Singapore will intensify cooperation with South Korea in biomedical sciences, giving a shot in the arm to the local medical technology sector.

National agencies from the two countries yesterday inked a pact to spur biomedical and med-tech research and development (R&D), promote talent exchange and help to commercialise joint projects.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed in Seoul by Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI), a public organisation that aims to promote and develop Korea's health industry.

The signing was witnessed by Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan and Korean Health and Welfare Minister Moon Hyung Pyo. Mr Lee is in South Korea with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on an official visit to the country this week.

As part of the collaboration between the two agencies, a US$5 million (S$6.3 million) research fund has been set up. The first grant call for the A*Star-KHIDI Joint Research Fund will take place next year, A*Star said.

There are also plans for KHIDI to establish a Biomedical Sciences Development Centre in Singapore, and start student exchange programmes between A*Star and South Korea's Dongguk University.

A*Star said the partnership with KHIDI "will aid in bolstering the med-tech industry in Singapore", where there are not enough companies to support product development, prototyping, clinical trials and regulatory capabilities.

South Korea's large number of med-tech small and medium-sized enterprises will bulk up support for product development.

The memorandum, proposed by South Korea, caps a year of increased cooperation between the two countries in biomedical R&D, A*Star said.

"Singapore and Korea's biomedical research and innovation strategies are highly complementary, and this synergy has enhanced our research partnerships over the past year," said Dr Raj Thampuran, A*Star's managing director.

KHIDI president Ko Kyung Hwa said the MOU will allow both countries to share their strengths in biomedical science and "go to the global market" together.

Other countries with which Singapore has research collaboration agreements include Italy, Finland, Japan and New Zealand.