It would not be an exaggeration to say that Singapore’s tech industry is the envy of many entrepreneurs not only within Southeast Asia but also globally. With a strong and stable economic and political landscape, Singapore provides a good seeding ground for startups to blossom.
However, these ingredients alone do not ensure that the startup ecosystem becomes a beacon for investors and aspiring entrepreneurs. The government too has to provide incentives to make its value proposition more enticing. In that respect, Singapore has taken big steps by providing grants and spearheading initiatives for startups to establish their operations and build up their technologies.
Spring Singapore is a government agency that is focussed on enterprise development. Part of its mandate? To create a dynamic startup ecosystem in Singapore to ensure entrepreneurs have access to opportunities and resources.
The initiatives that it has launched include Business Angels Scheme (BAS), which matches any investment up to SG$2 million (US$1.32 million) that a startup raises from a business angel investor through its investment arm SPRING SEEDS Capital Pte Ltd.
The other initiative offered by Spring Singapore is the Technology Enterprise Commercialisation Scheme (TECS).
This scheme aims at enabling the growth of startups with a strong technology Intellectual Property (IP) and a scalable business model [regardless of whether they are at only the conceptualisation or R&D stage] through early-stage funding.
Since its launch in 2008, TECS has awarded grants to 209 projects..
One of the recipients T.Ware has developed special jacket — the T.Jacket — that employs Smart technology to provide deep touch pressure to wearers to calm and soothe their nerves. This is particularly useful to people suffering from ADHD or ASD.
Accelerating startups through matchmaking
On top of the many grants and programmes available to startups, there are also dedicated platforms and organisations created to facilitate and encourage startups to seek technology innovation efforts and upgrades.
The Intellectual Property Intermediary (IPI) was established under Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry to focus on industry needs and translates their innovation objectives into specific technology requirements. Startups and SMEs, through IPI, can be matched with the right technology partner and be enabled to develop new processes, products and services.
It was established after the government discovered that there was a lack of adequate support for companies seeking access to information, learning its practical application, and navigating the complex R&D landscape, that would allow them to innovate.
It is also tasked to look beyond local innovation and to leverage on open innovation to harness relevant market-ready innovations from global sources for local SMEs.
Over the years, IPI has built up a global network of technological specialists who are capable of providing not just the knowledge but also the know how that would enable startups and SMEs to acquire advanced technologies.
One such success story is HVS Engineering Pte Ltd – a local manufacturing SME that provides automated cooling maintenance solutions for fluid-cooled tubes and shell heat exchange systems.
In an email interview with e27, Lim Ming Khai, Deputy Director of IPI, explains how HVS leveraged on its assistance to find and enable technological growth.
He says that HVS first approached IPI in 2013 when it wanted to expand its business into the oil and gas industry, with a focus on addressing crude oil preheater fouling issues.
Its patented HVS Automatic Brush Ball Cleaning system is a self-contained cleaning system which utilises design-specific resilient brush balls circulating within part of the heat exchange system to clean fouling at the initial stage of formation. It is able to continuously circulate the brush balls through the tubes.
However, its current system cannot withstand the harsh, high heat environment present in the oil and gas industry.
By participating in TechInnovation – a technology-industry brokerage event organised by IPI – in 2013, HVS was connected to the Materials Centre of Innovation (MCOI) at the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), which had developed a new elastomeric nano-composite material with high thermal stability and chemical resistance.
HVS then received funding from SPRING’s Innovation & Capability Voucher (ICV) to develop a new HVS energised ball with MCOI.
“The project took only a month to complete – two weeks to customise the materials to HVS’ specific needs and another two weeks for testing. This was possible as HVS was able to find a suitable solution from the Materials COI’s existing bank of innovative materials,” Lim explains, emphasising on how IPI was able to quicken the process of finding the right partner through effective matchmaking.
In addition to the aforementioned attributes, nano-composite material also has strong tensile strength and hardness to minimise wear and tear when moving around the heat exchangers’ tubes.
“The two-month project yielded a new HVS’ energised ball that can maintain mechanical and thermal stability even at temperatures of at least 250 degrees in a petroleum environment,” concludes Lim.
IPI plans to enhance its existing initiatives and develop new ones through collaboration with global innovation hubs.
It will also be supporting government agencies such as SPRING Singapore and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore in the seeding and forming of innovation clusters such as robotics, diagnostics, analytics and advanced manufacturing. In addition, it will enhance its online virtual marketplace, making it easier for local enterprises and SMEs to access its technologies and innovations.
This article has been produced in partnership with the TechInnovation 2015. It is a premier industry-to-technology matching event and marketplace that brings together international technology providers and enterprises to accelerate the commercialisation of emerging technologies, seed licensing opportunities and foster open innovation collaborations. Expect plenary talks, fast-paced technology pitching, calls for collaboration and productive 1-on-1 pre-matched meetings.