An essential and complete guide for the biotechnology companies operating in Singapore.

Industry Articles

The First Phase of a Biotech Operation. The 2018/2019 Edition

Biological ChemistryDerrick Tan W. M., Ph.D.
Managing Consultant
1st Phase Operations

Director
AsiaPac Bio LLP

Marvin Ng
MBA, BSc (Microbiology)
Principal Consultant

DN Venture Partners
Director
AsiaPac Bio LLP

Derrick Tan founded 1st Phase Operations in 2002 to provide a one-stop operations consultancy service in business planning and admin / facility startups to biotech companies establishing or expanding their operations in Asia. Graduated with a Ph.D. degree in Chemistry (Biological Chemistry), he has since helped more than 60 companies and institutions with their needs.

Marvin Ng has been involved in the public and private life sciences sectors since early 2000 and has assisted companies with their critical business development needs. He is concurrently the director of DN Venture Partners, a life sciences business development consulting firm, and Greener Grass Communications, a public relations firm that focuses on the technology industries.

INTRODUCTION
Since 2002, the Singapore Biotech Guide has been a dependable information source for biopharma, pharma, and biotech organisations that are either planning to set up business or are already operating in Singapore. Throughout the years, we have mainly focused on providing up-to-date information pertinent to setting up a successful local biotech business and R&D operations, covering topics such as operational permit requirements, grant schemes, HR and tax-related matters, equipment procurement, etc.

Recognising the continual growth of the pharmaceutical industry, in particular the manufacturing sector, we have decided to expand the coverage of the Guide to better serve the manufacturing community. New listings of products and services specific to the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical manufacturing sectors have been added and the Guide is renamed the Singapore PharmBio Guide.

Our plan is to progressively add contents and listings relevant to manufacturing companies, and to grow the Guide into a de-facto reference for both the research and manufacturing communities of the local pharmaceutical industry.

Medical technology and even some of the chemical and chemical engineering companies may continue to find portions of the guide to be useful. However, we would like to stress that this guide has not been written with this latter group in mind and there may be other operational considerations, such as additional authority clearance and regulatory permit applications, which these companies may need to complete prior to starting up their operations.

The Guide will continue to list the contact information of relevant government agencies and companies that you may call upon for additional information. Information included here is by no means exhaustive and we welcome suggestions of additional topics that may be of interests to readers for inclusion in subsequent editions. This can be done easily by sending us an email at biotechguide@1st-phase.com.

Happy Reading!


Getting Started

SINGAPORE & ITS LAW
Written laws in Singapore have its roots in English law and take the form of Statutes made by the Singapore Parliament (Acts) and official administrative bodies. In addition, Subsidiary Legislations that accompany the Singapore Acts comprise rules and regulations that dictate the manner in which the Act is to be administered.

The Singapore legal system is internationally regarded for its efficiency and integrity and the country is well known as a leading legal hub in Asia. Recognising this strength, a good number of companies have chosen Singapore as the preferred location for their operations, many as regional headquarters, and the Singapore law as the governing law for their international business transactions. Furthermore, Singapore’s strong commitment to the protection of intellectual property and its efficient IP rights enforcement regime have contributed to it being a major innovation hub in Asia.

The entire Singapore Acts and Subsidiary Legislation are available online at the Singapore Attorney-General’s Chambers website (http://sso.agc.gov.sg). Printed copies of the documents may also be purchased online at http://www.toppanleefung.com/webshop/.

These documents lay out the rules on how business and other important matters should be conducted in Singapore. They spell out the local regulatory framework as well as the procedures and requirements for the various licenses and permits. Some of the more common ones are described below and references are made to the relevant Statutes and Subsidiary Legislation. To be certain, companies should check with the various government ministries and agencies on other licenses and permits that may also be relevant to them.

COMPANY REGISTRATION
Prior to conducting business activities in Singapore, one will need to incorporate or register his business or company with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) (www.acra.gov.sg). Registration can be done online at www.bizfile.gov.sg via SingPass or CorpPass authentication. CorpPass (www.corppass.gov.sg) is a corporate digital identity for businesses to perform online transactions with local government agencies. On the other hand, the SingPass is a set of authentication ID and password issued to all Singapore Citizens, permanent residents as well as valid employment and dependent pass holders. Under the Companies Act, there is a statutory requirement for at least one of the company directors to be an ordinarily resident in Singapore. To meet the local residency requirement, a foreign entrepreneur who is not a Singapore Permanent Resident may wish to apply for an EntrePass from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) (www.mom.gov.sg) before registering the company. However, it is important to note that Singapore has a strict set of eligibility criteria for EntrePass application. Alternatively, a foreigner who is not eligible for EntrePass may first appoint a local resident director to jointly register the company.

Businesses may be registered, under the Business Registration Act, as sole proprietorships or as partnership firms or incorporated as Companies under the Companies Act. A Business firm is exposed to unlimited liability and either the sole proprietor himself or all the partners in the firm are liable for all the debts of the business. On the other hand, a Company adopts a separate legal personality and its members cannot be sued in respect of liabilities incurred by the company nor be held liable for the company’s debts. However, there are provisions in the Companies Act to curb abuse. A third type of corporate entity, known as a Limited Liability Partnership, enables business owners to operate as a partnership while being granted limited liability.

Most pharmaceutical and biotech companies will start off by incorporating itself as a private company limited by shares (or Private Limited), with less than 50 shareholders or members and with liability of each of its members limited to the amount paid on the shares held.

Furthermore, a foreign company expanding into Singapore has the option to either incorporate a Singapore subsidiary or register a Singapore branch. The former is a new legal entity incorporated under the Companies Act while the latter is treated as an extension of the company incorporated elsewhere and merely registered in Singapore. All foreign companies are regulated by the relevant sections in the Companies Act and by the law of the place of its incorporation.

LICENSES AND PERMITS
Depending on the nature of the pharmaceutical or biotech operation, there are several operating permits and licenses that one will need to get hold of prior to initiation of business. Some of the more common ones are described below:

GENERAL REQUIREMENTS FOR ALL TYPES OF OPERATIONS

Factory Registration and Workplace Safety & Health Regulations
Some pharmaceutical and biotech setups may be classified as a Factory under the Workplace Safety and Health Act (WSHA) (accessible online at http://statutes.agc.gov.sg). Depending on the type of factory operation, either a notification or registration with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM; www.mom.gov.sg) may be required. Pharmaceutical factories are classified as workplaces requiring registration.

Furthermore, the WSHA and its Regulations set the legal framework for occupational safety and health (OSH) management at all workplaces in Singapore. Importantly, the WSH (Risk Management) Regulations 2006 requires all workplaces to conduct a properly documented safety and health risk assessment prior to undertaking any work within the premise. Furthermore, pharmaceutical factories are required to conduct Safety and Health Management System audits or internal reviews within 2 months from their commencement of operation and to submit their audit reports to the Ministry of Manpower via the LicenceOne portal (licence1.business.gov.sg). We would like to stress the importance of risk assessment as an essential undertaking during the operations planning stage.

Industrial Premise Siting
Prior to any industrial development, in particular a manufacturing plant, one must first obtain planning permission from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) (www.ura.gov.sg). URA administers a land use plan (the latest being Master Plan 2014) that specifies the zones within which the various industries may operate. For example, manufacturing is generally restricted to Business 2 (B2) zones while some types of R&D operations may be located within a Business 1 (B1) zone.

Once the URA issues the Written Permission (WP), the design plan must be submitted to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) for review of compliance to building and structural safety regulations. BCA’s approval of the design plan is required before building construction works may commence on site.

Furthermore, companies may consult the relevant building related technical government agencies such as the Fire Safety and Shelter Department (FSSD) of the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), Central Building Plan Unit (CBPD) of the National Environment Agency (NEA), Public Utilities Board (PUB) and Energy Market Authority (EMA) and incorporate their respective requirements in the submitted building design plans. All building related applications may be filed by the Project Architect and Professional Engineers via the one-stop CORENET e-submission portal (www.corenet.gov.sg).

The impact of an industrial project on the environment has to be assessed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) (www.nea.gov.sg) prior to construction through filing an online Form IA application (ias.nea.gov.sg). The assessment includes impact on water, air, land and noise pollutions as well as hazardous substance and toxic waste controls. NEA publishes a code of practice on environmental pollution control to provide guidelines on the various emission limits requirements (SS 593:2013). The Code is available for purchase online at the Singapore Standards eShop (www.singaporestandardseshop.sg).

Companies are also required to make the necessary filings to PUB and EMA via their Licensed Water Service Plumber or Licensed Electrical Worker (LEW) respectively before their plumbing and electrical installations may be connected to the utilities supplies. Lastly, a written approval from the Public Utilities Board (PUB) (www.pub.gov.sg) is required before trade effluent may be discharged into the public sewer.

Following the successful construction of the building and when all relevant government agencies have approved the respective building plans, the Commissioner of Building Control of the BCA will issue the Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) or the Certificate of Statutory Completion (CSC) to allow occupancy.

Tradenet – Import, Export and Transshipment
An import/export permit is required for the import/export of all raw materials and finished goods into/out of Singapore. In Singapore, this documentation is managed via a nationwide electronic system known as Tradenet . The system is currently being migrated to the National Trade Platform (NTP) (www.trade.gov.sg) as part of the government’s trade and logistics IT ecosystem transformation. Import/Export Permit applications may be made electronically and approval granted via electronic messages. All traders (importer and exporter) are identified by their respective Unique Entity Numbers (UEN) from ACRA (www.uen.gov.sg).

FOR OPERATIONS WITH CHEMICAL OR BIOLOGICAL AGENTS USAGE

Import, Sale, Storage, Use and Disposal of Hazardous Substances
The National Environment Agency (NEA)is also the government agency responsible for granting licenses and permits for the import, use, storage and transportation of hazardous substances as defined in the Environmental Protection and Management Act and Regulations. All applications may be made online at the NEA’s website (www.nea.gov.sg).

Hazardous Substances License – required for the import, sale or export of controlled Hazardous Substances controlled under the Environmental Protection and Management Act.

Hazardous Substances Permit – required for the local purchase, storage and/or use of controlled Hazardous Substances controlled under the Environmental Protection and Management (Hazardous Substances) Regulations.

Transport Approval – required for the transportation of hazardous substance in quantities exceeding those specified in the Environmental Protection and Management (Hazardous Substances) Regulations.

Furthermore, toxic industrial and biohazardous wastes are to be collected by NEA licensed collectors for off-site treatment and disposal. The generation and transportation of such wastes are also tracked online through NEA’s e-Tracking system. An updated list of these collectors is available at the NEA’s website.

Import, Storage and Transport of Flammable Materials
Under the Fire Safety (Petroleum and Flammable Materials) Regulations 2005, a license from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) is required for the import, storage and transportation of petroleum and flammable materials (PFM) gazetted in the regulation. However, SCDF excuses premises that store PFM quantities below the exemption limits from the license requirement. For example, premises storing less than 40 litres of scheduled liquid flammable materials do not need to apply for the storage license. Additional information may be found at www.scdf.gov.sg.

Furthermore, SCDF publishes a set of technical guidelines and fire safety requirements for premises handling chemicals. The guidelines can be downloaded from the SCDF website. In addition to the published Fire Code (2013), SCDF adopts the Singapore Standard SS532:2007 as well as the US National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standards NFPA 45 and NFPA 55 when regulating flammable materials storage and use.

Import License for poisons and controlled drugs
A Form A Poisons License is needed by companies that intend to import, store and/or sell any of the scheduled poisons controlled under the Poisons Act, Chapter 234 and its Subsidiary Legislation. Additionally, as a requirement under the Misuse of Drugs Act, a license is required for possession, supply, import and manufacture of the scheduled controlled drugs. Both licenses may be obtained from the Centre for Drug Administration (CDA), Health Sciences Authority (HSA) (www.hsa.gov.sg).

Manufacture, Importation & Distribution of Pharmaceuticals
The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) (www.hsa.gov.sg) in Singapore serves as the regulator of manufacturing, importation and distribution of medicinal and medical device products. The relevant Manufacturer’s and Dealer’s licenses may be applied via the HSA’s online application system known as PRISM@HSA. Furthermore, all manufacturers will be periodically audited by HSA in accordance with the current international Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) as well as the relevant Good Distribution Practices (GDP) standards.

National Authority (Chemical Weapons Convention) NA(CWC) License
A NA(CWC) license is required for the production, processing, consumption, import/export and/or local sale/distribution of chemicals controlled under the CWC. Details on the scheduled chemicals and the application forms are available at www.customs.gov.sg.

License to possess & store Explosive Precursors
Under the Arms and Explosives Act, a license from the Singapore Police Force is required to import, possess, deal in, manufacture and/or store a series of identified explosive precursors, some of which are oxidising agents commonly used for lab chemistry and industrial applications. Protective security measures as well as threat and risk assessments are to be in place prior to license issuance. Applications may be filed online at www.spf.gov.sg.

Imports of Pathogens
The Biological Agents and Toxins Act 2006 (BATA) regulates the possession, usage, import, transfer and transportation of scheduled biological agents and toxin in Singapore. Stringent requirements for facility, work procedures and biosafety management systems are also stipulated in the Act. Permits for the import, possession and production of these biological agents and toxins are also required prior to initiation of the said works. More information, including the updated list of regulated agents and toxins, is available at the Ministry of Health’s biosafety website (www.moh.gov.sg/content/moh_web/biosafety.html).

In addition, import of clinical and pathological specimens must comply with the requirements laid down in the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA)’s Veterinary Regulations For The Importation of Products Of Animals and Birds (1/1) – Clinical / Pathological Specimens and any subsequent amendments. Prior approval from AVA is also needed for all imports of plants and plant products as well as veterinary biologics and microorganisms (select agents) into Singapore. More information is available at AVA’s website (www.ava.gov.sg).

License Related to Possession of Radioactive Materials
The Centre for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Science (CRPNS) under the National Environmental Agency (NEA) regulates the use of radioactive materials and irradiating apparatus in Singapore.

Guidelines are published by the agency on the possession and use of ionising radiations, which include emissions of alpha and beta particles (i.e. most radioisotopes frequently used in a molecular biology or chemistry lab) as well as gamma rays and X-rays.

Under the Radiation Protection Act, a license is needed for the import, export, sale, possession and use of radioactive materials and apparatus. In addition, personal radiation monitoring is required for all personnel handling such materials and apparatus. Proper storage and accountability of the radioactive materials in one’s possession are also imperative. Few of the more common licenses are the L4, L6 and R1 licenses, which are applicable to companies that wish to possess radioactive materials for their own use as well as individuals who wish to be registered as radiation workers respectively. On the other hand, N2 and N3 licenses are applicable for companies interested in using radiation generating equipment such as ultrasonic, magnetic resonance imaging or laser equipment. Further details along with the applications forms are available at the NEA’s website (www.nea.gov.sg). Such premises are also subjected to routine inspection by officers from CRPNS.

Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC)
The GMAC oversees and advises on research and production of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Singapore. The committee has since published guidelines pertaining to the control of release of agriculture-related GMOs as well as biosafety guidelines for research on GMOs. Specifically, the latter guidelines provide the framework for assessment and notification of research on GMOs. Certain works involving genetic manipulation of organisms are to be approved by the institution’s Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) and GMAC notified. More information on the guidelines may be found at www.gmac.gov.sg.

Administration Startup

TAXES
Details of Singapore’s tax regime can be found at the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore’s (IRAS) website at www.iras.gov.sg. The website provides comprehensive coverage on tax matters and is a valuable online resource. Some of the more relevant types of taxes are summarised below:

Corporate Income Tax
Generally, companies are taxed on Singapore income and overseas income received in Singapore. The tax structure is straight forward, and the tax rate is presently a flat rate of 17%. Various tax rebates and exemption schemes are also available for SMEs and start-up companies.

Personal Income Tax
Foreigners are considered Singapore tax residents if they spend 183 days or more in Singapore during the calendar year or if they have been working in Singapore for 3 consecutive years. Tax rates for residents depend on their total taxable income during the calendar year and are on an escalating rate from 0% for the first S$20,000 of chargeable income to 22% for income in excess of S$320,000.

Non-residents are taxed only on income earned in Singapore. The applicable tax rate is the higher of 15% (with no personal reliefs) or the corresponding resident’s rate (with personal reliefs). Director’s fees and other incomes are generally taxed at 22%. On the other hand, non-resident professions (e.g. consultant) may opt to be taxed at 15% of their gross income or 22% of their net income. Information including details on personal reliefs can be found at the IRAS website.

From Year of Assessment 2018 onwards, companies with 9 or more employees must submit the employment income information of their employees to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) electronically before 31st March each year under the Auto-Inclusion Scheme for Employment Income.

Goods and Services Tax (GST)
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a domestic consumption tax that is levied on all goods and services supplied by GST-registered businesses. The current GST rate is 7%. Companies and businesses with or reasonably expecting an annual taxable turnover exceeding S$1 million are required to register for GST. After registration, companies and businesses must charge and account for GST in their sales but may also claim for GST incurred on goods and services purchased for the business or as part of the business operation. Amount claimable may be significant for new companies during the startup phase, especially due to new facility fit-out and equipment procurement. More information may be found at the IRAS website.

Withholding Tax
Payments to foreign companies and non-resident professionals for the following services rendered in Singapore are subject to withholding tax:
  1. interest, commission, fee or any other payment in connection with any loan or indebtedness
  2. royalty or other payments for the use of or the right to use any movable property
  3. payment for the use of or the right to use scientific, technical, industrial or commercial knowledge or information, or for the rendering of assistance or service in connection with the application or use of such knowledge or information
  4. management fee
  5. rent or other payments for the use of any movable property
  6. payment for the purchase of real property from a non-resident property trader
  7. payment of any remuneration to any non-resident director, professionals or public entertainers
The applicable rate depends on the nature of the payments and can be up to 22% of gross income. The withheld amount is to be submitted to IRAS by the 15th of the month following the payment date.

Withholding tax can be significant to technology companies where international technology transfer and licensing deals are common. For example, a S$5 million licensing fee to a foreign company will effectively become S$5.5 million after including 10% of tax withheld.

GOVERNMENT INCENTIVES
Pharmaceutical and biotech companies in Singapore can take advantage of a number of incentives from government agencies like the Economic Development Board (EDB), SPRING Singapore and International Enterprise Singapore. Write-ups on the many available government assistance schemes may be found at various government websites including IRAS (www.iras.gov.sg), EDB (www.edb.gov.sg), SPRING Singapore (www.spring.gov.sg) and the SME Portal (www.smeportal.sg). These incentives can be broadly classified into tax and non-tax incentives. Some of the more relevant ones include:

Tax Incentives:
  • Pioneer Certificate Incentive (PC) encourages companies to make significant investments in Singapore, sizable contributions to the local economy and introduce technologies, skills and/or know-hows that are substantially more advanced than those prevailing in the local industry. The incentive grants corporate tax concessions or full exemptions on incomes derived from the qualifying activities during the incentive period (up to 5 years) (administered by EDB)
  • Development and Expansion Incentive (DEI) encourages companies to intensify their manufacturing activities locally or introduce new engineering or technical service activities, including R&D that would be of economic benefit to Singapore. The incentive grants corporate tax concessions or full exemptions on incomes derived from the qualifying activities during the incentive period (up to 5 years) (administered by EDB)
  • Land Intensification Allowance (LIA) is available to businesses in the manufacturing and logistics sectors with large land takes and low Gross Plot Ratios (GPR) to encourage industrial land use intensification and towards higher value-added activities. The incentive offsets qualifying capital expenditure incurred on the construction or renovation/extension of approved LIA buildings (administered by EDB)
  • Double Tax Deduction for Internationalisation Scheme (DTDi) encourages business internalisation by allowing businesses to claim double tax deduction on up to S$100,000 of expenses for overseas business development missions, investment study trips, participation in trade fairs and other qualifying activities (administered by International Enterprise Singapore)
  • Angel Investors Tax Deduction (AITD) scheme encourages angel venture funding by granting a tax deduction of 50% of investment by experienced angel investors and serial entrepreneurs at the end of a two-year holding period up to a maximum tax deduction of S$250,000 (administered by SPRING Singapore)
Non-Tax Incentives:
  • Research Incentive Scheme for Companies (RISC) serves to encourage companies to develop research and development capabilities and technologies in Singapore. The incentive supports R&D projects in the areas of science and technology (administered by EDB)
  • Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) Grant is offered to local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with global headquarters located in Singapore to help to defray up to 70% of eligible third-party costs related to overseas market set-up and promotion as well as overseas business partners searches (administered by International Enterprise Singapore)
  • Global Company Partnership (GCP) Grant is offered to local SMEs to help to defray up to 70% of eligible costs of their overseas expansion projects in capability building, market access and manpower development (administered by International Enterprise Singapore)
  • International Marketing Activities Programme is offered to eligible local companies to help to defray costs of participating in overseas business missions and exhibiting at Singapore Pavilions at international trade fairs organised by a Trade Association or Chamber (administered by International Enterprise Singapore)
  • SPRING Singapore administers a series of Startup SG schemes including mentor matchmaking, early-stage funding, equity co-investment, incubator support, A*STAR talent access (T-UP) and internship matching (STP for Startups) among others. More info at SPRING Singapore’s StartupSG portal (www.startsupsg.net).
HUMAN RESOURCE: STAFFING MATTERS
Contact Singapore is a division of the Singapore Economic Development Board which provides resources to help those interested learn more about living and working in Singapore. The organisation’s website at www.contactsingapore.sg also provides key information on visas and employment matters. Information on Singapore’s employment legislations may be obtained from the Ministry of Manpower’s website at www.mom.gov.sg. Aside from these organisations, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) also provides advisory services on fair hiring practices to both employers and employees. TAFEP comprises representatives from the government, Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) as well as various trade unions, and was formed to promote the adoption of fair, responsible and merit-based employment practices. TAFEP has published a series of Tripartite Standards to provide guidelines on various employment practices, grievance handling and procurement of freelancer services. More information may be found on its website at www.tafep.sg.

Recruitment Strategies
“To search or advertise?” That is a common question that companies ask themselves when recruiting. To encourage companies to hire locals, the Ministry of Manpower set up JobsBank – an online job matching service portal provided to all Singapore-registered companies and local individuals (www.jobsbank.gov.sg). Under its new Fair Consideration Framework, companies must advertise their job vacancies on JobsBank for at least 14 days before they may consider hiring a non-Singaporean for the position. Details on these requirements may be found on the Ministry of Manpower website (www.mom.gov.sg).

Beyond JobsBank, companies may also engage executive search or headhunting firms to help fill senior positions. Alternatively, companies may advertise in various other media in order to cast a wider net to get at a larger pool of applicants, especially for international recruitments. Companies may choose between an online and a printed advertisement. For printed advertisements, companies can choose to advertise in local newspapers as well as international scientific journals (for scientific positions). Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) is the leading newspaper publisher in Singapore; it publishes 11 newspapers including most read Straits Times. The latest advertisement rates may be obtained by contacting SPH via their website at www.sph.com.sg. The TAFEP (www.tafep.sg) had published a Fair Recruitment & Selection Handbook to highlight words and phrases to avoid in job advertisements in order to help employers comply with existing guidelines on fair employment. The Ministry of Manpower has also taken action against companies whose job advertisements were found to be discriminatory and not aligned with TAFEP’s guidelines.

Employment Law and Guidelines
The main legislation governing employment in Singapore is the Employment Act. The Act provides protection for workers and aims to set the standards of employment in Singapore. Furthermore, the Act provides some salary and benefits protection to Professionals, Managers and Executives (PMEs). Since 1 April 2016, the Act requires all employers to issue itemised payslips as well as provide key employment terms in writing to employees protected under the Act. The framework for the prevention and settlement of trade disputes through collective bargaining, conciliation and arbitration is also laid down in the Industrial Relations Act. More details are available on the Ministry of Manpower website (www.mom.gov.sg).

Compensation and Benefits
There is no “perfect” way to determine an appropriate salary for each employee. Some benchmarks may be obtained from the Ministry of Manpower’s Report on Wages in Singapore (www.mom.gov.sg) and salary survey reports published by the SNEF (www.snef.org.sg). However, most of these surveys may not offer sufficient details on wages for scientific positions in Singapore. Companies may find it useful to obtain comparable salary rates from salary reports and surveys from the American Chemical Society (ACS) (www.acs.org) or the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (www.aaas.org) and adjust the rates accordingly to reflect the differences in costs of living, taxes, medical costs, benefits, etc.

CPF
The Central Provident Fund (CPF) is Singapore’s version of a social security savings plan for retirement. Members may also use the fund for purposes like investment, healthcare, education and home ownership.

All employees who are Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs) contribute towards the CPF savings, with the latter contributing at a reduced rate during the first two year of being a PR. However, contributions are not required for expatriate employees on Employment Passes or Work Permits.

The current employers’ CPF contribution rate is set at 17% of the employees’ wages for employees aged 55 years old and below. This rate is gradually reduced to 7.5% for those above 65 years old. On the other hand, employees contribute 20% of their wages up to 55 years old. This rate will be gradually reduced to 5% once the employee has passed 65 years old. Both contributions are subjected to a salary ceiling of S$6,000, resulting in maximum monthly contributions of S$1,020 (from the employer) and S$1,200 (from the employee themselves) for each individual.

Companies should learn about the CPF requirements prior to their initial manpower and financial planning as CPF contributions affects an employee’s proposed wages. For example, an employee earning S$6,200 per month will have to contribute S$1,200 to his CPF account each month, reducing his take home pay to S$5,000. Furthermore, his employer will have to contribute an additional $1,020 into his CPF account. Thus, the employer is effectively paying S$7,220 per month to hire this employee.

To make the first contribution, a new employer is required to submit a duly completed Form CPF/1 along with a cheque for the contribution amount to CPF Board (www.cpf.gov.sg). A welcome package and the new employer reference number will subsequently be sent once the payment has been processed.

Employment Pass
Foreign professionals have to obtain an employment pass before they can take up employment or carry out any business in Singapore. Foreigners who intend to become business owners may apply for an EntrePass from the immigration authorities before registering their businesses with ACRA. Such applicants have to register their businesses as private limited companies. These companies must have a paid-up capital of at least $50,000. Furthermore, the businesses need to meet certain requirements in order for the applicants to be eligible for an EntrePass, including funding from accredited sources, possessing intellectual property, having research collaboration with local institutes, or being supported by a government-supported business incubator. The applicants should also have at least 30% shareholding in their companies.

Other than the EntrePass, there are 3 other types of employment passes:
  • Employment Pass – for a foreigner with acceptable tertiary / professional qualifications who has received a job offer in Singapore. Applicant’s basic salary should be more than S$3,600 per month. More experienced applicants are required to command even higher salaries in order to qualify for the Pass. To comply with the rules of the Fair Consideration Framework, local firms are required to advertise a position in the JobsBank website for a minimum period of 14 days before they may submit an Employment Pass (EP) application to hire a foreigner.
  • S Pass – for foreign mid-level skilled professionals, specialists or technicians with educational qualifications of degree or diploma and a fixed monthly salary of at least S$2,200. More experienced applicants are similarly required to command higher salaries which are commensurate with their work experience and the work quality that they bring to the job. The number of S pass holders within a company is capped at 15% of the company’s total workforce in the services sector and 20% in the other sectors. The employer will also need to pay the foreign worker levy for all S pass holders under its employment.
  • Personalised Employment Pass (PEP) – offers foreign professionals greater job flexibility since this pass is not tied to a specific employer and pass holder is able to switch jobs within the country without the need to cancel and re-apply for another employment pass. The pass also enables the holder to remain in Singapore for up to six months in between jobs to evaluate new employment opportunities. PEP is however only available to existing Employment Pass holders who earn a minimum monthly salary of S$12,000 or overseas-based professionals earning a monthly income of at least S$18,000.
For details about the PEP and other employment passes, please refer to the Ministry of Manpower’s website (www.mom.gov.sg).

QUALITY AND STANDARDS

Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) Programme
Singapore is the first Asian non-OECD member state to be accepted into the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Mutual Acceptance of Data framework. With this OECD-MAD status, data generated by local testing facilities that comply with the OECD Principles of Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) will be simultaneously accepted by over 30 OECD and non-OECD member states.

The GLP compliance Monitoring programme is now managed by the Singapore Accreditation Council (SAC), a body operating under SPRING Singapore. SAC manages the registration of GLP facilities and conducts periodical surveillance inspections to verify compliance status of certified facilities. A list of GLP certified facilities in Singapore may be found on SAC’s website (www.sac-accreditation.gov.sg). A number of them are testing labs serving the Biomedical Sciences industry in Singapore.

In addition, SAC offers schemes to accredit various inspection and management system certification bodies as well as laboratories conducting tests, calibrations and measurements. Bodies offering certification services may also be accredited by SAC so as to gain recognition for their competency in internationally recognised standards. SAC is also a signatory of a number of multi-lateral Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRAs) which promotes cross-border recognition of accredited bodies. A list of the various signed MRAs may be found on the SAC’s website.

GROWTH OF THE PHARMACEUTICAL MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY
The pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical manufacturing sector has evolved over the past decade to become a cornerstone of the Singapore biomedical sciences industry. Today, Singapore is recognised as a world class hub for pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical manufacturing, hosting the manufacturing operations of many of the world’s leading multinational firms (Table 1). Collectively, these companies have invested over S$5 billion to set up their local manufacturing facilities. They now account for a sizable portion of Singapore’s total pharmaceutical exports, contribute close to S$18 billion in output annually, and have create over 6,000 jobs opportunities.

SUPPORTING INDUSTRY
The concentrated cluster of pharmaceutical plants in Singapore has created many opportunities for product and service providers supporting the pharmaceutical manufacturers. Over the past decade, this pool of supporting companies have grown steadily, with many bolstering their portfolio of products and services to cater to the increasingly sophisticated needs of their clientele. Given Singapore’s central location in Asia, many international companies have also elected to set up their regional headquarters here to capitalise on its excellent connectivity to the Asia Pacific region to market their products and services to the region.

Starting from this edition, companies offering products and services to both the R&D and manufacturing sub-sectors of the pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical and biotech industry will be featured in the directory sections of this guide.

However, the reader should note that the inclusion of these companies in the directory listings is not an endorsement of their products or services by the publishers. The directory is simply an attempt by the publishers to create a level platform for companies to promote their products and services.

EQUIPMENT PURCHASE
Many foreign researchers in Singapore are amazed by the wide variety of choices available for scientific equipment and products here. Not only are products from America and Europe commonly available, distributors and dealers here also introduce products from other parts of Asia and Australasia, especially Japan, Korea and Australia. The enormous equipment variety available here sometime poses a serious challenge for a new procurement officer. While the choices may be plenty, one downside about operating here is that some of these equipment or reagents may take a while to arrive at your doorstep. It is not uncommon for supplier to state a lead time of 6 – 8 weeks on quotations. There are, of course, always exceptions and some suppliers may carry items ex-stock. It is thus wise to plan ahead and check the lead time before committing to a purchase.

On top of that, most lab products are sold via distributorships in Singapore. Therefore, in addition to just associating products with brands, there is an additional need to associate brand / products with distributors. In an attempt to help you navigate the local lab equipment trading scene better, we have included a lab products directory as part of this guide.

The directory is divided into three sections:
  1. An A-Z listing of most lab equipment / products / service suppliers in Singapore.
  2. A Company / Product Matrix to help you identify “who-sell-what” in Singapore.
  3. A Brand Listing to help you identify “who-sell-what-brand” in Singapore.
The listings here are by no means exhaustive. In fact, we have only included relevant companies who have contributed advertisements in the Company / Product Matrix as well as the Brand Listing. It remains our aim to include as many relevant companies as we can in subsequent editions, and we may expand the listings to beyond lab products companies in the next issue. If your company would like to be contacted for listing in subsequent issues, please feel free to drop us a note at biotechguide@1st-phase.com. We will contact you when we begin to compile the next edition.

Major Pharma