In the recent Budget 2021, DPM Heng Swee Keat talked extensively about innovation as a key economic driver for Singapore’s recovery from the pandemic in 2021 and beyond. Creating a vibrant business community will require innovation and disruption, lest they be caught out by the rapidly changing winds of technology and geopolitics.
Singapore’s recovery hinges on innovation because businesses provide not only goods and services but also jobs. If businesses can find unique and better solutions to existing problems in the country and the wider region, they stand a better chance at long-term growth and creating better jobs for their employees.
Therefore, to improve the country’s economy and for supporting businesses to bring more creative ideas to the table, the Government has clearly stated some of the key initiatives that will be carried out in order to enhance enterprise innovation.
For supporting creative problem solving and innovation, the government spoke about 3 business platforms during Budget 2021: Corporate Venture Launchpad, Open Innovation Platform (OIP), and Global Innovation Alliance (GIA).
#1 Corporate Venture Launchpad
Aiming to bolster the country’s private equity and venture capital (VC) market, the Corporate Venture Launchpad will be piloted this year to drive new innovative ventures.
The launchpad will provide co-funding to companies to build new ventures through pre-qualified venture studios. It will also be useful for bigger businesses that want to kickstart innovation drives within their organisation.
While the platform is in its beta phase and will be deployed this year to drive new innovative ventures, DPM Heng gave an example of one venture studio he visited recently – BCG Digital Ventures.
BCG Digital Ventures collaborated with Singapore’s Olam to build Jiva, a farmer services platform to help meet rising global food demand and uplifting farmers’ income. This Platform will help farmers in developing countries increase crop yield, access credit and connect directly to buyers. Jiva also enables micro-entrepreneurs to participate in the last-mile supply chain business.
#2 Open Innovation Platform (OIP)
The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) launched the OIP in 2018 as a virtual crowd sourcing platform to connect and match real businesses and public agencies with challenges or digitalisation opportunities with solution providers, as well as co-funding prototypes and deployment.
As an ideation platform used to gather potential ways to help existing businesses innovate better, individuals who participate in the OIP can stand to win prize monies by applying to solve challenges. These challenges will come in the form of solving difficult problems and developing prototypes that can be deployed in the real world with the help of a chosen or open organisation of stakeholders.
The main benefits of this programme are twofold: not only can the OIP support businesses to get quality and multi-disciplinary talent to develop novel solutions that they may not have the existing resources to on their own, but it can also groom future innovators to see that there is a real-world application to their entrepreneurial aspirations.
The Open Innovation Platform will help to increase the scale and speed of innovation. Also, it can achieve the better matching, testing, and development.
It includes two latest features:
– A discovery engine to ease the search and matching of technology solutions to challenges using automated advice
– A cloud-based digital bench that supports quicker proof-of-concept from accelerated virtual prototyping and testing
DPM Heng gave the example of the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), which was match with TraceSafe, TagBox and Nervotec to develop solutions for safe re-opening of worksites. The firms developed real0time systems that helped construction site owners conduct contact tracing and health monitoring of their workers.
#3 Global Innovation Alliance (GIA)
The Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) is a joint initiative between Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and the Economic Development Board (EDB). This network will also serve as the main hub for Singapore entities to participate in regional and global innovation and business communities.
There are 15 GIA node cities, including in Shenzhen, Beijing, Suzhou and Shanghai in China; Manila in the Philippines; Jakarta in Indonesia; Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam; San Francisco in the United States; Berlin and Munich in Germany; Paris in France; London in Britain; Tokyo in Japan; Bangalore in India; and Bangkok in Thailand. Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) has set up the GIA Program Office to facilitate the general activity and work closely with Enterprise Singapore.
With this year’s Budget detailing, Singapore Government plans to invest further in the GIA. So far, the alliance has allowed more than 650 students and 780 Singapore businesses to participate in innovation launchpads overseas.
The GIA comprises three pillars:
#1 Innovators Academy: Expanding the pool of Autonomous University (AU) students with exposure to entrepreneurship and innovation activities, with the view of developing future entrepreneurs, business leaders and innovators in Singapore.
#2 Innovation Launchpads: Establishing launchpads for Singapore entities (startups, SMEs and large local enterprises (LLEs)) to connect with the business and innovation community. This will give them access to talent, capital, customers and partners, in major innovation hubs.
#3 Partnership Forums: Establishing links between overseas technology companies, and Singapore companies and government agencies to strengthen our technological capabilities and enhance the Singapore innovation ecosystem.
Also, the alliance will get enhanced support through the inclusion of the Co-Innovation Programme. Mainly, this programme will pay up to 70% of qualifying costs for cross-border innovation and partnership projects.
DPM Heng also gave the example of WaveScan, a Singapore startup specialising sensor technology, attracting investments from a GIA operating partner in Japan, Leave a Nest. WaveScan also formed a partnership with A.L.I Technologies, an unmanned miniature aircrafts specialist in Japan.
Who Can Participate In These Enterprise Innovation Platforms?
Singapore-based companies can access these co-funding schemes so that they can transform and digitalize their businesses, staying abreast of technological and global headwinds and contributing to a globalised business landscape that promotes an openness to innovation and sustainable growth in the ASEAN region.
To complement the support offered to SMEs, large local enterprises (LLEs) will also be buttressed with $500 million by the Government to be co-invested with Temasek in a Local Enterprises Funding Platform, to be managed commercially. Temasek will match the government’s funds on a one-for-one basis, so the platform will have $1 billion available for its investments.
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