What Singapore officials will do today will decide whether the small city-state will make it as a tech hub or not and that it is imperative that everyone moves now and has to move fast.

This was what Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing stressed in his speech at Parliament. He emphatically added that “if Singapore sits back and does nothing, we will almost certainly be left behind.”

Mr Sing’s pronouncements were premised on the current global race to attract highly skilled technology professionals in the fields of artificial intelligence and cyber security. The Trade Minister cited how Thailand, China and France have wooed these experts to the point that both France and Thailand have created special visa programmes to make it easier for technology talents to work in their countries.

Likewise, there is a need for Singapore to complement its workforce with these skilled foreign workers in order to meet the demand for technology professionals, he said.

If Singapore fails to do so, it risks diminishing its competitive edge, he warned.

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“In a world where multi-sectoral, cross-discipline and cross-cultural teams are increasingly common, Singaporeans must learn how to work with people from all around the world,” he said. “This will increase their competitiveness as individual employees and make them more attractive to employers.”

Mr Chan also announced that companies that apply for Tech@SG have to fulfill these requirements — be incorporated in Singapore, and have a digital or technology offering, or a business model built around proprietary technologies, research or hardware. They also need to secure more than US$10 million (S$13.9 million) in venture capital funding and have received in the last three years funding from a venture capitalist that Tech@SG recognises.

These requirements will help guarantee that the companies are committed and are able to build teams and products in Singapore.

Mr Chan said Alibaba, Grab, SAP and Taiger are among such companies with plans to expand here.

Many shared that being able to complement their local workforce with global talent is essential for quickly scaling up their operations according to plans, he said.

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“These are often people that can marry both technical leadership and commercial acumen, manage larger tech teams in the hundreds and thousands, and are highly valued because they are in short supply,” he added.

Mr Chan assured the House that the Government is profoundly conscious of the fact that foreign talent is an emotionally-charged issue “because it concerns jobs and the kind of society we want to build in Singapore.”

He added: “We will never stop putting Singaporeans at the heart of everything we do and will continue to develop every Singaporean to their fullest potential so that they can fulfill their aspirations and seize opportunities in Singapore and beyond.” -/TISG