Philip Yeo: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Philip Yeo

Philip Yeo Liat Kok[1] (Chinese: 杨烈国; born 1946) is the chairman of Spring Singapore and Special Advisor for Economic Development in the Prime Minister's office. He was the former chairman of A*STAR, a government agency in Singapore focused on conducting scientific research.[2] To that end he recruited, amongst many others, accomplished researchers like Edison Liu, Nancy Jenkins, Neal Copeland, and David P. Lane to work on biomedical research in Singapore's biomedical hub Biopolis.[3]

Yeo was also the first chairman of the National Computer Board - which he formed - as well as chairman of the Economic Development Board from January 1986 to January 2001. He is married and has a son and a daughter.



Yeo graduated in 1970 in Applied Science (Industrial Engineering) from the University of Toronto under a Colombo Plan scholarship.[1] He obtained a Master of Science (Systems Engineering) from the University of Singapore in 1974. In 1976, he obtained a Master in Business Administration from Harvard University under a Fulbright scholarship.

Yeo has been conferred honorary PhDs from University of Toronto, Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and Imperial College London for his work in Economic Development in Singapore and Asia.


Philip Yeo served in the Administrative Service from June 1970 to 31 March 1999. He served in various appointments in the Ministry of Defence, including Permanent Secretary for logistics, technology research & development and defence industries. He left MINDEF to assume the appointment of Chairman, Economic Development Board in January 1986.

During his EDB chairmanship, Yeo redirected EDB's focus from the traditional fields to new areas of business. These included: Internationally exportable services; developing high-tech industries like biomedical science, [4] [5] semiconductors, aerospace and specialty chemicals;[6] nurturing local small and medium-sized enterprises and encouraging Singapore companies to make direct investments abroad. Yeo pioneered Singapore's participation in overseas infrastructure development projects such as those in the Bintan Industrial Estate and the Wuxi-Singapore Industrial Park in China.[7]

During this time, Philip Yeo also served as the first Chairman of the National Computer Board (now Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore from 1980 to 1987.[1] He played a leading role in formulating and championing Singapore's first national computerisation plan to evolve the nation into the information age.[8]

Yeo was Board Member (from 1980) and Chairman of the Executive Committee of Singapore Technologies Holdings from 1987 to 1993. He also served as Chairman of Sembawang Corporation (1994 - 1998) and the successor SembCorp Industries (1998-1999), Pidemco Land (1999 - 2000) and CapitaLand formed from Pidemco after a merger (2000 -).

Yeo stepped down as Chairman of A*STAR and become chairman of the Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board (Spring Singapore) on 1 April 2007.[7] He was also appointed senior adviser on science and technology to the Minister for Trade and Industry. In his role as Advisor for Economic Development in the Prime Minister’s Office, Yeo will assist the Prime Minister’s Office in establishing new economic links with interested foreign governments who value Singapore’s development experience, and provide strategic inputs to establish strategic partnerships and open up opportunities with other fast-growing economies.[9][10]

Public Service and Awards

For his public service, Yeo was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Silver) in 1974, the Public Administration Medal (Gold) in 1982 and the Meritorious Service Medal in 1991.[1] In 1987, he was awarded the Eisenhower Exchange Fellowship, USA for the period March to May 1987.

In 1994, the Indonesian Government conferred on Yeo its highest civilian honour, the Bintang Jasa Utama (the First Class Order of Service Award) in recognition of his role in fostering good bilateral ties between Indonesia and Singapore. In 1996, Yeo was conferred the Ordre National du Mérite (National Order of Merit) for his contribution and leadership in enhancing ties between Singapore and France.

In June 1997, Yeo was conferred an Honorary Doctorate in Engineering by his alma mater, the University of Toronto in recognition of an illustrious alumnus.

In February 1998, Mr. Yeo was honoured by the Belgium Government with the Commander of the Belgium National Order of the Crown for his personal merits in promoting the cooperation between Belgian and Singapore industries.

In November 1998, the international Society of Design and Process Science honoured Yeo with the K T Li Award for contributing significantly to economic and societal development. He was recognized for his contribution to Singapore's economic development and for his pioneering role in the development of Singapore's IT industry.

Mr Yeo was awarded the CEO Lifetime Achievement Award, Asia Pacific IPA Awards in 2003.

In May 2006, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of medicine by the Board of Research at Karolinska Institutet. The award was given for Yeo's efforts in building medical research and education in Singapore, in collaboration with leading universities throughout the world, including Karolinska Institutet. He was also cited for helping to catalyze collaborative agreements between Karolinska Institutet and A* STAR, and between Karolinska Institutet and the National University of Singapore. These agreements led to significant exchanges of researchers and students between Singapore and Sweden. [11]

In the same month, Yeo was awarded the Nikkei Prize for Science and Technology "in honor of his strong leadership in drafting and implementing Singapore's science and technology strategy, particularly in biomedical sciences."[12]

On 9 August 2006, he was awarded the Order of Nila Utama (First Class), one of Singapore's most prestigious National Day Awards.

In September 2006, he was the first Singaporean to receive Harvard Business School's Alumni Achievement Award. Harvard credits him with moving Singapore's economy into manufacturing sectors like televisions, disk drives, petrochemicals, and most recently the biomedical sciences.[13]

In November 2007, Yeo was conferred an Honorary Doctorate in Science by Imperial College of UK for his focus on building up Science and Technology in Singapore.

In December 2007, the Japanese government conferred the Order Of The Rising Sun, Gold And Silver Star, which represents the second highest of eight classes associated with the award.[14] Yeo is among eight Singaporeans, including Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, who have received this conferment since 1967. [15]

In April 2008, Yeo was awarded the Distinguished Service (Star) award by the National Trade Unions Congress in Singapore. The award is the Singapore Union's highest honor for a non-unionist. Yeo was conferred the award for his contributions to the transformation of Singapore and direct efforts of job creation.[16]

In November 2008, Yeo was awarded the University of Toronto Engineering Alumni Medal 2008.

In March 2009, Yeo was awarded BioSpectrum’s first Asia Pacific Life Time Achievement Award for the role he played in Singapore’s rise as a hub for the life sciences industry and for setting up the Biopolis and Fusionopolis technology complexes. [17]


One of the hallmarks of Philip Yeo has been his passion in developing people. In the course of his career he has sent thousands of Singaporeans to top universities around the world on government funded scholarships. In return for government funding to complete their studies in university, these scholars make a commitment to return and serve the Singapore government for a period of six years.

When Yeo joined the EDB in 1986, EDB had a few MNCs who had donated annual scholarships: Sundstrand-EDB Scholarship(1982); Minebea (1985).

Some of the key scholarship programs that Yeo set up at EDB include: Seiko Epson (1987-1988), Yokogawa Electric (1988), Shimano (1993), Daicel Chemicals (1994) and Siemens (1995); Mobil (now ExxonMobil) (1997), Singapore Inc (SIS) (1997) and Promising Local Enterprise Scholarship (1996).

In 1989, Sir Paul Girolami, then Chairman of Glaxo, asked Yeo what Glaxo could do to demonstrate its appreciation to Singapore. Yeo immediately suggested a scholarship program. Shortly after that meeting, Glaxo sent S$50 million in two cash cheques to the EDB resulting in the creation of the Glaxo-EDB scholarship program. Since its launch in1990, the Glaxo-EDB scholarship has trained over 300 BS/MSc scholars.[18]

When Yeo arrived at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in 2001, he found that fewer than 20% of PhD holders in A*STAR's institutes were Singaporean, and few among them were young scientists. Yeo immediately set up his boldest scholarship yet by setting up the A*STAR Graduate Academy to implement the plan to train up 1,000 PhD scholars that would eventually return to Singapore and undertake research in fields like information technology, engineering, molecular biology, biochemistry and medicine. One of the hallmarks of Yeo's personal style is the amount of personal attention he gives to his scholars. He takes great pains to remember personal details about their background and also closely tracks their academic performance. He regularly meets with them to buy them meals whenever he is near their overseas universities on his regular business trips abroad.[19]


See also : Censorship in Singapore

Philip Yeo has been embroiled in controversy regarding government scholarships and the associated bonds, duties, and obligations from time to time.

In 1998, as Chairman of EDB, he decided to name publicly the holders of government scholarships who broke their bonds in order to shame them. This created a controversy generating public debates on whether those who received scholarship have a moral obligation to serve, or whether the scholarship is merely a contractual agreement which could be broken in return for the stated penalties. The debate culminated when MP Chng Hee Kok questioned Yeo's decision. Yeo responded by calling for Chng to resign his seat in Parliament because of his view.[20] [21] This led to even more unhappiness at the audacity of a civil servant talking down to an elected Member of Parliament. Then Deputy Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong had to intervene in what was seen as a face-saving rebuke for both - that Philip Yeo was wrong to tell Chng Hee Kok to resign, but Chng had also been wrong in arguing that it was acceptable for scholars to break their bonds because they were merely legal contracts.[21]

In May 2005, the controversy of A*STAR bond-breakers was revived when The New Paper published an article about him writing in his book that men in Singapore were wimps, whiny, and immature even though they have served the National Service (NS).[22] The reason Yeo gave was that all bond-breakers since early 90s were Singapore men. The anger was further fuelled when a female A*STAR scholar, Chng Zhenzhi, backed his statements and openly declared that Singapore men were fine until "(once) they enter NS, they complain a lot."[23] It should be noted that Philip Yeo himself never served National Service as it was not implemented during his time.

In the same month, Chen Jiahao, a Singaporean Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was threatened with legal action for accusing A*Star and Philip Yeo of "bribing universities for taking in PhD students" under the moniker AcidFlask on his blog caustic.soda.[24] Jiahao went on to accuse A*Star of "giving out gobs of honey to universities who will sign back-door agreements for taking in scholars without going through the formal application procedure.” Philip Yeo and A*Star responded with threat of legal action, stating that the statements made in AcidFlask’s blog would have been understood to mean that A*Star had acted corruptly in its dealings with universities. The statements also cast serious aspersions on A*Star's scholars to the effect that they were not admitted to their universities on merit but only because their universities were bribed by A*Star to do so. A*Star demanded a public apology from Chen and that the offending and defamatory postings in AcidFlask's 3 March 2005 blog be deleted. Chen chose to shut down his entire blog-site. All posts were removed voluntarily, and replaced with an unreserved apology to "A*STAR, its Chairman Mr. Philip Yeo, and its executive officers for the distress and embarrassment" caused.[25][26] The incidents upset several members of the local blogging community[23] for his statements. In February 2007, Yeo, in the comments of another blog, revealed the exact posts that were considered defamatory.[27] [28]

In 2006, Philip Yeo began to face criticism for his Biotech strategy. As billions in taxpayers' money had been spent to develop the Biomedical Industry in Singapore. Philip Yeo countered his critics by pointing out that Biomedical manufacturing output had quadrupled from S$6 billion in 2000 to S$23 billion in the 5 years that the country had been investing in the sector. In that short period, the Biomedical industry grew to account for over 5% of Singapore’s GDP and 10,600 high value added jobs. In addition, Yeo also pointed out that during the 5 years of investment, more than 25 companies started research centres in Singapore, including three corporate R&D laboratories run by Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis. [29]

In late 2006, Dr. Lee Wei Ling, head of National Neuroscience Institute, publicly questioned the policy of Philip Yeo and A*Star, asserting that they were wrong by putting public money on competing with western countries on cutting-edge research. She said that Singapore should instead focus on niche areas in Biotech research.[30]

Yeo's work in developing the biomedical industry has received praises by some analysts including Nature correspondent David Cyranoski who wrote that "Singapore's impressive advances in biomedicine are driven by the energetic personality of Philip Yeo." [31] In response to his daughter's comments, Lee Kuan Yew has stated the following: "This issue has been deliberated over a period of several months in Cabinet and decided by PM Goh and cabinet. The policy has been continued by PM Lee and his cabinet. We have made significant investments in time and resources. We have to get the most out of what we have put in."[32]


See also


  1. ^ a b c d National Heritage Board (2006). "Yeo, Philip". in Tommy T.B. Koh et ali.. Singapore: The Encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet. pp. 600. ISBN 981-4155-63-2.  
  2. ^ "Singapore's man with a plan". The Economist. 2004-08-12.  
  3. ^ Walsh, Bryan (2006-07-23). "Stem Cell Central". Time Magazine.,9171,1218061,00.html.  
  4. ^ Dennis Normille (2002-08-30). "Can Money Turn Singapore Into a Biotech Juggernaut?". Science 297 (5586): 1470–1473. doi:10.1126/science.297.5586.1470.  
  5. ^ Dennis Normille (2007-04-06). "An Asian Tiger’s Bold Experiment". Science 316 (5821): 38–41. doi:10.1126/science.316.5821.38.  
  6. ^ Somers, T. (18 December 2006). "An economic chameleon". San Diego Union Tribune.  
  7. ^ a b Philip Yeo, A*STAR Chairman, At His Farewell Lunch Hosted By The Minister For Trade And Industry, Accessed 24 March 2007
  8. ^ Mr. Khaw Boon Wan. "Singapore Computer Society (Scs) Gala Dinner & The It Leader Award 2003 Presentation Ceremony" (press release).  
  9. ^ Prime Minister's Office. "Special Advisor for Economic Development in the Prime Minister’s Office" (press release).  
  10. ^ Sami Zaptia. "Can Libya Learn from the Singapore Experience?" (press article).  
  11. ^ Karolinska Institutet, KI Honorary Doctorate, Accessed 21 February 2007
  12. ^ Nikkei, Nikkei Prize for Science and Technology, Accessed 21 Feb 2007.
  13. ^ Harvard, Alumni Achievement Award, Accessed 21 Feb 2007.
  14. ^ Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA): 2007 Autumn Conferment of Decorations on Foreign Nationals, p. 2.
  15. ^ Channel News Asia, Philip Yeo given award for role in promoting ties with Japan, Accessed 19 Dec 2007.
  16. ^ Channel News Asia, NTUC honours 'investment salesman' Philip Yeo for creating jobs, Accessed 30 Apr 2008.
  17. ^ BioSpectum Asia Pacific Awards 2009, BioSpectum Asia Pacific Awards 2009, Accessed 26 Mar 2009.
  18. ^ EDB & NSTB, Welcome Address By Mr Philip Yeo, Co-Chairman, Economic Development Board, Accessed 21 April 2007.
  19. ^ Philip Yeo (2007-04-19). "(And they call it) guppy love". Nature 446: 948. doi:10.1038/nj7138-948a.  
  20. ^ Lim, Y. (10 March 1998). "Let-fly King". The New Paper.  
  21. ^ a b Tan Ooi Boon (May 8, 2005). "White knight, Black knight". The New Paper.,4136,87881,00.html.  
  22. ^ Tan Ooi Boon (May 8, 2005). "Forget wimps, I prefer women". The New Paper.,4136,87882,00.html.  
  23. ^ a b Chua K. H. (15 May 2005). "Whips up howls of protest". The Straits Times.  
  24. ^ Chen Jiahao, Press release, 6 May 2005. Accessed 28 Oct 2006.
  25. ^ caustic.soda Accessed 31 Oct 2006.
  26. ^ John Burton (8 May 2005). "Singapore threatens to sue internet dissenter". Financial Times. Retrieved 2006-10-28.  
  27. ^ A*star, "Clarification from A*Star over AcidFlask incident"
  28. ^ A*star, "Damaging Statements about A*STAR by Chen Jiahao (AcidFlask)"
  29. ^ EDB/A*Star, "Biomedical Industry Review 2006", 6 February 2007
  30. ^ P N Balji (12 February 2007). "Citizen Lee launches a debate ... and a waiting game". Today.  
  31. ^ David Cyranoski, "Singapore: An irresistible force"
  32. ^ Chen Huifen (15 March 2007). "Singapore to push ahead with Biomed". Business Times.  
  33. ^ Honor awarded 2007 -- Embassy of Japan in Singapore: "Conferment Ceremony for Mr. Philip Yeo, Chairman of SPRING Singapore."


External links



Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address