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Singapore to invest over $100 million in A.I. in next five years in smart nation, innovation hub push

Singapore is ramping up investments and initiatives in artificial intelligence (A.I.) and data science — two key frontiers of technology —in its bid to become both a smart nation and an innovation capital.

On Wednesday, the city-state's Minister for Communications and Information, Yaacob Ibrahim, announced two initiatives launched by Singapore's National Research Foundation (NRF), in collaboration with various local agencies.

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First, a national program called AI.SG from a partnership between six government agencies: the NRF, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDG) in the Prime Minister's Office, the Economic Development Board, the Infocomm Media Development Authority, SGInnovate and the Integrated Health Information Systems.

"AI.SG will do three key things," Yaacob said in a speech at the Innovfest Unbound conference in Singapore.

"First, address major challenges that affect both society and industry, second invest in deep capabilities to catch the next wave of scientific innovation, and finally, grow A.I. innovation and adoption in companies."

The minister added that the three focus areas of application for AI.SG were finance, city management solutions and healthcare.

The NRF will invest up to 150 million Singapore dollars ($107.64 million) over five years in AI.SG. The initiative will be helmed by Tan Kok Yam, deputy secretary at SNDG, and Professor Ho Teck Hua, deputy president of research and technology at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

"AI.SG builds on the current A.I. knowledge and capabilities that we have built up across our Singapore-based research institutions with our past R&D investments," said Professor Low Teck Seng, CEO of NRF, in a statement.

Beyond research institutions, the initiative will also tap into the local community through networking events, hackathons, and providing them with shared resources and facilities — including software tools, open source frameworks, anonymized datasets and other A.I. high-performance computing resources. The aim will be to develop A.I.-based solutions to tackle real-world challenges.

Yaacob also announced that the NRF will collaborate with local universities and research institutes to set up the Singapore Data Science Consortium. It is aimed to strengthen collaboration between the universities, research institutes and the industry.

Through this, companies can tap into data science experts at NUS, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

"This will help industry to adopt data science and analytics technologies to address real-world challenges," Yaacob said in his speech.

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