EDB - Where top minds meet
Ang Chin Tah is an officer from the Economic Development Board, and he’s happy to work with energetic colleagues who strive to bring top global companies to Singapore.
By John Yip
ANG CHIN TAH, FIREfly Scholar (EDB)
What he does: Senior Officer, Biomedical Sciences Division, EDB
What he studied: Molecular & Cell Biology and Economics, University of California, Berkeley
Master of Business & Biotechnology, University of Cambridge
"One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt while studying abroad is that people are the same no matter where you go. We tend to focus on the differences rather than the similarities we share,” says Ang Chin Tah, a Senior Officer from the Economic Development Board (EDB).
Chin Tah is an EDB scholar who graduated with a double major in Molecular & Cell Biology and Economics from the University of California, Berkeley (UCBerkeley) in 2005. He went on to achieve his Master of Business & Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge in 2006.
Having attended university education in the US and the UK, Chin Tah is in the position to compare and contrast the people of two very different cultures.
“The people at UC-Berkeley have a reputation for being bohemian. It is a state university so it’s very big with many diverse people who are very friendly, very liberal,” says Chin Tah. “The academic culture was laissez-faire. You are left to your own devices, to grow on your own. Not much mentoring is provided and you learn how to be independent.”
In contrast, he felt like an outsider when he fi rst arrived in Cambridge, even though the education system there was quite similar to Singapore’s system. But, like UC-Berkeley, the students at Cambridge also came from diverse backgrounds, and were in fact more international than UC-Berkeley’s student body.
Ever ready to adapt, Chin Tah made the best of both universities. He tried punting and cycling while in Cambridge, and even joined his college’s rowing team. “I was the smallest rower and the token Asian!” laughs Chin Tah. And during his time in UC-Berkeley, he regularly drove up to the hills to admire the spectacular sunsets.
YOUNG AND COMPETITIVE
Through the four years of his education, Chin Tah learned something important about himself. “I realised that I can learn. It doesn’t matter how complex the subject is. I can master any material, given enough time and preparation,” he says. “The same thing applies to life as well. Once you’ve prepared for it, you’ll be ok. If you meet new challenges, just go ahead and face them. Don’t be afraid.”
It’s clear that university education gave Chin Tah a lot more than just academic knowledge. He has gained a broader perspective on many issues and the confi dence to tackle challenges — the same qualities he fi nds in his colleagues at EDB.
“The people at EDB are vibrant and young. I have many phenomenal colleagues who are intelligent and passionate about their work. There is complete meritocracy here, and people don’t care whether or not you’re a scholar as long as you can get the job done,” says Chin Tah.
He also describes the working culture as being competitive, but in a positive way. “We all want to do better than each other, because we’re motivated to measure ourselves against the best,” he says. “It also reminds me that I’m not the best, that I have a lot to learn and high standards to live up to.”
Learning and tackling new challenges are very much a part of his job in the Biomedical Sciences division at EDB. Based in Biopolis, Chin Tah’s division covers three major areas of the biomedical sciences (BMS) industry in Singapore. Firstly, it aims to develop Singapore as a key manufacturing site for the BMS industry. Singapore currently hosts a growing base of key industry players in Tuas Biomedical Park, but there is still room to grow.
Secondly, EDB hopes to attract biomedical companies to set up headquarters or regional hubs in Singapore, with the aim of building a self-sustaining “ecosystem” in the BMS industry.
The third area is where Chin Tah is most usually involved, namely the promotion of BMS research and development (R&D) in Singapore. “My colleagues and I explore ways to provide value to pharmaceutical enterprises and start-up companies, because the decision to locate in Singapore must be as good for them as it would be for us,” he says.
One of his recent projects provides good insight on what he does. He was part of a team that tried to woo a big pharmaceutical company to Singapore. “They’re a huge company, investing in the largest R&D centre of its kind and they’re trying to do something not done in Singapore before. More importantly, they’re looking for at least 260 people to carry out this R&D,” says Chin Tah.
The big question was — could EDB deliver? Together with his team members, EDB put together a 40-page business proposal, which listed the laboratory spaces and utilities available in Singapore. “We showed them where the relevant research talent could be found, and we worked together with national agencies to show how EDB could help them substantively,” says Chin Tah.
The discussions are still in progress and even if the company finally decides not to come, it is still all right, because as Chin Tah puts it, “at least we have established a relationship with them.”
MAKE A GOOD CHOICE
In the end, Chin Tah derives great satisfaction from his work, because “ultimately, it’s about saving lives and that feels good.”
Looking back to when he was an 18-year-old, he admits that he didn’t actually know very much about what EDB does. However, Chin Tah urges students to consider their choices carefully. He says, “A scholarship comes with a career. It’s one and the same, so make sure that you’d want to work for the scholarship provider.”
He adds, “At EDB, we’re keen to turn Singapore into the Boston of Asia, a place where top minds meet. We’re always looking for new ways to create value.” If this sounds like something you’d like to do, then EDB may just be the ideal place for you!