SWITCHing on Tech Innovation
A new epoch beckons for Asia.
For the first time, it has surpassed North America and Europe in total corporate research and development (R&D) spend in 2015, signalling the region’s determined push for innovation, said guest-of-honour Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who delivered the opening address at Singapore’s premier technology brokerage event, TechInnovation 2016.
Taking place from 20 to 21 September 2016 at the Resorts World Convention Centre in Sentosa, the annual event organised by IPI Singapore brought together more than 70 international speakers, business leaders and R&D heads in one venue.
Over at the exhibition hall, over 100 exhibitors showcased around 300 emerging and ready-to-market technologies.
Among these technologies were robotic chefs, printable thin film solar cells and sensing technology for automotive vehicles, to name a few.
The main focus was on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
SMEs Go Global
“TechInnovation provides a platform for SMEs to gain exposure to our global network of technology providers and raise their industry profile. IPI’s personalised business matching also enables these enterprises to explore collaboration with potential partners,” said Professor Lam Khin Yong, Executive Director of IPI.
“Through TechInnovation, the SMEs can take on innovation projects to expand their businesses.”
One business matching success story is local startup Health Food Matters Pte Ltd, which uses technology developed by Changi General Hospital to create ready-to-eat texture-modified meals for patients with swallowing difficulties.
The two entities, which were introduced to each other at TechInnovation last year, have entered into a licensing agreement to market and produce the meals.
According to Professor Lam, this year’s conference unveiled the Enterprise Europe Network, a brand new segment to foster Singapore-Europe partnership opportunities. This segment connected technology seekers with European SMEs that are developing innovations in sectors such as nanotechnology, ICT, environment, healthcare and energy.
The search for technology commercialisation and co-development opportunities heated up at TechInnovation’s Crowdpitching sessions, which spanned sectors such as service and digital economy, advanced manufacturing and engineering, health and personal care, and urban solutions and sustainability
The sessions featured 16 global and local speakers representing companies that include Keppel Data Centres, Zobele Group, L’Oréal, and SATS Limited.
From R&D to Market
The importance of R&D to innovation was a constant theme.
“Innovative technologies, characterised by the mass adoption of digital technologies and digital transformation, are disrupting existing business models. Startups and incumbents alike can now reach new customers quickly at very low costs,” said DPM Teo in his speech, adding that enterprises are accelerating product development to beat the competition.
“Singapore recognised the importance of research, innovation and enterprise early. We launched our first National Technology Plan in 1991, and have made steady investments since then,” he said, adding that the government has committed S$19 billion for research, innovation and enterprise for the five-year period from 2016 to 2020.
Acknowledging that more can be done to bring innovations from R&D to market, DPM Teo then outlined three focus areas for growth.
First, he said, the government will strengthen the integration between industry and the R&D community.
He went on to announce the launches of two new consortia, the Singapore Cybersecurity Consortium and the Singapore Consortium for Synthetic Biology, to promote research, commercialisation and training in those areas.
With Singapore highly reliant on software and infrastructure, while also keen to explore the emerging area of synthetic biology research, these launches are timely. The consortia will be hosted at the National University of Singapore and supported by the National Research Foundation.
“These consortia will facilitate the growth of startups with deep expertise, and adoption of such technologies by our enterprises,” DPM Teo shared.
Strengthening Support & Connections
Second, the government will strengthen support for Singapore-based enterprises, according to DPM Teo. “We will set aside S$4.5 billion under the Industry Transformation Programme over the next five years, on top of the amounts for R&D,” he said. “These efforts will help our enterprises innovate, and internationalise their products and services.”
And finally, he said that the government will work on augmenting connections between innovators and investors, partly through a new entity, SG-Innovate. It will work with government agencies to expand accelerator programmes to new and emerging sectors such as smart energy, financial technology and the Internet of Things.
“Budding entrepreneurs can meet mentors, venture capital firms and access R&D talent,” DPM Teo noted. He also invited entrepreneurs wishing to venture abroad to tap on to Singapore’s comprehensive network of 20 implemented Free Trade Agreements.
The other SWITCH anchor event running concurrently with TechInnovation was Techventure, which partnered with non-profit startup movement Slush Singapore to showcase the capabilities of the Singapore startup scene.
One of those Singapore startups is igloohome, which develops smart digital locks for homes, and which won the International Startup Challenge during Techventure last year. “Techventure 2015 was a great platform that enabled igloohome to gain exposure to a captive international audience.
The relationships forged during the event helped fuel our growth locally and in the region,” said Anthony Chow, CEO and Co-Founder of igloohome. “We are excited to participate in SWITCH and it’s very encouraging to see how the tech and innovation scene in Singapore is getting increasingly vibrant.”
The stable of smaller but no less significant SWITCH partner events comprised of WEBIT, Starburst Accelerator, LetsIgnite and Women in Tech, which all contributed to expanding SWITCH’s network.
Attendees could pitch their ideas for the aerospace industry, attend workshops on how to attract angel investments, and learn how to raise their first round of funding, among other activities.