The Tempinis diaries

November 29, 2007

Attracting Global Talent: The Soft Factors

Filed under: education — Tags: , , , — toru @ 12:40 pm

One of Singapore’s star hires leading the island State’s ambition to be a biomedical hub is Edison Liu who was lured from his position as director of the American National Cancer Institute.  Besides the issue of generous research funding and internationally competitive pay, it seems to me after reading the Times of London article that a lot of ‘soft factors’ are very important in attracting a global talent like Dr. Liu.   What I mean by ‘soft factors’ are things like modern and new buildings for research purposes, building research hubs in centralised locations, good living conditions for the scientists and ensuring that the foreign spouse can find a good job locally.  The Times of London story specifically mentioned that the scientists found that the downside of living in Singapore is the lack of culture such as good theater etc which is another soft factor.  Singapore seems to be pulling out all the stops to recruit the top scientific talent – in the Times story it was reported that there was a rumour that Edison Liu was staying in a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel!  

If Malaysia intends to compete in recruiting talented individuals, it needs to start thinking of these soft factors and how to overcome the systemic problems faced by Malaysian universities.  An example of how Malaysia is really amateurish in dealing with these soft factors is the failed  Biovalley experiment.  Biovalley was supposed to be built in Dengkil.  Now, who the hell even know where Dengkil is?  And even if you could find it, which world class scientist would want to relocate to Dengkil?  Quite apart from foreigners, I doubt any self-respecting KL person would want to work in Dengkil.  In contrast, Singapore has learnt that a successful research hub must be centrally located.  The Nanyang Technological University suffers, in my humble opinion, because of its out of the way location in Jurong.  Hence, Biopolis, the science hub, is located conveniently in Buona Vista, a stone’s throw from NUS and the hip and happening Holland Village.   In fact, there are free buses during lunch time bringing the scientists from Biopolis to Holland Village so that they can have a good meal. 

But of course merely ‘buying’ global talent is not the solution.  The important thing is to ensure that these talented foreign individuals will help the local talent raise their game.  More on this in posts to come.   


  1. hmmm quite true..location is quite impt also…haha…i noe where dengkil is….but it’s so ULU…near kajang satay la…
    and i think many scientiest dun wanna relocate to msia coz not up-to-standard research facilities + no funding available
    well, instead of importing foreign talents we can instead focus on retaining local talent

    Comment by bobby — November 30, 2007 @ 2:07 am

  2. many world class universities and research centres are placed at out of town areas. examples include cornell uni in ithaca, new york, st andrews uni in st andrews,scotland, harvard and MIT in cambridge, mass, brown uni in rhode island, etc etc so and so forth. hence i think its the critical mass of scholars and the talents within them, hold a prominent role in further attracting talents of the same kind. other factors include the availability of research funds and superior research facilities/libraries, proper living conditions(doesnt have to have lotsa shopping centres, “hip” bars and clubs etc), academic freedom(thats why you see social science and humanities research in spore are pathetic) and good pool of quality students.

    Comment by fob — November 30, 2007 @ 5:59 am

  3. Intersting post.
    While nowhere near being considered a “global talent”

    I am an Indian citizen and a recent graduate(2006) of a top Canadian University – The University of Toronto (UofT). I have a

    My brother is studying at SMU and added to that the ease with which I got Singapore Landed PR, convinced me to immigrate to Singapore.

    I am coming to singapore in a few days and will be looking for a job.

    I was wondering: How do employers look at graduates of foreign universities – such as UofT -compared to NUS/NTU/SMU?

    Any advice ot make this easier?
    Thanks 🙂

    Comment by Awesome — December 2, 2007 @ 12:02 pm

  4. Bobby – I didnt know that dengkil is near kajang satay – at least there’s something good to eat there..haha

    FOB – thanks for your comment – the out of town model works for established universities – not sure about new research hubs/universities.

    awesome – I dont think you should have any problems looking for a job. Business is booming in most sectors.

    Comment by tempinis — December 2, 2007 @ 1:50 pm

  5. hey tempnis,
    that is encouraging to hear:)
    I have a degree in Computer Science and Economics and am looking to break into management consulting or a business analyst type position … though im pretty open to other stuff too.
    i’ve applied online but havent heard anything back yet…

    Any advice? 🙂

    BTW, just curious: whats your story? still a student – and which uni do you go to?

    Comment by Awesome — December 2, 2007 @ 6:18 pm

  6. I dont know much about business analyst. But what I heard is that management consulting is a very hard industry to break in for a fresh graduate. Anyway good luck.

    Comment by tempinis — December 3, 2007 @ 1:14 am

  7. […] toru @ 10:01 am Another side of UM. This ties in with my earlier post on the importance of soft factors.  It seems such soft factors are important not just to attract global talent but also for the […]

    Pingback by Varsity hit by complacency « The Tempinis diaries — September 14, 2008 @ 10:01 am

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