imperative that the young be advised to make the subject choices that will enable them to pursue engineering and further on to embark on a rewarding engineering career in the industry. This nationwide programme should link schools with local employers, giving students the opportunity to learn more about the world of engineering work. It should be designed to create the next generation of engineers, by increasing the number of young people choosing an engineering career through a wellstructured and coordinated approach.

We need to provide on-the-ground support for employers and help them to improve the reach, quality and impact of their schools engineering outreach and careers inspiration activities. In addition, our strategy needs to reach out to the wider population in Singapore to communicate that studying science and mathematics subjects at school, college and university can open up a whole range of exciting and rewarding career opportunities.


The Engineers For the Future (EFF) strategic statement seeks to inform policy and provoke actions towards attaining the following objectives:

i. A pool of engineers enculturated with a global mind-set, with an aptitude to innovate and competence to conceive, design, implement and operate.

ii. A fleet of engineering enterprises with capabilities in research and development of top of the class technologies, generating know-hows, and making prestigious global brands and products.

iii. An ecosystem for educating, training, continuously upgrading, attracting, and retaining sought-after individuals as engineers for the future in Singapore

In the following sections, 20 action lines are proposed organised under 4 main thrusts.


This EFF statement is supported by the following strategic thrusts: 5

i. Develop Future-Ready Engineers
ii. Forge a Value Chain of Learning from Formation through Career Advancement
iii. Build Innovation Capacity
iv. Create Sustainable Engineering Enterprises

Thrust 1: Develop Future-Ready Engineers

Singapore will not be able to compete with other developing countries in terms of low cost manufacturing. Improving labour productivity and nurturing an innovation culture are important strategies in the next 50 years.

To compound the problem, we recognize that the future role of engineers is evolving as resources around us become more competitively sought and mobility of talent increases. The shifting global dynamics and international relations require engineers to be future ready, armed with skill sets that can enable them to work across disciplines and be able to integrate ideas and solutions to meet challenges never before encountered in the classroom. These compelling forces will influence what engineers need to learn at university and how they are trained to meet the needs of Singapore and address the grand challenges in the new millennium.

As role designation and responsibilities may no longer be defined simply by a job title and the job function may not be satisfied by any amount of formal tertiary education, we need engineers for the future who are versatile and are not trained to any specific job function. These engineers shall be equipped with the right aptitude and attitude and can stand ready to contribute at the frontier of technological development and social change. This thrust is supported by three main action lines.

Action Line 1 – Rethink how we classify and train engineers

Engineers for the future may be engaged in their profession as: (a) Practitioners: individuals who are employed in the practice of engineering in our diverse industry sectors, (b) Researchers: individuals who are employed by academic institutions, centres of excellence, and other research-focused organisations and devoted to advancing the state-of-the-art in engineering, (c) Innovators: individuals who are employed by organisations or have established their own enterprise and are working on new solutions to address the needs of society, and (d) Educators: individuals who will shape and nurture future generations of engineers.

There are long-term benefits in promoting exchanges through “learning in industry” attachments and through “learning by industry” programmes in the research lab and academic classroom. These collaborative activities serve to refresh curriculum, inject realism in academic research, enrich the R&D enterprise, and facilitate advanced skills training and manpower recruitment.

Activities under this action line include:

  • Recognise and reward innovators of technology enterprises
  • Re-introduce the concept of apprenticeship to the engineering workforce
  • Upgrade on a continuous basis the knowledge and skills of engineering educators
  • Emphasize the learning of physics and mathematics as important subjects for tertiary education
  • Encourage the learning of coding skills and the export of such expertise into data analytics and to reduce the technical barrier between programmers and engineers
  • Promote greater interaction between technicians and engineers earlier on in a school setting through project based competitions solving real life problems

Action Line 2 – Nurture future engineers through education and outreach programmes

The formation of the future engineer begins at a young age. Physics and mathematics shall remain as core subjects until junior college so as to develop fundamental prerequisites for engineering innovation and creative translation for the good of society. “Creative thinking” shall be incorporated into the educational schemes to uphold the basic element of ingenuity by way of design and problem solving, and to enable making connections between engineering and society. The current design-centric curriculum needs to be extended beyond engineering applications and functionalities to humanize future engineering solutions.

Activities under this action line include:

Enhance the curriculum with the “design for human society” approach

  • Create a searchable schools database to support more targeted schools engagement
  • Set up an evaluation scheme that enables outreach impact benchmarking
  • Offer early exposure to engineering education opportunities outside Singapore at the tertiary level
  • Dedicate time in the curriculum towards tinkering
  • Design project based curriculum to promote independent thinking and exploration
  • Organize engineering competitions and promote active participation by school students
  • Organize school trips to overseas companies and headquarters to widen our students’ perspective on engineering

Action Line 3 – Develop the right attributes of the future engineers

Mere engineering solutions are insufficient to address complex problems of the future. Engineers for the future need to have mastery in design and systems thinking. The grand challenges on sustainability require multi-disciplinary solutions in engineering. Engineers for the future need to develop a global mind-set so as to work effectively under diverse environments and with people of diverse backgrounds and disciplines. More importantly, engineers for the future shall be driven by the urge to develop quality products and solutions that are environmentally friendly and economically competitive.

Using the CDIO (acronym for conceive, design, implement, and operate) approach4 , curricula can be modified to give more focus to design-and-build projects. Conventional subjects can be coordinated to demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of engineering. The CDIO initiative has become an accepted template for education and cooperation among several universities around the world.

The fear of failure among would-be entrepreneurs remains high. Increased government financial support for projects can help to achieve this by defraying the opportunity cost of failure. This is best done through subsidies during a student’s education.

Activities under this action line include:

  • Increase the number of opportunities of overseas industrial attachments
  • Identify suitable and meaningful work for local and overseas attachments
  • Create challenging experiences for students to design, build and operate product systems
  • Incorporate aspects of the CDIO initiative in pedagogy at tertiary training
  • Transform our fear of failure culture into one that accepts and embraces failure
  • Help cultivate a culture embracing technology as a force for good by the creation of a technology focused publicity/media outlet
  • Foster a sense of collaboration and mutual success by the creation of common spaces, physical or online) for people with common technical interests to meet, work, share and solve problems

Thrust 2: Forge a Value Chain of Learning from Formation through Career Advancement

Preparing Singapore engineers for the future requires a multifaceted approach. Stakeholders involved in driving this thrust include the government, the industry, the society, and the individual engineers. The government has a role of facilitating a supportive environment for nurturing engineers for the future. The industry has a role to rethink how engineers can be better engaged in their job. Societal recognition is an important element in encouraging more students to take up the engineering curriculum.

Students shall learn to be a thinker and “tinkerer” during their academic progression through schools. There is a need to provide high quality, engineering engagement interventions and coordinated careers inspiration and information.

Action Line 4 – Develop programmes to encourage company participation

The government needs to identify schemes and policy instruments to engage the active participation of companies in nurturing engineers for the future. Provide incentives to drive “learning in industry” attachments and “learning by industry” programmes in the research lab and academic classroom.

Activities under this action line include:

  • Develop government funding schemes for overseas internship for global exposure
  • Develop government apprenticeship schemes in specialized technology
  • Create government funding schemes for female engineers for additional support
  • Reward/Subsidise companies that take an active involvement in re-calibrating college curriculum towards one that is closer to industry standard skills
  • Reward companies that retain and retrain engineering talent rather than re-hiring engineers and outsourcing projects
  • Develop a model corporate structure that envisions how an engineering/tech company of the future looks like. This allows companies to model themselves on such a standard.

Action Line 5 – Give societal and professional recognition to engineers for the future

Engineering competency can be recognized by the award of a Chartered Engineer certification to individuals. It is essential to build up the pool of chartered engineers to form a critical mass. The IES Chartered Engineers programme has received wide acceptance among several agencies. Based on their expressed interests, certification panels have been set up to charter engineers in aerospace engineering, chemical & process engineering, environmental & water engineering, marine & offshore engineering, systems engineering, and railway & transportation engineering.

The long running National Engineers’ Day (NED) provides an excellent platform for recognizing and celebrating the achievements of engineers. Meaningful programmes can be mounted to raise the profile of engineers and demonstrate the evergreen nature of engineering skill-sets.

Activities under this action line include: 

  • Raise competency level through training and education, and mentoring
  • Incorporate training in project management in the engineering discipline
  • Develop soft skills through on-the-job and classroom training with funding support from government
  • Institutionalize the NED as a collaborative effort among IES, the schools, IHLs, and industry. IES shall continue to lead the effort with strong support of the Singapore Science Centre, the National Research Foundation, and research institutes of A*Star, the manufacturing association and chambers of commerce
  • Establish a national engineering prize and appropriate awards to recognise the achievements of engineers and make use of NED to create public awareness
  • Collaborate with the Singapore Science Centre to showcase engineering exhibits to the public.

Action Line 6 – Enhance the current engineering education curriculum

The curriculum needs to be broadened with the view to nurturing engineers with a global mind-set. The broadened curriculum shall expose students to different aspects of engineering (such as design, innovation, manufacturing) at an early stage. Co-curriculum options should be introduced to further develop differentiated skill sets for practitioners, researchers, and innovators.

Activities under this action line include:

  • Offer overseas internship assistance and increase local internships at early stage
  • Strengthen the teaching of values, management and leadership skills
  • Create post-graduate government assisted programmes to employ more researchers and train innovators
  • Create opportunities during National Service to expose NSmen to engineering and technology
  • Develop independent and collaborative learning/exploration skills critical in the workforce
  • Do away with the exam-focused grading system towards the award of honours degrees.

Action Line 7 – Address salary differential and career development pathway

Engineers for the future should be amply compensated. By focusing on knowledge creation and intellectual property, engineers for the future can expect to command attractive salaries among the professions. The engineering career needs to give engineers a sense of satisfaction. Diverse career pathways within firms calibrated with competency benchmarks should be made available to engineers so as to capitalize on their versatility and enable them to reach their highest potential.

Activities under this action line include:

  • Extend the current programme of salary adjustment across industry
  • Review mid- and senior-level engineers for reward and retention
  • Create pathways leading towards top positions in engineering companies
  • Fund the formulation of the development plan for engineers to progress to senior levels by government
  • Help develop and increase networks between local companies and overseas organizations to enable engineers to get involved in tackling global problems (e.g. food/water/energy security, climate change)
  • Re-shape corporate structure towards one that values engineering talent by retraining employees rather than outsourcing projects to overseas bidders.

Action Line 8 – Attract young talents into engineering

Employers of engineers will need to have a better grasp of the current thinking and aspirations of engineering students in universities. It is important to understand the needs and wants of prospective engineers for the future when they are young. Industry needs to adopt a progressive mind-set in the employment and career development for young engineers.

To reach out to potential engineering students, we need to support secondary school teachers and career advisors in developing understanding of the range of modern engineering roles, career pathways, and educational opportunities to match jobs available in the economy.

Activities under this action line include:

    Conduct focus group with engineering students in universities to collect data on “how to attract enrolment in engineering and retain engineers in firms and organisations”

  • Identify avenues to attract promising female students to take up a course of study in engineering
  • Identify initiatives to encourage talented foreign students to become interested the local engineering environment and engineering companies
  • Support secondary school teachers and career advisors in understanding the range of modern engineering roles, career paths, and vocational jobs available in today’s economy
  • Cultivate interest in the students at an early stage
  • Bring in a new generation of educators specialising in technology and entrepreneurship

Action Line 9 – Develop a professional support community

Beyond the professional boards and institutions, there is a need to develop spaces for engineering practitioners with common technical interests to meet/collaborate/share and group-solve technical problems of their fellow members. The prevalence and success of open-source websites like GitHub and Opencourseware material on Youtube attest to the kind of impact that free-giving and generous collaboration has in removing financial and societal barriers to education and in driving both innovation and engineering forward. Although there is no need to replicate the platforms currently available, the creation of local common spaces can help develop a professional support community that can respond to local challenges quickly and easily as well as retain local know-how in solving problems.

Activities under this action line include:

  • Dedicate common funds, spaces and facilities by the government to support such communities.
  • Extend involvement in engineering professional activities to students and schools

Thrust 3: Build Innovation Capacity

Research and innovation in the public and private sectors yield economic and societal benefits. These activities generate new products for the local and global market, including medicines and life-improving technologies. They boost productivity through more efficient equipment and processes. They create high-value jobs. And in turn they attract technology investors and talented engineers.

Short-term bursts of economic growth may be achieved through increases in the physical capital stock. However, long-term sustainable growth rests ultimately on expanding the frontiers of knowledge alongside our physical capabilities. For these reasons, knowledgebased capital has become a key driver of economic growth in advanced economies.

The OECD describes economies that display a trend towards greater dependence on knowledge, information and high-level skills, as knowledge-based economies. Firms that persistently invest in R&D have higher productivity (13% higher than those with no R&D spending and 9% more than firms who occasionally invest in R&D), better value added per employee, and more exports5,6,7 . Firms with higher innovation intensity grow twice as fast as non-innovative firms8 , fare better during periods of economic turmoil9 , and they are more likely to still be active after eight years10 . There is also clear evidence that investment in science and innovation yields high returns. Private rates of return on R&D investment are estimated at 20-30%, with social rates of return two to three times larger11,12 . But these beneficial outcomes can only be realised with government support through strategic longterm planning and investment.

Action Line 10 – Establish a training institute to build innovation capacity

The focus should be mastery of skills and building innovation capabilities such as mind-set, a quality culture and competency. The establishment of such an institute should form a major thread through the “next 50 years”. The institute should provide all-round training and mentoring on innovation and entrepreneurship. This training institute should be developed along the lines of being a centre for lifelong learning for everyone regardless of background, and being connected with knowledge partners in IHLs, and public agencies and industry.

Action Line 11 – Create and exploit Singapore-owned IP, design, and mastery

Singapore needs to create more inventors through government grants to offset IP development costs for independent inventors. Tax credits should be given to companies for demonstrated IP development and technology commercialisation expenditure. Singapore has invested significantly in research and development. The strong IP environment in Singapore should be taken advantage of by encouraging riskier and higher cost innovation to take place.

The Committee on the Future Economy recommends establishing commercially-oriented entities that have the technical expertise, business networks, and instincts to better commercialise the research findings and intellectual property (IP) of our research institutions13 . At the same time, ways should be found to underwrite the risks and enable timely technology development first with subsequent rewards commensurate with successful commercialisation of inventions.

Action Line 12 – Develop an innovation culture

Expose engineers to CDIO training and encourage implementation. Give recognition and awards for engineering innovation. Publicise impactful innovation projects. In addition, an emphasis on increased proximity and collaboration between the arts and the sciences, as well as the development of a mature civic society could help spur the rise of the creative class and subsequent innovation.

Activities under this action line include:

  • Set up an innovation fund with access by schools and tertiary institutions. Launch biannual calls for proposals so as to support student projects that have the potential to derive results for the benefit of the community or have commercial applications.
  • Promote peripheral artistic industries such as film-making which could in-turn spur auxiliary innovations (e.g. sound and animation engineering, digital technology)
  • Offer an innovator-in-residence programme in schools and institutions of higher learning.
  • Create a “Hall of Fame” to celebrate the achievements of innovators

Action Line 13 – Provide government grants for innovation groups in firms

Government grants can be used to upgrade engineering capability. To maintain interest in engineering and retain engineers in their profession, grants are needed to support the rotation of engineers and advanced skills training and retraining. This action serves to emphasize the virtues of retaining talent, retraining them and keeping a core pool of skills and know-how locally. More importantly, the grants serve to help firms and engineers retain deep competence and achieve mastery in their profession.

Activities under this action line include:

  • Government recognition of best-in-class employment practices
  • Subsidies for companies to send their engineers for advanced skills training and retraining
  • Creation of a task force to look into developing mastery of skills so as to sustain a future innovation economy

Action Line 14 – Develop an innovation hub at IES

IES can play a pivotal role in mobilising its membership base, its College of Fellows and industry network to champion innovation. The Singapore Academy of Engineering can provide policy direction and lend weight in implementation. The annual National Engineers Day (NED) is the ideal platform to celebrate the achievements of engineers in their diverse professions and showcase the ingenuity of engineers.

The virtual innovation hub will have a directory of engineering expertise, a databank of technology needs and offers, and an innovation eco-system linked to test bedding infrastructure and skills and funding sources.

Action Line 15 – Expose early childhood education to innovation

Singapore needs an innovation enculturation programme that is structured to encompass early childhood education through tertiary education. We need to shift the focus towards cultivating an innovation mind-set in young children. Government could tweak the school curriculum of primary schools and adjust the way public preschools are run leveraging existing efforts to “teach less and learn more”.

Thrust 4: Create Sustainable Engineering Enterprises

According to latest data from the Singapore Yearbook of Manpower Statistics, there has been an increase in the number of engineering graduates in the last decade. The pool is augmented by pioneer batches of students graduating from the Singapore Institute of Technology and Singapore University of Technology and Design. To attract and retain graduates in the engineering profession, we need enterprises and the clustering of these to form a value chain bridging ideas, product development and fabrication to serve the regional and global market.

Recent analysis from the Institute for Public Policy Research of the UK supports the case for the creation of a rebalanced economy built on a growing engineering base. The research concluded that the key to restoring productivity growth is to shift job-creation towards higher-productivity sectors.

Firms should be encouraged to invest more to boost the productivity of their existing workforce. Incentives should be provided for employed engineers to go on innovation or entrepreneurship trainings. Furthermore, engineers should be encouraged to go on sabbaticals or study leave at home and abroad. Government has an important role in incentivizing companies to invest in technology and innovation through tax relief, funding, and incentive schemes.

Action Line 16 – Create entrepreneurship support systems

Government support is needed to provide incentives for employed engineers to go on innovation and entrepreneurship sabbaticals or study leave at home and abroad. Firms are encouraged to invest in high-level manpower training so as to develop competency to innovate through new technologies. Technology start-ups will require government incentives such as corporate tax relief and funding schemes customised to their needs. Alternative funding options such as crowd funding, project bonds, and strategic partnerships should be encouraged and supported by policy. This action would require a “whole of industry” approach. If necessary, a consortium should be set up to provide organisation of the support systems.

Action Line 17 – Establish a network of innovation clubs for young would-be entrepreneurs

A public agency with strong industry networks can be earmarked to champion innovation clubs for youths and students. These clubs should have strong participation by the young in formulating strategies and their implementation. Efforts should be made to form a network to facilitate access to incubation facilities and public research laboratories for early-stage technology development and test-bedding. Government can provide seed funding to help enterprising innovators bridge the gap to obtaining business development support and venture funds. Resident professionals (like “innovators-in-residence”) should be introduced to provide consultancy and guidance on technical, legal and commercialization matters.

Activities under this action line include:

  • Allow students in institutions of higher learning to partially fulfil their educational requirements with output from their entrepreneurial pursuits as collateral for credits, thus incentivising students to act on their entrepreneurial ambitions while in school
  • Support competitions organised for budding engineering entrepreneurs to showcase their ideas, possibly offering the winning entry a full sponsorship to develop their idea
  • Reduce the barriers and provide flexibility to earning academic credits to graduate.

Action Line 18 – Create iOPMs to “productize” ideas

These iOPMs (innovation original product makers) can be set up to ensure a quick turnaround from ideas to prototypes so as to provide would-be or early start-ups avenues to productize their ideas.

Activities under this action line include:

  • Establish national iOPMs staffed with master craftsmen and technicians to support rapid prototyping and testing
  • Develop a framework for engineering companies and corporations to collaborate with the view to productising and commercializing inventions and innovations
  • Enable young and aspiring entrepreneurs to tap the expertise of iOPMs

Action Line 19 – Create an ecosystem around the iOPMs

Innovation parks affiliated to IHLs need to be created to commercialise research findings and promote the incorporation of technology enterprises. Grants and other incentivizing schemes should be made available to maintain an eco-system aimed at nourishing creativity and innovation. These innovation parks form a network with established industries and the pockets of engineering and scientific communities in IHLs. The iOPMs fall within the scope of such innovation parks together with service providers and R&D and investments funds. These innovation parks will need to manage collaborative efforts among the parties and serve to facilitate ideas generation and collaboration.

Action Line 20 – Establish a taskforce to develop an implementation plan

Singapore needs to adopt an Acton Plan to develop engineers for the future. We need a long-term vision and a set of mission statements to carry the country forward over the next 50 years against the changing global economic and political landscape. A key success factor for continued economic growth is the presence and preparedness of a pool of highly skilled engineers. This EFF statement serves as an action plan to enable enculturation of an innovation mind-set, promote innovation in our schools and IHLs, motivate the young to take up engineering and help Singapore nurture Engineers For the Future.


This project is a collaboration of the Institution of Engineers, Singapore (IES) and the Singapore Academy of Engineering (SAEng). The project was implemented by the IES College of Fellows (CoF). This work would never have been started without the passion of a select few senior engineers and would surely not have been completed without the willing and enthusiastic commitment of a few young engineers and would-be engineers. Therefore, CoF wishes to thank KWJ Chong, HC Hng, CH Kam, WQ Kee, CS Lee, PS Lee, WF Low, A McColl, and KS Ong, and a number of others who generously contributed their invaluable time, ideas and comments. In addition, CoF wishes to thank the co-authors, Victor Nian and David So, for their time and effort in the brainstorming discussions and writing.