The Singapore government has announced three initiatives to spur innovation through tech transfer, talent development and smart capital. This includes the launch of an enhanced IP framework, the National IP Protocol, to encourage public agencies to work closely with enterprises, who can develop them into products and services that create economic and social value for Singapore.
The National IP Protocol will grant public agencies the flexibility to grant exclusive licences, non-exclusive licences, and even assign IP to industry – with the end-goal of facilitating commercialization. It will also continue building the government’s community of IP experts skilled in taking publicly-funded innovations to market.
The aim is to enhance the innovative capacity of the country’s companies, and create more opportunities for public-private partnerships, including research spinouts, joint labs with industry and industry-academic consortia, according to Mr. Heng Swee Keat, the minister for finance for Singapore.
Speaking at the opening of the Singapore Week of Innovation & Technology on 18 September 2017, he said, “In the course of my involvement in the Committee on the Future Economy and with the National Research Foundation, I have been reflecting on the innovation process, and asking myself whether there is a recipe for successful innovation. It has been a learning journey for me, and there continue to be many areas where I am curious to develop a deeper understanding.”
He added, “I’ve come to take the view that innovation is unpredictable – you can never predict exactly when or where the ‘Eureka!’ moment will strike, and you can never quite compose, beforehand, exactly all the elements that will lead to that ‘Eureka!’. Instead, there are some critical ingredients, and when they come together, innovation and value arise.”
“Of these ingredients, one of the most important is people. Specifically:
- People with the vision and passion to create positive change
- People with a deep knowledge of how things work – in their fields of expertise, in the commercial world, and in everyday life
- People with a drive to use their knowledge and technology to enable us to do things in fundamentally different, better ways.”
“Beyond people, other factors also come into play. I’m pleased to share with you more about our efforts in Singapore to nurture three elements of healthy innovation ecosystems:
- Technology transfer
- Smart capital
- Technopreneurial talent.”
The National IP Protocol is part of the enabling technology transfer drive. As part of this, around US$12 million is to be invested into new cybersecurity projects aimed at strengthening Singapore’s cybersecurity research and development (R&D) capabilities and developing cyber tools and technologies that can be readily adopted for public and industry use. Nine research projects have been awarded a total of US$11.6 million under a grant call by the National Cybersecurity R&D Program 1 to develop capabilities in key technology areas to meet Singapore’s cybersecurity needs. Another six projects have been awarded close to US$0.45 million under a seed grant call by the Singapore Cybersecurity Consortium to spur the commercialisation of cybersecurity technologies. These efforts aims to strengthen Singapore’s cyber defences, and prepare its critical infrastructure and digital services against rising global cyber threats.
On the smart capital element, the National Research Foundation and Temasek are working on new commercial entities to build and invest in deep tech startups arising from research and development conducted in Singapore. This will complement other government support schemes for startups by connecting technical and academic innovators to smart capital.
With access to the expertise and networks offered by these commercial entities, more technopreneurs will be able to build and scale impactful solutions from breakthroughs achieved in research. Over time, the government hopes to build a generation of tech companies who will take scientific innovations from lab to market, and from Singapore to the world.
On the cultivation of technopreneurial talent, the minister announced two initiatives by its tertiary institutions.
The first is the National Lean LaunchPad, a national entrepreneurial training program for researchers adapted from the renowned i-Corps programme by the US National Science Foundation. Over 10 weeks, research scientists and engineers learn about the technology commercialization process, including customer discovery and market validation, by directly engaging with potential users and customers. These crucial skills in evidence-based validation and business model refinement will give researchers a better chance of developing their innovations into prototypes, real-world products and even companies.
One example is a startup from NUS’ pilot program, known as Cardiogenomics, which developed a cardiac risk assessment algorithm to predict coronary artery disease risk. Through the Lean LaunchPad experience, the team moved out of the lab to conduct interviews with patients, doctors and hospitals to test their business assumptions, leading them to re-define their customer segments and service delivery. The team has since developed the risk assessment service and test-kit CardioCAD, which is being used in some specialist clinics in Singapore.
The second initiative is called Pollinate, a collaboration between Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic. Pollinate is an incubator targeted at startups and campus teams from polytechnic students and their alumni who are ready for growth hacking and market adoption.
[Image: National University of Singapore]