OVER S$25 million will be committed by the government to "bold measures" that will nurture a healthy innovation ecosystem in Singapore. This was announced by Minister Heng Swee Keat at the opening of the Singapore Week of Innovation & TeCHnology (Switch) on Monday.
The new measures include an over-S$16 million boost to the cybersecurity sector, as well as the launch of Pollinate (a S$1-million programme) and the National Lean LaunchPad (S$8 million), two initiatives by tertiary institutions to nurture inventors from young.
Switch - in its second year - is a platform that showcases some of the best ideas, technology and innovation from around the world. Held at Marina Bay Sands, it is presented by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and organised by SGInnovate.
Mr Heng, who is finance minister and NRF's deputy chairman, said in his opening address: "This is shaping up to be an exciting time in Singapore's tech calendar. We are glad to dedicate this week to celebrating, learning and collaborating with everyone here on innovation, as innovation is vital to creating a better future."
He said that in the course of his involvement in the Committee on the Future Economy and with NRF, he had been reflecting on the innovation process and questioned if there was a recipe for successful innovation.
"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!'."
But there is one critical element, said Mr Heng - and that is people. Specifically, these people must have the vision and passion to create positive change; a deep knowledge of how things work; and a drive to use their knowledge and technology to do things in different, better ways.
Mr Heng on Monday introduced several new initiatives. The first is the National IP Protocol, an enhanced intellectual property (IP) framework that will allow public agencies the flexibility to grant exclusive and non-exclusive licences, and even assign IP to an industry - with the goal of facilitating commercialisation.
Mr Heng said: "The government will take bold measures to connect publicly funded R&D (research and development) to startups and enterprises for commercialisation."
Over S$16 million will be invested in new cybersecurity projects to develop solutions for public and industry use. Nine projects have been awarded S$15.6 million by the National Cybersecurity R&D Programme, and six have been awarded nearly S$600,000 by the Singapore Cybersecurity Consortium.
Tertiary institutions are stepping up efforts to encourage entrepreneurship from young, Mr Heng added. The first such initiative is Pollinate, an incubator to foster collaborative innovation and enterprise efforts across polytechnics. It targets growth-stage startups, and is jointly governed by Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic.
Pollinate will be anchored at JTC LaunchPad @ one-north and is an accredited mentor partner of the Startup SG Founder scheme under Spring. It will be supported by NRF with a funding of nearly S$1 million over three years - and will provide startups with access to a pipeline of students, faculty and alumni talent, and partnerships with the industry.
The second initiative is the Lean LaunchPad programme, which helps scientists and engineers identify an ideal commercialisation pathway for their technologies. Options include further technology translation, proof of concept development, packaging for licensing, and starting a company.
This year, NRF will support the scaling up of this programme into a national-level National Lean LaunchPad Singapore programme - offering funding of S$8 million over five years. NUS Enterprise will help local universities conduct the programme within their respective campuses.
Mr Heng said: "As Singapore moves towards the future economy, it is exciting to see our tertiary institutions also coming up with innovative modes of education for the new skills paradigm. We will continue to cultivate a generation of inventors, builders and tech visionaries, who will transform the companies of today, and drive those of tomorrow."