Singapore

About the Innovation and Startup Desk in Singapore

Intro about the Desk, its mission and activities

Innovation desk in general is an initiative by ICE aka Italian trade agency for assisting the highly innovative Italian startups in expanding its business in domestic and offshore markets.

The placement of the innovation desks is in accordance with the importance of the cities and its close vicinity to the foreign investors for attracting investments towards the Italian startups. Apart from attracting investments; the innovation desks are involved in other innovative activities towards attracting Italian investment in the host countries for most happening initiatives by the country’s respective governments.

 

Private companies are being roped in to help the Government identify highly promising technopreneurs and tech start-ups that can contribute to Singapore's future growth.

They will also mentor these start-ups, notably from fields such as artificial intelligence, cyber security and digital health, and match them with the right government funding programmes.

Yesterday, 17 of these accredited mentor partners (AMPs) were unveiled by Spring Singapore.

 
These AMPs are part of the Startup SG scheme, which was announced in March to streamline the administration of all government funding programmes.

They include Singapore-based private investment firm Focustech Ventures; The FinLab, a joint venture between UOB and a unit of the National Research Foundation that aims to groom start-ups; and Israel-based incubator Trendlines Medical Singapore.

Start-ups may also contact the AMPs at www.startupsg.net.

Mr Edwin Chow, Spring Singapore's group director of industry and enterprise, said the Government wants to send a signal that there is "no wrong door" when seeking help.

"We want to move away from an agency-centric way of giving help and funding to start-ups," he added.

Spring Singapore is the central administrator of Startup SG, which has a five-year budget of $220 million for equity in deep-tech firms and grants to first-time entrepreneurs.

For instance, the Government will co-invest 70 per cent in qualifying start-ups and first-time entrepreneurs can receive a $30,000 grant.

Mr Chow said that involving the private sector in grooming tech start-ups is in line with one of the Committee on the Future Economy's recommendations that was released in February.

Startup SG is part of plans to increase the pool of high-potential start-ups with operations in Singapore from 4,800 to 8,000 in 10 years' time.

The present batch of such start-ups includes ride-matching service provider Grab and e-retailer Lazada.

Mr Kelvin Ong, chief executive officer of six-year-old Focustech Ventures, which is among the 17 AMPs, said the Government wants to participate in deep-tech fields such as medical technology, clean technology and advanced manufacturing.

"There is a need for domain experts from the private sector to help identify such start-ups with potential," Mr Ong said.

Article was first published on The Straits Times on 12 May 2017.

AH

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HEWLETT Packard Enterprise (HPE) on Monday unveiled a three-year incubator programme in Singapore to partner local companies to create and commercialise new technologies.

The new programme - InnovateNext - together with the investment in its operations at its new Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) headquarters building, will boost HPE's investment in Singapore to US$140 million over the next five years.

HPE will lead the programme in collaboration with Singapore's Economic Development Board (EDB) to partner with local technology startups and HPE's customers to develop and commercialise solutions across industries, including manufacturing, distribution, financial services, communications, media and entertainment and the public sector.

The solutions will align with HPE's priority technology offerings, including hybrid IT, Internet of Things (IoT) and data and analytics.

The InnovateNext program plans to support 12 startups, with the goal of developing solutions that are viable for the global market. HPE also aims to co-innovate and develop 10 vertical solutions with enterprise customers over the next three years. The program provides access to HPE resources and mentorship.

HPE said it will identify existing startups that can contribute to the success of the company's customers in Singapore and APJ. Startups will also be identified through local universities and local venture capital companies.

Article was first published on The Business Times on 8th May 2017.

AH

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Consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) will be pumping in US$100 million over the next five years in its Singapore digital innovation centre launched on Tuesday, in a move to boost digital capabilities and strengthen partnerships with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) here.

The E-Center, which is established in partnership with the Economic Development Board (EDB), will focus on digital innovation in three core areas of supply chain management, e-business strategy, and e-analytics. It is the first of its kind outside the US.

Nicolas Defauw, vice-president, finance & accounting, P&G Asia Pacific, said that P&G was hiring up to 50 people in these three areas, with plans to expand further in the next few years.

"This centre is located at the heart of a region where digital is at the forefront of the economy . . . Singapore is a very important market for us."

SMEs and startups stand to benefit from this new development through deeper collaboration with P&G, which would support their capability upgrading by co-developing new digital solutions.

In his speech, Minister of Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran said that such partnerships between large and small enterprises were "an important means of catalysing the adoption of digital technologies".

The push towards digitalisation is a "major priority" for Singapore and one of the key recommendations from the Committee on the Future Economy, he added.

P&G's partnership with local SME Golden Wheel Industries, a contract manufacturing and packaging services firm, was cited as an example.

Golden Wheel has collaborated with P&G Singapore to develop and make sample batches of P&G's hair, skincare and consumer products.

In the process, staff were trained in digital systems to improve the productivity of manufacturing processes, such as automating the recording of manufacturing data and results. The skills acquired also helped Golden Wheel boost its services to other clients. Today, it has over 30 staff based in P&G's Innovation Center to support research as well as in production facility.

In parallel with the E-center launch, P&G also launched the second edition of its leadership development programme for SMEs, known as the P&G Leadership College, on Tuesday.

In collaboration with Spring Singapore, the half-day training programme aims to build management capabilities at SMEs.

Some 30 attending SMEs learnt about digital and e-commerce from speakers of other technology companies such as Ematic Solutions, Google, NTUC Fairprice and Uber, in addition to P&G.

Mr Defauw said that in today's digital world, it is all about the ecosystem. One company, he pointed out, cannot thrive on its own.

"We believe that by training and developing SMEs, we can have a much stronger ecosystem that serves the digital economy. Today we work with about 200 SMEs in Singapore, and we hope that we can expand this further, especially in the digital field."

Aside from SMEs, P&G will be working closely with institutes of higher learning to tap their knowledge and co-develop industry-relevant curriculum in digital skillsets.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of P&G in Singapore. First established as a 100-strong regional sales office in 1987, the Singapore outfit now serves as the Asia-Pacific headquarters with 2,000 employees.

Singapore is also one of P&G's global hubs for innovation and talent development. There are 400 researchers at its Singapore Innovation Center and over 500 managers are trained annually at its Asia Leadership Development Center here.

Article was first published on The Business Times on 19 April 2017.

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Perhaps the biggest surprise coming out of a 150-page research report covering 10,000 start-ups and 300 partner companies is that tiny Singapore has overtaken tech mecca Silicon Valley as world's No. 1 for start-up talent.

The report by Startup Genome project, a US-based organisation, credits Singapore's innovative policies for its success as great start-up ecosystem. While Singapore's overall ranking in 2017 fell two notches to 12th place, this was due to two new Chinese entrants, it said, adding that Singapore's performance numbers are solid and will probably continue to rise.

Along with a geographical location that renders it an easy access point to up-and-coming tech markets in South-east Asia, Singapore's 1,600-2,400 tech start-ups enjoy significant government subsidies and the country's strategies are working to establish local tech start-ups as globally relevant companies, said the report.

When it comes to talent specifically, Singapore's access to quality talent and cost put it ahead of all rivals.

While Singapore trailed below the average top 20 at 10th place in talent quality, it more than made up for it by being the fourth and second best ecosystem for start-ups to access experienced software engineers and growth employees, respectively.

The experience levels of Singaporean talent was found to be comparatively strong, with 80 per cent of engineering and 74 per cent of growth teams boasting at least two years of prior start-up experience compared to the global averages of 72 per cent and 60 per cent, respectively.

Start-up founders based in Singapore were the youngest in the world, with a median age of 28 years.

The average software engineer salary in Singapore, at US$35,000 (S$49,000), was also below the global average of US$49,000 - high salaries is one of the reasons why Silicon Valley lost its top talent ranking.

Singapore also has the third highest level of global connectedness of all top 20 ecosystems outperforming Silicon Valley again.

This is Startup Genome's third edition of its Global Startup Ecosystem Report. The 2017 survey examines how cities help to grow and sustain start-up ecosystems through eight major factors: performance, funding, market reach, global connectedness, talent, start-up experience, resource attraction, ecosystem demographics and founder demographics.

Silicon Valley is still number one overall and in most categories, but the report noted that the US is losing dominance to Asia and Europe. Los Angeles and Chicago, for example, had the biggest drop of the top 20 cities, mainly due their lowered scores in "global connectedness". However, the US still has seven cities in the top 20 ranking.

The Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai, which debuted at No. 4 and No. 8 respectively, were absent from previous reports due to lack of data.

The article was first published on The Straits Times on 21 March 2017.

AH

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Singapore medical robotics company EndoMaster said on Thursday it has raised S$20.5 million in Series B funding, said to be one of the largest such amounts for a medical technology (medtech) company here.

EndoMaster, a spin-off by Nanyang Technological University and National University of Singapore, has developed a robotic-assisted surgical system that removes gastro-intestinal cancer tumours without the need for surgical incisions on the body or organ.

Its non-invasive way of removing the tumours - similar to how stents and balloon catheters replace open heart surgery - is believed to lower surgery time to under one hour. According to the company, clinical trials have also shown it to reduce complications rate to below 5 per cent, and reduce hospital stays to less than one day.

EndoMaster, with its proprietary robotic technology and algorithms, seeks to launch its product in Europe in late 2018, and to surpass S$100 million in revenue within five years of product launch.

The article was first published on The Business Times on 17 March 2017.

AH

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IFC, a World Bank outfit, said it has invested US$2 million in Singapore-based venture fund SeedPlus to support early stage technology entrepreneurship in Asia.

SeedPlus was launched by venture capital firm Jungle Ventures to invest in Asian technology startups. It invests S$500,000 to S$1 million in each firm.

SeedPlus has invested in Moglix, an Indian e-commerce platform specialising in the maintenance, repair and operations industry, and Mimetic.ai, a Singaporean technology startup that created Evie, an artificial intelligence scheduling assistant.

IFC has previously committed US$10 million to Jungle Ventures' second fund, along with a US$10 million co-investment vehicle, which will invest in early stage technology companies in emerging markets of South-east Asia.

The article was first published on The Business Times on 17 March 2017.

AH

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Small and medium-sized enterprises seeking help with transactions can tap local financial technology start-up Invictus, which is teaming up with IBM.

The firm is using IBM cloud and blockchain technologies for its order, logistics and payment platform, which aims to help businesses process transactions easily, said the technology giant yesterday.

Invictus aims to address wastage, redundancy and cash flow issues in the transaction process, and does this by disrupting the supply chain management cycle with blockchain smart contract technology.

Blockchain is a type of digital ledger with encryption that limits data tampering, and smart contracts are programmable transactions.

Invictus chairman Lim Soon Hock said that through the IBM collaboration, the firm wants to allow secure and cashless financing in a firm's early stages, "by expanding access to financing from third-party liquidity providers, in addition to banks".
 
That is why Invictus is working with what is called the IBM Bluemix Garage here, to design a platform prototype that manages transactions between SMEs, suppliers, banks and other financial institutions.

IBM Bluemix is the tech giant's cloud platform which offers services such as blockchain to developers, and more than 120,000 apps are released on it each month.

Mr Alan Lim, practice lead at IBM Blockchain and Bluemix Garage in Asean, said: "Blockchain technology presents opportunities for disruptive innovation. It enables businesses to transact with less friction and more trust.

"We are empowering businesses to digitise transaction workflow through a highly secure, shared and replicated ledger."

Article was first published on The Straits Times on 16 March 2017.

AH

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Financial technology (fintech) firms in Singapore and Japan can look forward to an easier set-up process in either country, thanks to a new framework.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Financial Services Agency of Japan have set up a cooperation framework to boost fintech links between the two nations, a joint statement said yesterday.

The plan lets the two agencies refer fintech companies in Singapore and Japan to each other's markets.

They can also initiate discussions with the regulatory bodies, and get advice on regulatory matters such as required licences.

MAS said this effort will help reduce regulatory uncertainty and barriers to market. It said "the framework also sets out how the regulators plan to share and use information on financial services innovation in their respective markets".

MAS chief fintech officer Sopnendu Mohanty said technology and innovation remain key enablers of financial-sector growth in Singapore and Japan, and the framework is good for the fintech ecosystems of both countries.

Financial Services Agency of Japan vice-commissioner Shunsuke Shirakawa said the agency's relationship with MAS, "which is actively promoting fintech based on its smart financial centre vision", promotes innovation in both countries.

This article was first published on The Straits Times on 14 March 2017.

AH

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More help is on the way for the construction sector, which has been struggling amid a slow property market and economic uncertainty.

A $150 million Public Sector Construction Productivity Fund will be set up to allow government agencies to procure "innovative and productive" building solutions to help develop capabilities in the sector.

"The fund will allow these solutions to enter and gain traction in the market," said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday, adding that these solutions may have higher costs as they "may be nascent and lack scale".

The Singapore Contractors Association (Scal) hailed the move.

"From the contractors' point of view, the market is quite suppressed... Many firms are more worried about survival than investing in new technology. This initiative, with the Government taking the lead, will help," Scal president Kenneth Loo told The Straits Times.

Consultancy PwC Singapore said tech trends such as the Internet of Things could be used to collect data - including identifying equipment needing repair - and then using it to improve construction processes.

"Companies are also using virtual reality or augmented reality technology to detect errors (and) drone-generated surveys to preview job-site conditions," noted Mr Tan Tay Lek, corporate tax partner at PwC Singapore.

Mr Heng said $2.4 billion will be set aside over the next four years to implement strategies crafted by the Committee on the Future Economy. This includes a $500 million top-up to the National Research Fund to support innovation, and a further $1 billion for the National Productivity Fund to drive industry transformation.

The funding is on top of the $4.5 billion put aside last year for the Industry Transformation Programme to help firms build up capabilities and grow through innovation.

Mr Heng also touched on the need for forward-looking regulations to facilitate innovation. "Our regulatory agencies must balance managing risk and creating the space to test innovations," he noted, citing examples of such efforts.

These include a recent move by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to simplify rules for venture capital funds that will help to enhance financing for start-ups.

Mr Heng said "regulatory sandboxes" - which involve setting boundaries within which some rules can be suspended - will encourage greater experimentation. 

The article was first published on The Straits Times on 21 February 2017.

AH

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No minimum capital, no relevant experience or audit required: The bar has been lowered for venture capitalists, who will soon just have to be "fit and proper" if they want to set up shop here.

The slimmed-down set of rules is part of a broader strategy to make it easier for start-ups to get funding.

The proposed rule changes for the booming venture capital (VC) industry were outlined yesterday by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

 

Once the new framework is in place - the MAS is targeting July - VC funds will be able to obtain a licence within weeks. It takes an average of about 21/2 months under the current process. The MAS said it hopes the reforms will attract more VC managers here and spur them to play a greater role in supporting entrepreneurship and innovation. There are 29 VC managers here now.

Mr Lee Boon Ngiap, MAS' assistant managing director of capital markets, said in a statement: "The proposed simplified regulatory regime for VC managers recognises the lower risks they pose, given their business model and sophisticated investor base.

 
 

"It will allow new VC managers a faster time to market and reduce their ongoing compliance burden."

One change involves simplifying the authorisation process for VC managers, focusing primarily on the criteria of fitness and propriety.

That will mean checking if the directors of a VC fund have criminal records or any negative regulatory issues that call into question their honesty and integrity, but other criteria will be dropped. So the MAS would no longer require VC managers to have directors and representatives with at least five years of relevant experience in fund management.

VC managers will also no longer be subject to the capital requirements and business conduct rules that now apply to fund managers in general and they will not have to meet certain capital requirements.

They will also not have to undergo independent valuations and internal audits or submit audited financial statements to the MAS.

Mr B. Paul Santos, the managing partner of VC manager Wavemaker Partners, said a lot of these valuations and audits do not give a meaningful picture of a VC manager's performance anyway. "I think too much time and money are wasted figuring out holding values of start-up portfolios... The only time the values are real are when the companies are wound up or are sold or listed."

The MAS noted that VC managers are different from other fund managers as they manage funds that are typically invested only in unlisted business ventures and are offered only to accredited and/or institutional investors. These differences make some fund-management rules that are now imposed on VC managers less relevant, the MAS said.

Vickers Venture Partners managing director Damian Tan said the lighter rules will lower VCs' compliance costs, which means they could put their capital to better use.

Jungle Ventures managing partner Amit Anand said the new regime would liven up the sector: "Over the last four years, we have seen deal flow increase by at least 10 to 20 times, depending on the sector, a great sign that Singapore is evolving into a platform for global entrepreneurship. Initiatives such as these changes proposed by the MAS help accelerate this development." 

The MAS will also retain the power to deal with errant VC managers.

The public consultation paper is available on the MAS website. Public consultation ends on March 15.

Article was first published on The Straits Times on 16 February 2017.

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SEVEN "mutually-reinforcing" strategies are the key planks to the Committee on the Future Economy's (CFE) vision that should spur quality economic growth for Singapore's economy over the next decade.

In partnering each other, the CFE expects that these wide-ranging strategies can help keep Singapore open and connected, while ensuring that stakeholders can have the ability to innovate and scale up, and to adapt and transform.

"The purposeful implementation of these mutually-reinforcing strategies will give us a competitive edge against larger and better-resourced countries," said the CFE report, which was made available on Thursday.

Expressing regret at the "nativist politics and protectionist economics" that gained ground in 2016, the 30-member CFE urged that Singapore must still remain connected to the world.

Hence, the CFE suggested that Singapore should develop in-market expertise, especially in Asean and the wider Asian region. It also proposed that a Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) be set up so that local education and research centres can partner overseas ones to spark new ideas and innovation activity.

The CFE also recommended that all stakeholders partner each other so that efforts can be multiplied, thus spurring growth and innovation.

As such, the CFE is urging the government and the public service to also relook into how they regulate industries and help companies. The government can also use lead demand to help develop promising industries, "especially where this coincides with our own strategic national needs".

Singapore's tax regime also came under the CFE's radar. While details were scant, it urged the government to maintain a tax regime that is broad-based, progressive and fair. The regime should also be competitive and pro-growth.

Said the committee chairman Heng Swee Keat, who is also Finance Minister, at a press conference on Thursday: "Whether there are specific changes (to the tax regime) that will be implemented - that will be a separate process that will need to be done."

But having this recommendation "shows a certain stance where we look ahead and make sure that whatever we do is sustainable", he added.

Committee on the Future Economy's seven strategies:

 - deepen and diversify Singapore's international connections;

- acquire and utilise deep skills;

- strengthen enterprise capabilities to innovate and scale up;

- build strong digital capabilities;

- develop a vibrant and connected city of opportunity;

Article was first published on The Business Times on 09 February 2017.

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- develop and implement Industry Transformation Maps (first outlined in Budget 2016), and;

- partner each other to enable growth and innovation.

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PROPERTY

Last month, Savills increased its stake in Pegaxis, a home-grown online B2B platform for property maintenance services, from 8% to 15%, valuing the company at about $2.2 million. Mr Christopher Marriott, chief executive of Savills South-east Asia, said: "Savills has been tracking real estate tech for some years, with the first investment proposals in Asia having been made two to three years ago and the first actual investment in Singapore coming at the end of 2016 with Pegaxis, and in the middle of this year in Britain with Yopa ."

Property giant City Developments Limited (CDL) made its first investment in a technology start-up in 2012, through a subsidiary, taking a controlling stake in a United States start-up known as Whiteboard Labs, which was eventually merged with an existing company within the fold, says CDL deputy chief executive Sherman Kwek.

CapitaLand's serviced residence arm, The Ascott, invested US$50 million in Tujia, an online apartment-sharing platform dubbed China's Airbnb, last year. A joint venture was also set up, allowing Tujia to hand over some of its offline properties for Ascott to manage, showing that such partnerships often lead to win-win situations.

FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS

Banks and insurers have been steadily investing in their own technology and start-ups, as they try to stay ahead of the curve. At the inaugural FinTech Festival here last month, 23 financial institutions opened their fintech labs and innovation centres to visitors.

One of the latest was DBS Bank's Asia X fintech facility at one-north, the newest spot for its staff and start-ups to explore financial technology ideas. DBS has spent $5 billion in the past six years on IT and innovations and wants to improve in areas of online and paperless customer engagement. 

British insurer Aviva set up its new digital facility in Armenian Street earlier this year, after setting up the first such facility in London last year. The company's global annual investment in such facilities and other technology-related activities - including in Singapore - is more than US$150 million, it previously said.

Last year, AIA tied up with Nanyang Technological University to set up Edge Lab, an innovation centre, to discover consumer-centric solutions.

ACCOUNTANTS

EY has committed to a US$500 million multi-year investment in data analytics.

KPMG opened an innovation lab called Digital Village here earlier this year, to help connect businesses to start-ups.

 

Full article was first published on The Straits Times on 28 December 2016.

AH

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The push to build more start-ups based on science and "deep" technology - technology that is hard to reproduce - picked up pace with the launch of a new organisation yesterday.

Called SGInnovate, it brings together entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, academics and companies to develop technology-based products at a six-storey facility in Carpenter Street.

Chief executive Steve Leonard said the new entity cannot be pigeon-holed as just a start-up accelerator or ecosystem "curator".

"We are going to work hard to resist specific tags - we want to be flexible and nimble. Our goal is to take the great research that's already occurring and the big base of investors that's already here and go create some exciting companies," said Mr Leonard, who was previously executive deputy chairman of the former Infocomm Development Authority (IDA).

Infocomm Investments, IDA's venture investment arm, has been subsumed under SGInnovate, which is a private organisation wholly owned by the Government.

SGInnovate's areas of focus include digital health, financial services, smart energy, digital manufacturing and robotics.

It was unveiled as part of Budget 2016, along with a $4.5 billion plan to develop innovation and robotics.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said at the launch that Singapore has laid strong foundations over the years to "make the ground fertile" for innovation, such as investing in a strong education system, developing talent in science and technology, and funding research.

However, more can be done to translate these research efforts into commercial output. "Many start- ups in Singapore replicate proven technologies and business models to take advantage of regional growth, rather than deploy new technologies," he noted. "There is nothing wrong with this approach, and it is part of the journey. But to sustain the journey, and create sustainable advantage, we need to create value through innovation."

SGInnovate will do this by boosting links between researchers, start-ups and investors, he added.

Mr Leonard agreed, saying: "Singapore has a great legacy for research in deep tech... (but while) many researchers are comfortable in a research environment, when you start talking about customers and investors, that's less comfortable for them. Our challenge is... helping them be comfortable bringing that (research) out."

One of SGInnovate's partners is London-based Entrepreneur First, which runs a six-month programme bringing individuals with technical skills together to build deep-tech companies from scratch.

It is eight weeks into its inaugural Singapore programme, which is run out of SGInnovate's Carpenter Street facility. The first cohort has 55 people and is expected to yield 12 to 15 companies in March when the programme finishes, said director Anne Marie Droste.

Teams are working on ideas such as communicating with satellites using lasers, and automated vision correction in virtual reality headsets.

Ms Droste said Singapore has "all the ingredients" to build "really good world-class technology companies". However, top technical talent here often aspire to work for Google, Facebook or JP Morgan instead of starting their own company.

"What Entrepreneur First is good at is helping to make starting a company the No. 1 career preference for the very best potential founders in a society," she added.

Article was first published The Straits Times on 23 November 2016.

AH

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Logistics - the art and science of moving stuff around in a fast-paced economy - is the latest industry to face a bold makeover in the Government's $4.5 billion Industry Transformation Programme.

The goals are: to be operationally excellent, to be leaders in innovation, and to build up a strong core of local logistics talent and firms.

They were set out by Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran at the launch of the Logistics Industry Transformation Map (ITM).

The road map for logistics, aimed at reinforcing Singapore's position as a global logistics hub, follows ITMs for the food and beverage and precision engineering sectors.

The logistics transformation is set to add $8.3 billion in value to the sector and create 2,000 jobs for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) by the end of the decade, said Mr Iswaran.

He noted that the industry is a "critical enabler" of the economy and is expected to continue on a growth trajectory, fuelled by global trends. "The Logistics ITM will support enterprise-level efforts to transform and grow through productivity and innovation. It aims to nurture a strong Singaporean core through talent development," said Mr Iswaran at the ground-breaking ceremony of the JTC Logistics Hub @ Gul in Tuas.

"This in turn will help our companies, in particular, the small and medium-sized enterprises, to scale up and internationalise."

Under the road map, the Government will work closely with key firms in implementing technologies that "push the frontier of productive operations in Singapore", he added. It will invest in next-generation facilities offering opportunities to deploy automation, such as the new JTC Logistics Hub @ Gul.

Mr Iswaran noted that it is key for companies to specialise and deepen their capabilities in key sectors, including food and healthcare logistics, e-commerce fulfilment and aerospace service logistics. Centres of innovation and centres of excellence will be set up to help firms build differentiating capabilities.

To drive innovation across the industry, the Government will also work with research institutions and universities to bring about new approaches in areas such as digital supply chains and e-commerce logistics, he said.

Mr Iswaran added that the transformation of the industry will spell "exciting opportunities" for the workforce, as "rank-and-file jobs will require more skills, while new professional roles will emerge".

He noted that the demand for specialist roles will likely increase in the next few years. One such role is that of solutions engineer Pang Jin-Zhou from Bollore Logistics, whose job involves working with Bollore's clients to drive productivity gains by designing and implementing automation systems.

Opportunities for career progression are also expected to improve. The Logistics Professional Conversion Programme under the Adapt and Grow initiative will help those making a mid-career switch transit smoothly into the industry, while Workforce Singapore will help the current workforce acquire niche and emerging skills through the Industry Catalyst Programme.

By mid-next year, the Government will launch the Skills Framework for Logistics, a guide for individuals and companies on career pathways, job roles, requisite skills and wages in the industry, he said.

Article was first published on The Straits Times on 17 November 2016.

AH

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Steps to turn Singapore into a "smart" financial centre shifted up a gear yesterday with a series of new initiatives outlined by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

The tech-related moves range from areas like blockchain to insurance.

MAS managing director Ravi Menon told the Fintech Conference at the Singapore Expo that the central bank, the Singapore Exchange and eight banks have started a project to use blockchain technology for interbank payments, including cross-border transactions in foreign currencies. Such cross-border interbank payments are currently a "big pain point", Mr Menon noted. To make these transactions today, for example, in trade finance, a bank would have to go through a correspondent bank in the foreign country as an intermediary. This takes time and adds to cost.

Under the pilot system, banks will deposit cash as collateral with the MAS in exchange for MAS-issued digital currency.

The banks can later redeem the digital currency for cash. This means that participating banks can pay each other directly with this digital currency instead of first sending payment instructions through the MAS. 

"This is an improvement over current large-value payment systems that are centrally operated," Mr Menon said. "It strengthens resilience and lowers cost."

The banks need not rewrite their back-end systems to take advantage of this new system, he said.

Ms Susan Hwee, head of group technology and operations at United Overseas Bank, one of the banks involved in the project, said "by connecting the different parties in the transaction, this facilitates the smoother flow of payments, goods and services, and cuts down the time taken for the entire process".

Mr Menon also announced that the MAS published its "regulatory sandbox" guidelines yesterday. These guidelines aim to encourage experimentation of innovative technology to deliver financial products and services.

A Finance-as-a-service: API PlayBook, which has been developed by the MAS and the Association of Banks in Singapore, was released yesterday as well.

API, or application programming interface, is the set of codes for building software and applications.

Mr Praveen Raina, senior vice-president of group operations and technology at OCBC Bank, which launched an open API platform this year, said the bank wants "to create a 'data social network' which facilitates free flow of certain non-customer data that will benefit any third party and the community as a whole in a secure manner".

MAS will now allow insurers to offer online the full suite of life insurance products without advice.

Up until now, insurers were allowed to offer online and without advice only simple term-life and direct-purchase policies with broadly standardised features.

The MAS will issue guidance on the safeguards to be put in place for online distribution of life insurance products.

Life Insurance Association Singapore's executive director, Ms Pauline Lim, said that measures need to be put in place to ensure that individuals do not end up being over-insured in certain areas and under-insured in others.

Article was first published on The Straits Times on 17 November 2016.

AH

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Singapore's space and satellite industry is one of the new industry clusters that the Government will focus on growing, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry ) S Iswaran said on Thursday (Nov 17).

He was speaking to reporters during a visit to Addvalue Technologies, a Singapore-listed communications technology company that moved into the development of satellite communications products in 2002.

Mr Iswaran initiated the visit to the company. "I think Addvalue's story is a really good example. They were in the consumer electronics space and they made a strategic decision to move into satellite communications, for land-based, sea-based and space-based applications," he said.

Addvalue is now finalising a joint lab collaboration with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*Star) Institute for Infocomm Research on enhanced satellite communication technologies, to work on creating new solutions that can link Addvalue's products to smart devices for example.

The joint lab will start operating from the second quarter next year. 

Singapore's space and satellite industry currently comprises 30 companies and employs 1,000 people.

Article was first published on The Straits Times on 17 November 2016.

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Singapore's banking regulator "will review some of the regulatory requirements placed on venture capitalists", to encourage more such investors to set up in Singapore and boost the funding pool for fintech start-ups, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) managing director Ravi Menon said on Wednesday (Aug 24).

Beyond funding, Singapore is also lagging behind fintech hubs like New York and Silicon Valley when it comes to having a pool of experienced mentors and investors in the fintech ecosystem, he added.

"The innovation and technology will happen," said Mr Menon, who added that the key issue is "whether there are Singaporeans able to take those jobs".

"We want to maximise the number of Singaporeans able to take the good jobs that are going to be created...That means intervening upstream, working with polytechnics and unviersities to make sure we have a strong talent pipeline," he added.

Mr Menon was speaking to the media on the sidelines of the launch of the banking regulator's fintech innovation lab, which is called Looking Glass @ MAS.

The facility, located within the MAS building, aims to allow financial institutions and start-ups to experiment with fintech, and facililate consultations between the industry and regulators.

Calling the space "an experiment", Mr Menon said it will not duplicate what is already being done at labs and accelerators, which usually focus on early-stage companies.

Instead, the MAS facility will be a venue for later-stage companies to testbed their ideas and work with lawyers, banking regulators, and others in the industry.

Article first published on The Straits Times on 24 August 2016.

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The Government is directing billions of dollars into a strategy aimed at spurring innovation and helping companies bring new technological developments to market.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday that $4 billion out of the $19 billion allocated for the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 Plan will be directed to collaboration so that enterprises can capture the value of research and development (R&D). The plan, announced in January, directs funds into science and technology research over the next five years.

Mr Teo told participants at the opening of the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology: "We can do more to bring innovations from R&D to market, seeding and growing enterprises and further expanding high-tech exports.

"To facilitate such collaboration, technology consortia, which bring together industry partners and researchers, will help focus applied research to develop new products and services."

Mr Teo backed up the strategy yesterday when launching the Singapore Cyber Security Consortium and the Singapore Consortium for Synthetic Biology.

Both consortia will be hosted by the National University of Singapore and funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) to bolster start-ups and promote the commercialisation of what they develop.
Mr Teo, who is also the Coordinating Minister for National Security and NRF chairman, said the Government will strengthen support for Singapore-based enterprises through an integrated assistance scheme offered by various agencies.

"We will set aside $4.5 billion under the Industry Transformation Programme over the next five years, on top of the amounts for R&D. These efforts will help enterprises innovate and internationalise their products and services."

Mr Teo said efforts will be made to strengthen connections between innovators and investors, with growing support from venture and private equity funds. "A new entity, SG-Innovate, will work with our agencies to expand accelerator programmes to new and emerging sectors such as smart energy, digital manufacturing, fintech, digital health and the Internet of Things. Budding entrepreneurs can meet mentors, venture capital firms and access R&D talent."

Mr Teo said Singapore can also help connect global enterprises and serve as a launch pad into the region and beyond, adding that such measures will generate a strong pipeline of innovative products and services. "Our innovation and enterprise ecosystem will benefit from the increasing exchanges between innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and enterprises," he said.

"Enterprises can tap our comprehensive network of 20 implemented free trade agreements with 31 trading partners to venture abroad."

NRF chief executive Low Teck Seng said, after the event launch at Resorts World Sentosa, that the collaboration can generate "exciting" intellectual property and potentially lead to patents.

"Apart from using R&D to solve national challenges, we would like to use the knowledge and technologies to develop solutions that can also contribute towards addressing issues faced by others around the world," added Professor Low.

This article is first published on The Straits Times on 21 September 2016.

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The explosion of financial technology, or fintech, will allow millions of unbanked Asians to have easy access to financial services - and Singapore has a role to play in spearheading this revolution.

In fact, fintech will be a crucial differentiator for Singapore to remain a regional financial hub, said Mr S. Iswaran, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry).

He told a conference on fintech and financial inclusion yesterday: "From alternative payment solutions to peer-to-peer lending, fintech has helped shape a more innovative and inclusive financial system."

To help companies here gain a slice of this growing pie, the Government is helping small and medium-sized enterprises adopt fintech, especially e-payments, with a view to more active participation in e-commerce.

The Singapore Government also hopes to take the lead in developing a regional e-payments strategy so that companies can tap the region's growing middle class and large consumer base, Mr Iswaran noted.

"This will empower small businesses across the entire region which seek to serve the broad population base of over 600 million in Asean and perhaps through further linkages beyond, and that, I think, is going to be a powerful driver of growth."

The Government will help local merchants establish strategic partnerships with major payment players which can help them reach out to a wide network of Asean cities.

It will also support the development of payment solutions for the unbanked in the region, Mr Iswaran said, part of the overall strategy to make Singapore a fintech hub.

Singapore has to create a regulatory environment that balances the stability of the financial system with providing an environment conducive for fintech innovation. It also has to nurture a strong pool of talent to meet the evolving needs of the fintech industry.

Other speakers at the conference organised by the Sim Kee Boon Institute for Financial Economics (SKBI) at the Singapore Management University also touched on the issue of financial inclusion.

Ms Maria Paula Oliveira, Experian Asia Pacific's director of strategic projects and planning, cited Vietnamese start-up MobiVi, which allows people without credit cards to buy household appliances via interest-free instalment plans. The monthly instalments, which are deducted from their salary, can then be used to build up their credit score, so they can later get access to loans.

DBS Group chief executive Piyush Gupta said Asia holds "multiple and profound" opportunities, not just for financial services but for research too. Mr Gupta, who is also the chairman of the SKBI's advisory board, said Singapore can play a key role in this aspect too. "Society and humanity will change dramatically in the next five, 10 years in terms of what is socially acceptable," he said.

Issues of data privacy and security, data access, how to use information for the betterment of society and how to collaborate across industries will all have to be grappled with, he added. "There is no better country than Singapore to pull these pieces together."

This article was first published on The Straits Times on 19 August 2016.

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Singapore has been ranked sixth in the world - and top in the Asia-Pacific region - on the annual Global Innovation Index.

Singapore's ranking - one up from last year - placed it ahead of countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, South Korea and Japan. The improved ranking was driven not just by its performance but also tweaks to survey methodology, such as the addition of new indicators.

The Global Innovation Index, now in its ninth year, is co-published by Cornell University, business school Insead and the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

This year's index surveyed 128 economies, using 82 indicators to gauge both innovative capabilities and measurable results.

Singapore did well on indicators gauging a country's political and regulatory environment, education system and infrastructure, among others.

However, it came in 78th on innovation efficiency, which measures how much innovation output a country is getting for its inputs.

Singapore also ranked 21st among high-income economies and 22nd overall for innovation quality - measured in terms of the quality of local universities, internationalisation of local inventions and the number of citations that local research documents received abroad.

Its scores for the quality of local universities and patents filed were above the high-income group average. When it came to the number of citations, however, Singapore performed below this average.

The Index report also said innovation policies should more explicitly favour international collaboration and the diffusion of knowledge across borders.

The slowdown in global growth and trade means that innovation is becoming more strategically important globally, said Mr Bruno Lanvin, executive director for global indices at Insead. "On the one hand, more emerging countries are becoming successful innovators, and on the other hand, an increasing share of innovation benefits stem from cross-border cooperation," he said.

The survey found that global research and development expenditure grew 4 per cent in 2014, much slower than the annual rate of about 7 per cent before the financial crisis in 2009. This was a result of slower growth in emerging economies and tighter research and development budgets in high-income economies, and remains "a source of concern", according to the report's authors.

The article was first published on The Straits Times on 16 August 2016.

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The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is looking to come up with a new policy for cloud computing, following feedback from the banking industry that there needs to be more clarity around the use of cloud services, said Sopnendu Mohanty, chief fintech officer at MAS, on Thursday.

This comes as banks see cloud technology as a means to keep up with the rising cost of infrastructure systems. Mr Mohanty also noted that the real disruption from startups may be coming at the "IBMs of the world" that build banks' infrastructure systems.

"Banks have a special talent in deploying legacy technology," he said at a panel discussion, adding that banks have to engage the 80 per cent of the fintechs that are working with the incumbent lenders to build more nimble technology. "The sacred cow is not the banks."

He also noted that the remaining 20 per cent of fintech firms have not created new financial products. Examples of such firms would include crowdfunding platforms. In creating platforms for lending, such fintechs are focused on changing the distribution model, which can be driven by technology, he said.

Lawrence Yong, CEO of peer-to-peer lending platform MoolahSense, similarly noted that platforms such as MoolahSense have emerged to serve areas that banks have found not economical to serve. As a result, small and medium enterprises can get adequate financing through crowdfunding, he said.

"Today, our role in the financial market is to deepen and broaden the market for the constituents," said Mr Yong. "We're not competing with the banks."

Still, there is uncertainty over the impact from fintechs on profitability for banks over the long term, said Jean-Charles Sambor, director, Institute of International Finance.

"Banks are not in a state of denial any more," he said. "But nobody is in the situation right now . . . to (know) what will be the net impact. Costs will come down, but there will be an impact on revenue."

More disruption is ahead in the form of blockchain - which would fundamentally change the banks' role in reconciling and recording transactions, said Anthony Eldridge, financial services and fintech leader, PwC Singapore.

"Insurance is very ripe for disruption" as well, he added.

Data analytics can fundamentally change what insurance means, going beyond insurance against death, but in spurring a more healthy lifestyle, or better driving standards, said Mr Eldridge. "The more data you've got, the more you can bifurcate the market."

Source: The Business Times (first published on 30 June 2016)

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The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) will modify proposed rules on securities crowdfunding to better accommodate retail participation, in a shift from earlier proposals that mostly focused on accredited and institutional investors.

Following a public consultation exercise, MAS has moved to close a loophole that allowed some crowdfunding platforms to use an exemption for promissory notes in order to reach retail investors - without the platform being licensed or the issuer having to publish a prospectus.

But existing rules will also be tweaked to make it easier for licensed securities crowdfunding platforms to tap the retail market, the financial markets regulator said on Wednesday.

There are estimated to be about 10 debt crowdfunding platforms in Singapore now; MoolahSense and Capital Match are examples of such platforms that help businesses borrow money from retail investors.

Some of those platforms are able to operate without capital market services licences because they make use of an exemption for promissory notes that are worth at least S$100,000, issued to a single issuer and which mature within a year.

The workaround used by some platforms is to consolidate funds from multiple smaller lenders into a single entity to cross that S$100,000 hurdle, and thus be exempted from the cost and trouble of putting out a prospectus.

But MAS said that the workaround goes against the intention of the rule, which was to reduce the burden on good-credit borrowers trying to meet short-term financing needs from sophisticated investors.

MAS will therefore seek a legislative amendment by the end of the year to remove the exemption for promissory notes. Crowdfunding platforms looking to continue helping companies to raise business loans from retail investors will thereafter have to be licensed by the MAS.

But while the licensing requirement will be added, platforms that hold a licence will find it less onerous to access retail.

To this end, MAS will streamline the rules under the small-offer exemption. Under these rules, which exempt offers of less than S$5 million from having to issue prospectuses, companies and intermediaries that now seek the exemption have to pre-qualify investors based on knowledge, experience, suitability and financial means tests to invest in securities crowdfunding.

Under the streamlined rules, investors will only need to demonstrate knowledge, experience or suitability; the "financial means" requirement will be dropped in favour of a beefed-up risk disclosure and assessment framework.

The small-offer exemption will, however, continue to prohibit cold-calling or unsolicited marketing to retail.

MAS also plans to go ahead with its proposal to lower the base capital and minimum operational risk requirements for securities crowdfunding platforms from S$250,000 to S$50,000. MAS will also remove a requirement for a S$100,000 security deposit.

The regulator has also clarified its restrictions on advertising, to make it clear that crowdfunding platforms can market their services - as long as they do not advertise specific deals that have yet to be completed.

MAS assistant managing director for capital markets Lee Boon Ngiap said in a statement: "Securities-based crowdfunding is a useful addition to our financing landscape.

"At the same time, securities crowdfunding can be quite risky. The measures we are implementing seek to strike the right balance between improving access to securities crowdfunding for start-ups and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and protecting investor interests."

One industry player said the licensing requirement could force some smaller players to call it quits, but noted that the lowered capital requirements could mitigate the impact of the changes on the industry.

But most market professionals welcomed the moves.

MoolahSense chief executive Lawrence Yong said his firm is already in the process of applying for a licence.

"The benefit of regulation puts in place some minimum standards and levels the playing field for operators. That works well for an orderly growth for the sector," he said.

He added that his firm used the promissory note exemption because it was the least-costly option for issuers, since there was no restriction on the number of investors or how much could be raised, and the crowdfunding platform did not face costs related to being licensed.

Once MoolahSense obtains its licence, it will advise issuers to either use the small-offer exemption, or in cases where the number of investors is not expected to exceed 50, to use exemptions for private placements, Mr Yong said.

FundedHere, an equity and lending platform, said the new rules will better align regulations with the intent of crowdfunding.

"This better reflects the true spirit and promise of crowdfunding," FundedHere chief executive Michael Tee said. "It will invigorate Singapore's startups as well as SMEs, and lead to greater participation in crowdfunding as a viable option to raise capital."

Janet Young, head of group channels and digitalisation at United Overseas Bank, which has a tie-up with Israeli platform OurCrowd, said the new rules brought clarity.

"The clearer regulation for securities-based crowdfunding platforms fosters a more conducive environment for the industry to progress and gain credibility among the broader investor community, while ensuring proper investor safeguards are in place."

Wong Partnership lawyer Rachel Eng said the rules could make it easier for existing licence holders to expand into the retail securities crowdfunding space.

"The banks or private banks already have all those risk disclosures and so on in place; they just have to extend down into these frameworks to operate in the retail space."

She said that, given retail interest in the space, it was better for regulators to address the issue rather than try to keep it away.

"If you don't open those classes to people here, water will find its level," she said. "They will go look online. You might as well put in front of them good potential assets and make sure they're aware of the risks."

Source: The Business Times (published on 9 June 2016)

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Singapore's President, Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, who is on a state visit to Italy, witnessed the signing of an agreement that encourages cooperation in science and technology, alongside Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Another 13 agreements and memorandums of understanding were set to be signed this week between the two countries' governments, research institutes, educational institutes and business associations.

These include a third Executive Programme of a wide-ranging agreement between the two countries that runs from this year to 2019. It covers fields such as arts and culture, archives and libraries, science and technology, and human rights, and could see residencies for writers, and training exchanges for professionals in monument preservation and conservation.

Nanyang Technological University signed a pact with Scuola Superiore Sant'anna in Pisa to research human robotics, while students at Singapore Management University, Lasalle College of the Arts and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts will have more opportunities for exchanges with Italian academies.

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) signed pacts with two Milan universities.

One involves a joint research attachment programme for students at the University of Milano-Bicocca in A*Star research institutes.

The Singapore Manufacturing Federation signed agreements with its counterparts, and the Singapore Furniture Industries Council inked a pact with Federmobili - an Italian federation of furniture stores - to help companies work together in the Asian and European markets.

Dr Tan, following his meeting with Mr Mattarella, said "there was much scope for us to explore cooperation in new areas, including trade and investment, for the benefit of both Italy and Singapore".

Singapore can be a hub for Italian companies to expand their business in South-east Asia, he added.

Mr Mattarella noted that Singapore is a "priority partner of Italy in the area of South-east Asia".

"Singapore is a gateway to all of South-east Asia. And Italy, much like the entire European Union, is very interested indeed in fostering economic and political relations with that part of the world."

Mr Mattarella said he and Dr Tan also discussed the need for the international community to deal with terrorism and migration "in a competent and systematic way". Italy and Singapore have the same goals and understanding on the matter, he added.

Source: The Straits Times (published on 24 May 2016)

 

 

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A new platform to help local companies develop business and technology collaborations with European partners, the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) Singapore Centre, was launched on 21 April 2016.

Jointly launched by International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF) and Intellectual Property Intermediary (IPI), the centre will give Singapore companies access to technology know-how, intellectual property and exclusive access to 10,000 business and technology partnership opportunities.

Trade agency IE Singapore said the EEN is the world's largest business and innovation support platform, which was set up under the European Commission's Agency for Small and Medium Industries.

The EEN counts chambers of commerce, regional development organisations and research institutes among its members, said the Ambassador of the European Union to Singapore Dr Michael Pulch.

He noted the growing importance of the Asia Pacific region, with Singapore, New Zealand, Taiwan and Indonesia joining the EEN.

Mr Douglas Foo, President of SMF, explained that companies have to register their interest to collaborate on the EEN Singapore website. EEN Singapore will then help to identify potential businesses for companies to collaborate with.

He said: "Currently we already have more than 200 companies on the Singapore database and have matched almost 50 companies."

Trade and Industry (Industry) Minister S Iswaran, who was Guest of Honour at the official launch event, said that the European Union accounts for 10 per cent of Singapore's total trade, with bilateral trade standing at about S$91 billion in 2015.

He emphasised that innovation and internationalisation will be key drivers for Singapore, and the EEN platform will help Singapore companies tap on the international network to drive innovation efforts.

Source: Channel News Asia (published on 21 April 2016)

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Block 71 is arguably the most famous icon of Singapore’s development as an entrepreneurial hub. Reports on Singapore’s startup scene by the world’s media regularly feature the vibrant community of entrepreneurs working in hundreds of startups in Block 71 and the newer adjacent blocks 75 and 79.

The entrepreneurial landscape of Singapore has changed dramatically and visibly over the last decade - particularly in the last five years.

TRANSFORMATION INTO AN ENTREPRENEURIAL HUB

Scott Anthony in his 2015 Harvard Business Review article attributed Singapore’s development as an entrepreneurial hub to three factors: A hospitable environment for startups, serious government skin in the game and the use of soft power to address hidden barriers to entrepreneurship.

Many foreign entrepreneurs working in Singapore would readily agree with this analysis. Frenchman Guillaume Picard, CEO of travel website eOasia, chose Singapore rather than Hongkong or Bangkok as the base for his startup company because of the country’s strategic location, good infrastructure and supportive government. The two German principals of Voice2Choice, a startup company in voice synthesis, relocated to Singapore in 2015 for the same reasons, after spending over a year developing the technology for their startup in Germany.

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR STARTUPS

Extensive government efforts to develop the eco-system have clearly made an impact. Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF) undertook a holistic study to identify weaknesses and gaps in the local entrepreneurial landscape and came out with programmes to address specific points of failure in a 2008 initiative known as the National Framework for Innovation and Enterprise (NFIE).

Programmes such as the University Innovation Fund (UIF), Proof-of-concept (POC) grants, Early Stage Venture Capital (ESVF) and Technology Incubation Scheme (TIS) have helped to create a virtuous cycle of entrepreneurial activity over the years, complemented by various other initiatives from the Media Development Authority (MDA), Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and SPRING Singapore.

Data from the NRF showed that the roughly S$100 million allocated to investment schemes such as ESVF and TIS (as at March 2016) enabled supported startups to attract follow-on funding from private capital of almost S$400 million, giving an impressive leverage of four times the government’s outlay.

The TIS, supporting 16 selected incubators, has had the most visible impact. Entrepreneur turned investor Leslie Loh of Red Dot Ventures (one of the 16) called it a "game changer". Serial Entrepreneur Eddie Chau described TIS as "the engine which revved up the startup ecosystem".

The TIS scheme was based on a similar programme implemented by Israel in the 1990s, which had been instrumental in turning Israel into a startup nation. NRF supports 85 per cent of a selected startup’s funding, capped at S$500,000, while the TIS incubator puts in at least 15 per cent, or about S$88,000.

Of the 145 startups invested by the 16 TIS incubators, 61 attracted follow-on funding, 34 had exits and 29 (or 20 per cent) ceased operations. Not a bad record for a new scheme! While yet more of these startups may fail in the future, 20 per cent is comfortably far from the 70 cent failure rate typical of venture capital investments.

A more important outcome of TIS is that by providing the generous investment leverage and thereby greatly reducing investment risk, the government succeeded in drawing out a sizeable number of experienced local business executives as well as investors from the region to participate in TIS and become part of the startup community. These high net worth individuals play a vital role as angel investors and mentors in various startup programmes, significantly enriching the entire ecosystem.

Similarly, the University Innovation Fund provided universities with substantial financial resources to aggressively step up their entrepreneurship efforts on campus. NUS, NTU and SMU all saw a surge in startup activity in the last few years. The NUS Overseas College (NOC) programme has sent thousands of students to intern in startups in Silicon Valley and other startup hotspots, creating a large pool of NOC alumni that have dominated the local startup scene in recent years. The student startup grant provided under UIF has spawned many innovation projects in the universities, greatly expanding the funnel for new startups, which subsequently feed into the TIS and other seed funding programmes. 

The S$50,000 iJAM grant enabled hundreds of startups to carry out concept testing and market validation before seeking investment.  iJAM supported close to 400 startups, a quarter of which received follow-on funding.  Numerous accelerators and incubators, set up in the last two years, have further enriched the mix and dynamics of the ecosystem.

PRINCIPLES GOVERNING A STARTUP ECOSYSTEM

Brad Feld - entrepreneur, author and co-founder of startup accelerator Techstars - identified four key principles that are essential to developing and maintaining a healthy start-up ecosystem in his book, Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City:

  1. Entrepreneurs must lead the startup community
  2. The leaders must have a long-term commitment
  3. The startup community must be inclusive
  4. There must be continual activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack

Singapore would score well on the last two principles - the startup community here is highly diverse and inclusive with entrepreneurs coming from all over the world. Numerous activities dot the startup calendar, not just at Block 71 but also in the universities and offices across the island – with conferences, meet-ups, demo days, hackathons, fireside chats, and so on.

On the first two principles, however, evidence is less strong that the startup community here is being led by entrepreneurs with long term commitment. Singapore’s ecosystem at this stage has yet to attain sufficient robustness even compared to Israel (which has a comparable population), let alone Silicon Valley. Hitherto, the startup community remains dependent on government leadership and programmes and will remain so for the foreseeable future until critical mass is reached.

RESILIENCE AND CRITICAL MASS

A startup ecosystem at its developmental stage is fragile and could deteriorate rapidly once momentum is slowed, if there is insufficient resilience due to lack of critical mass. Both the government and the community must therefore play their respective roles to keep the momentum going.

The good news is that there is increasing recognition of the role startups can play in the future of Singapore, as the country moves from an economy characterised by heavy reliance on multinational companies to a more robust economic model comprising a mix of large and small but high-growth enterprises.

Calls for strengthening entrepreneurship have featured regularly in parliamentary debates and media discussions. Measures to strengthen Singapore’s entrepreneurial capacity and promote innovation will likely be a key discussion topic for the high-level Committee for the Future Economy.

While the details for innovation and entrepreneurship programmes under the government’s S$19 billion RIE2020 plan have not been publicly announced, the local startup community can be optimistic that continuing government support will be forthcoming, even as the TIS programme terminates in June 2016.

The startup community in Block 71 can, therefore, look forward to a stronger ecosystem in the years to come. 

Dr Francis Yeoh is Professor for Entrepreneurship at the NUS School of Computing, as well as the Executive Director of the Mediapreneur, Mediacorp's incubator programme.

The programme provides start-ups with seed funding, a working space, mentoring, networking opportunities and attractive media packages to speed up their growth and development.   

Source: The Channel News Asia (published on 06 May 2016)

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The report briefly introduce the emerging trends in clean energy technology or more popularly termed "CleanTech" where there are new means to create energy, electricity and fuels with a smaller carbon and environmental footprint. To learn more about this subject, please consult the attached document.

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The report briefly introduce the emerging trend in finance - a merger between financial services and technology called Financial Technology or more popularly termed "FinTech". To learn more about this subject, please consult the attached document.

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The report briefly introduce the emerging trend of Singapore and ASEAN's venture capital and the list of contacts of the venture capital firms and accelerators in Singapore. To learn more about this subject, please consult the attached document.

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Singapore has about 180,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which make up make up 99% of the enterprises in Singapore and contribute to nearly half of the GDP. As SMEs employ 70% of the Singapore’s workforce, these SMEs play a significant role in the development of Singapore’s economy.

Singapore’s global connectivity at the marketplace makes it an ideal location for opportunities and network leverage for Asia. Companies find in Singapore a stable and trusted base where they can exploit their knowledge and IP assets, undertake key activities which give them a competitive advantage, as well as drive their growth from Asia.

As entrepreneurship is relatively common in Singapore, the Singapore government actively works with angel investors and start-ups on various financing schemes. As angel investors are typically successful businessmen with an appetite for start-up companies with higher risk, angel investment is a significant source of raising capital in Singapore.

As the startup industry continues to grow, so has the volume of investments – with venture capitalists and angel investors playing increasingly large roles in the scene. For example, Golden Gate Ventures launched a US$50 million fund that will take stakes in tech companies in South-East Asia.

Golden Gate sees strong growth in the venture capital business in South-East Asia over the next few years, matching the gains in China and India during the past decade. The number of venture-capital deals worth between US$1 million and US$10 million is expected to double to 40 next year in South-East Asia, according to the Golden Gate study on the prospects for the region.

With the shift of focus in Asia, we are seeing a trend where private investors are relocating their offices, investing capital, and executing transactions in the region. With Singapore’s position as Asia’s entrepreneurial hub especially in ASEAN region, more investors are coming over as growth rates and opportunities are harder to come by in more developed countries. Therefore, this is a huge advantage for foreign investments and start-ups to choose Singapore as their operational base.

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With the challenging economic environment around the world, we are seeing Singapore focusing on these 5 industries.

1) Innovation

With the challenging economic environment, The Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board (SPRING) Singapore has partnered with several organisations to encourage innovation among SMEs. SPRING SEEDS Capital Pte Ltd (SSC), is the investment arm of SPRING Singapore, manages the SPRING Start-up Enterprise Development Scheme (SPRING SEEDS), an equity-based co-financing option for Singapore-based start-ups with innovative products and/or processes with intellectual content and strong growth potential across international markets.

Singapore has been attracting local and foreign companies to establish and develop their innovation. Local bank, United Overseas Bank (UOB) is setting up an accelerator, The FinLab, to spur innovation in financial technology (fintech) while consulting firm McKinsey & Company launched a digital campus in Singapore on 22nd October 2015 to help companies stay competitive via digital strategy and technology, advanced data and analytics, and rapid prototyping which will tap on the knowledge of more than 850 digital experts from 30 countries.

2) FinTech Hub

Singapore hosting a large ecosystem of banks and technology companies is well poised to build the FinTech sector. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) today announced the formation of a new FinTech & Innovation Group (FTIG) within its organisation structure with effect from 1 August 2015. FTIG will be responsible for regulatory policies and development strategies to facilitate the use of technology and innovation to better manage risks, enhance efficiency, and strengthen competitiveness in the financial sector.

3) Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology

Singapore’s integrated research ecosystem enables companies to access multidisciplinary capabilities in a single location, which improves R&D decision-making and accelerates drug discovery and development. More than 30 of the world’s leading biomedical sciences companies (including GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Takeda) are leveraging Singapore as a key home base to drive innovation. New therapies and technologies are constantly made available by clinical research engaged by our hospitals and national speciality centres, in collaboration with some of the world’s top medical institutes, pharmaceutical and medical technology firms. In addition, important leads to new therapies that benefit patients are being discovered through world-class scientific research fostered by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and its biomedical research institutes.

4) Logistics & Supply Chain Management

The World Bank ranked Singapore as the No. 1 Logistics Hub in Asia in the 2014 Logistics Performance Index. Singapore’s strategic location in the heart of Southeast Asia and at the nexus of major shipping lanes has made it an important logistics hub and conduit for world trade.

Today, Singapore is a prime location for major logistics firms, with 20 of the top 25 global logistics players conducting operations here. Most of them, like DHL, Kuehne + Nagel, and UPS, have set up regional or global headquarter functions in Singapore. Two broader industry trends suggest that many of the global transport and logistics leaders of the future will come from Asia. First is the long-term shift in trade and investment from the West to the East, which will provide ever more opportunities for growth in the region across all segments. There will be further consolidation in the sector, as firms grow to reap scale efficiencies and improve their cross-border capabilities. Second is Asia’s early advantage in low-cost competition and “frugal engineering” (a product design approach that emphasises using the bare minimum of resources to create basic, no-frills products).

5) Digital Media

Singapore's animation and games industries are seeing rapid expansion with an influx of leading digital media companies such as Tecmo-Koei, Lucasfilm, Double Negative, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft. Local companies likeRatloop Asia, Sparky Animation and Scrawl Studios have also responded eagerly too, producing original content for export and entering strategic partnerships with international distributors. The Interactive & Digital Media Program Office (IDMPO) under the National Research Foundation of the Prime Minister’s Office Singapore has established an R&D programme with funding initiatives for the three R&D focus areas of Animation, Games & Effects, Media Intermediary ("Mediary") Services, and "On-the-Move" Technologies to support individuals and start-ups with breakthrough ideas that can be developed into innovative products and services.

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List of Accelerators and incubators in Singapore:

AccelerAsia Pte Ltd

It helps rapidly growing companies to grow in Southeast Asia and has a strong track record in industries such as Telecommunications, Digital Media & Publishing and SaaS/Cloud Services.
Contact Persons: Frank Bomers: frank@accelerasia.com
                        Joeri Gianotten: joeri@accelerasia.com
                        Arnout Mostert: arnout@accelerasia.com
Address: 30 Bukit Pasoh Road Singapore 089844

Tel: +65 6223 7221
Email: info@accelerasia.com
Website: http://www.accelerasia.com/

Apple Seed Pte Ltd

Supported by Spring Singapore, Apple Seed is a Singapore based venture accelerator incubating startups with Go-to-Market, internationalisation, fund raising and management support.
Contact Person: Roshni Kapur roshni.kapur@appleseedpl.com
Address: Block 71 Ayer Rajah Crescent #06-03 Singapore 139951

Tel: +65 6816 0281
Website: http://appleseedpl.com/wp/

Angel’s Gate Advisory Pte Ltd

An appointed i.JAM Reload incubator funded by the Media Development Authority (MDA) of Singapore, this programme aims to support budding technopreneurs with seed funding and grow their startups into profitable growing businesses.
Contact Person: Ting Yan tingyan@tri5.asia
Address: 71 Ayer Rajah Crescent #03-26 Singapore 139951

Tel: +65 6778 2294
Fax: +65 6491 6470
Website: http://angelsgateadvisory.sg/

Azione Capital Pte Ltd

An early stage venture capital investment company and startup business incubator which has approached mentoring, incubating and investing in digital media, mobile communications (inclusive of the full spectrum of wireless technologies), energy and maritime industry startups that operate primarily within Asia.
Contact Person: Nicholas Nicholas@azionecapital.com
Address: 1 Kaki Bukit Road 1 Singapore 415934

Tel: +65 3112 1688
Email: startup@azionecapital.com
Website: http://www.azionecapital.com/

Clearbridge Accelerator Pte Ltd

Partnering with the Singapore Government, it invests in life science companies, and has an incubator scheme that invests in seed-stage companies.
Contact Person: Johnson Chen johnson@clearbridgebsa.com
Address: 81 Science Park Drive #02-03 The Chadwick Singapore Science Park 1 Singapore 118257

Tel: +65 6873 0668
Fax: +65 6873 0778
Website: http://www.clearbridgeaccelerator.com/

East Ventures

East Ventures is an early-stage fund focusing on consumer web and mobile startups in Indonesia and Singapore with financial assistance and nurturing the ecosystem through its 100-day accelerator programme, East Ventures Alpha.
Contact Person: Willson Cuaca willson@east.vc
Email: info@east.vc
Website: http://east.vc/

Expara

It develops and teaches entrepreneurship, innovation and venture finance through experiential training programmes and innovation challenges for entrepreneurs, corporations and public institutions in Southeast Asia.
Contact Person: Douglas Abrams dka@expara.com
Address: #02-10/11, Blk 71 Ayer Rajah Crescent, Singapore 139951

Website: http://www.expara.com/

Focustech Ventures

It supports founders that seek to solve real world problems and radically improve crucial workflows of and pervasive inefficiencies in major enterprise industries such as energy, finance, education, manufacturing and healthcare.
Contact Person: Kelvin Ong kelvin@focustechventures.com
Address: 3 Science Park Drive, #02-12/25 The Franklin, Singapore Science Park 1 Singapore 118223

Email: info@focustechventures.com
Website: http://www.focustechventures.com/

Get2Volume

With incubation managers and venture partners in Silicon Valley and Singapore, Get2Volume provides mentorship, operational and execution capabilities to enable success.
Address: 67 Ayer Rajah Crescent Unit 03-20 Singapore 139950
Contact Person: Mike Holt mholt@get2volume.com
Tel: +65 6777 9750

Email: info@get2volume.com
Website: http://www.g2vaccelerator.com/

Golden Gate Ventures

Seed-level investment firm that focuses on companies building out consumer Internet products and services for Southeast Asia. It prefers companies with a launched product or those with established valuable distribution partnerships in the region.
Contact Person : Vinnie Lauria
Address: 73B Duxton Road Singapore 089532
Tel: +65 6602 8050 / +65 8381 1632
Email:hello@goldengate.vc
Website: http://goldengate.vc/

IncuVest

A group of successful serial and corporate entrepreneurs with experience starting, building and operating valuable companies from a variety of industries.
Contact Person: Natasha Foong natasha@incuvestasia.com
                       Ronnie Wee ronnie@incuvestasia.com
Address: Triple One Somerset Building, #07-07, 111 Somerset Road, 238164

Te: +65 6637 9050
Website: https://www.incuvestasia.com/

Jungle Ventures

Entrepreneur-backed venture firm that funds and helps startups scale across Asia Pacific.
Contact Person: Jenny jenny@jungle-ventures.com
Address: 306 Tanglin Road, Phoenix Park Office Campus, Singapore 247973

Tel: +65 6779 2115
Fax: +65 6779 3119
Email: info@jungle-ventures.com
Website: http://www.jungle-ventures.com/

Joyful Frog Digital Incubator (JFDI)

JFDI Discover is an online pre-accelerator programme that will teach you a structured guideline of validating problem-solution fit for your business, provide you with face-to-face coaching, and give you access to a curated community of JFDI alumni and Lean Startup Coaches.
Contact Person: Alena Arens alena@jfdi.asia
Address: BASH @ Blk 79 Ayer Rajah Crescent, Level 3 Singapore 139955

Tel: +65 3158 1804
Email: info@jfdi.asia
Website: http://www.jfdi.asia/

Leo Tech Services Pte Ltd

It provides technical expertise and customised solutions for customers and partners across a wide range of industry sectors from healthcare to finance, and works with organisations ranging from start-ups and NGOs, corporate multinationals, to local and foreign government bodies.
Contact Person: Bimal Shah
Address: 8 Eu Tong Sen Street #23-89/90 The Central Singapore 059818
Tel: +65 6521 6420
Email: hello@leotech.com.sg
Website: http://www.leotech.com.sg/

Nanyang Technological University-NTUitive Pte Ltd

The commercial arm and technology holding company of the Nanyang Technological University to promote innovation, cultivate entrepreneurship and facilitate the commercialisation of research.
Contact Person: Dr Lim Jui juilim@ntu.edu.sg
Address: 16 Nanyang Drive #01-109, Innovation Centre, Singapore 637722

Tel: +65 6794 3855 / +65 6790 4954
Fax: +65 6795 7353
Email: ntuitiveinfo@ntuitive.sg
Website: http://www.ntuitive.sg/

Red Dot Ventures

A seed-stage venture capital firm focused on Singapore-based high-tech startups in areas including ICT, interactive digital media (IDM), MedTech, nanotech, clean technology, and engineering.
Contact Person: Charlie charlie@reddotventures.com
Address: 11 Eunos Road 8, #07-02 Lifelong Learning Institute, Singapore 408601

Tel: +65 6635 2227
Email: charlie@reddotventures.com
Website: http://www.reddotventures.com/

Ruvento Ventures

It is focused on the linking of entrepreneurs and investors investing in early-stage core-technology startups with significant technological background. Startups that reach their crowdfunding targets, can get follow-on funding from Ruvento.
Contact Person: Tony Gu
Address: Blk 71 Ayer Rajah Crescent #01-23 Singapore 139951
Email: info@ruvento.com
Website: http://ruvento.com/

Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF)

SiTF advocates for the ICM (Information, Communications and Media) industry and helps to accelerate the adoption ICM technology.
Contact Person: Ho Se Mun semun@sitf.org.sg
Address: 55/55A Neil Road, Singapore 088892

Tel: +65 6325 9700
Email: info@sitf.org.sg
Website: http://www.sitf.org.sg/

Singtel Innov8

It focuses on technologies and solutions that lead to quantum changes in network capabilities, next generation devices, digital content services and enablers to enhance customer experience.
Contact Person: Magdalene Lim maglim@singtel.com
Address: 71 Ayer Rajah Crescent #02-22 Singapore 139951

Tel: +65 6838 4686
Fax: +65 6872 8456
Website: http://innov8.singtel.com/

SPH Plug and Play

A media startup accelerator by Asia's leading media organisation, Silicon Valley's global accelerator, and the Singapore government’s premier technology fund.
Contact Person: Jupe Tan jupe@plugandplaytechcenter.com
Address: Bash, level 3JTC LaunchPad Blk 79 Ayer Rajah Crescent @one-north, Singapore

Email: info@sphplugandplay.com
Website: http://www.sphplugandplay.com/

Startupbootcamp FinTech Singapore

Leading accelerator focused on financial innovation, providing funding, mentorship, office space in the heart of London & Singapore and access to a global network of investors and VCs, for up to 10 selected FinTech startups.
Contact Person: Fiona fiona@startupbootcamp.org
Email: fintech@startupbootcamp.org
Website: http://www.startupbootcamp.org/accelerator/fintech-singapore.html

Stream Global Pte Ltd

Its main focus is in the emerging enterprise in the sectors of infocomm technology (ICT) and interactive media.
Contact Person: Mr Chak Kong Soon kschak@stream.com.sg
Address: Blk 71 Ayer Rajah Crescent #03-11, Singapore 139951

Tel: +65 68364655
Fax: +65 63993979
Email: kschak@stream.com.sg
Website: http://www.stream.com.sg/

TechCube8 Pte Ltd

A private technology investor and incubator selected by the National Research Foundation (NRF), Singapore to promote entrepreneurship and high-tech R&, identify and co-invest in high impact, early stage technology platforms and companies.
Contact Person: Ali Hussain ali@techcube8.com
Tel: +65 9003 9595

Email: ideas@techcube8.com
Website: http://techcube8.com/

The Biofactory Pte Ltd

It is a dedicated incubator for the commercialisation of biomedical and life science startups.
Address: Block 79 Ayer Rajah Crescent #05-06 Singapore 139955
Contact Person: Theodore Tan theotan@biofactory.com
Tel: +65 6397 5155
Email: contact@thebiofactory.com
Website: http://www.thebiofactory.com/

The Co-Foundry

Its six to nine months ShakeOut Program is to help startups get to the core, advance to the next stage of development, and to obtain funding in order to scale and grow.
Contact: Leong Hanyang hanyang@theco-foundry.com
Address: Unit 11 Lor 24A Geylang Singapore 398535

Website: http://theco-foundry.com/

The Innovators Institute Pte Ltd

A group of serial innovators and entrepreneurs, who inspire, nurture and accelerate innovators.
Contact Person: Charlie Ang ca@theinnovatorsinstitute.com
Address: 190 Clemenceau Avenue, #06-01, Singapore 239924

Email: contact@theinnovatorsinstitute.com
Website: http://www.theinnovatorsinstitute.com/
              www.t-i-n.co

The Singapore FinTech Consortium

Aims to promote the development of FinTech in Singapore, it is a member’s led organization aligning interests and supporting initiatives for the benefit of all participants and stakeholders.
Contact Person: Sander Swinkels
Address: SGFinTech @ Tanjong Pagar: 26 Duxton Road, Singapore 089490
             SGFinTech @ One-North: Ayer Rajah Blk 79, Singapore 139995
Email: info@singaporefintech.com
Website: http://singaporefintech.com/

TNF Ventures

One of the 14 incubators selected by National Research Foundation for Technology Incubation Scheme (TIS) which invests in companies in Technology Media Telecommunication (TMT), medical tech, clean tech and biotech field.
Contact Person: Shirley Wong shirley.wong@tnfventures.com
Address: 71 Ayer Rajah Crescent, #06-01/02, Singapore 139951

Email: info@tnfventures.com
Website: http://www.tnfventures.com/

Unframed

A social-impact startup incubator, set up by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs is a partnership between UNFRAMED & DBS Foundation, a unique 5-month incubation program at the intersection of the elderly Community x Technology x Startup.
Contact Person: Larry Tchiou larry@unframed.so
Address: #04-01, 2 Orchard Link Singapore 237978

Email: be@unframed.so
Website: http://unframed.so/

Wavemaker Labs

An approved technology incubator under the Singaporean government’s National Research Foundation (NRF).
Contact: Paul Santos paul@wavemaker.vc
Address: Block 71, #05-01, Ayer Rajah Crescent Singapore 139951

Email: adi@wavemaker.vc
Website: http://www.wavemakerlabs.com/
              http://wavermaker.vc

 

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