New HealthTech lab in Singapore aims to build healthtech innovation capacity
By Yogesh Hirdaramani
Singapore’s national HealthTech agency, Synapxe, has launched the country’s first HealthTech Co-Innovation Lab in partnership with Amazon Web Services to boost public healthcare innovation with industry players.
Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Health, spoke about the need to transform our approach to healthcare innovation at this week’s HealthX Startup Day. Image: Synapxe
“The [healthcare] challenges we face today and tomorrow are complex and multifaceted… They demand not just conventional solutions, but a revolution in how we think, act and care for our people,” said Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Health at this week’s HealthX Startup Day, organised by Singapore’s HealthTech agency, Synapxe.
At the event, Synapxe launched a new co-innovation lab with Amazon Web Services, a leading cloud computing provider. The Synapxe-AWS Co-Innovation Lab aims to connect public healthcare entities with industry organisations, such as startups, to address key healthcare challenges, from improving patient experience to resolving operational challenges.
The Startup Day held on 19th September saw 59 pitches from startups responding to three challenge statements that address key healthcare challenges in Singapore. These range from improving remote patient monitoring to better supporting nursing home residents. Of these pitches, six were shortlisted for further follow-up as part of the Co-Innovation Lab.
Co-innovation lab to boost healthcare innovation
The new lab invites industry organisations to reimagine healthcare solutions, experiment with upcoming technologies and build prototypes. Successful submissions will receive access to AWS services, ideation workshops, and support from technical and subject matter experts from AWS and Synapxe.
“Through these enablers, we aim to distil a few good ideas from a mass pool, have winners naturally emerge, and focus on scaling and proliferating such winning solutions across the healthcare ecosystem,” says Glenn Neo, Director of Innovation Capabilities Enablement at Synapxe, to GovInsider.
Solutions will have to address key healthcare challenges that Singapore is facing. Neo highlights Singapore’s rapidly ageing population and the healthcare talent shortage as a “silver tsunami” that successful submissions will have to address.
Beyond traditional industry players, the programme aims to target startups to come on board.
“Given the size and the nature of their makeup, startups are intuitively more agile and respond faster to situations,” says Neo.
This lab is part of Singapore’s broader Healthier SG strategy, which aims to drive preventive care efforts and empower primary care providers to better support patients. It is also part of AWS Singapore’s Cloud Innovation Centre, which aims to connect public and private sector organisations to innovate with cloud technology together.
Sandbox to prototype, accelerate solutions
As part of the lab, startups and industry organisations will have access to the HealthX Innovation Sandbox, which will allow them to experiment and demonstrate the viability of their projects within a secure environment on the Healthcare Commercial Cloud (HCC).
The sandbox aims to help users and solution providers collaborate in a safe environment together, explains Neo. This environment gives startups and industry players a chance to better understand the technical environment within healthcare systems, from cybersecurity to necessary API integrations.
FathomX, a startup that has created an AI model that can automatically analyse mammogram screenings and diagnose risk for breast cancer screening, was the first startup to be onboarded to the HealthX Innovation Sandbox.
“It’s an independent and safe environment for everybody. Sandbox experimentation allows us to thrash out any issues in an enclosed environment so that when the product goes live, we know that everything will work,” said Stephen Lim, CEO of FathomX.
“End-users, particularly radiologists, want to see these solutions in action. Without a sandbox, we would have to go through huge hurdles to deploy our systems in a hospital environment and take a much longer time to demonstrate the effectiveness of our tool,” added co-founder Dr Feng Mengling.
Us2.ai, a comprehensive AI-driven platform that can analyse cardiovascular ultrasounds and produce a fully automated patient report, has also onboarded onto the sandbox.
The Singapore Government has begun turning to sandboxes to encourage stronger collaboration between startups and government technology, from the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s Tech Acceleration Lab to a dedicated sandbox administered by the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office to encourage generative AI adoption.
The country’s Home Team Science and Technology Agency has also set up Hatch, an innovation centre to spur greater collaboration between startups and Singapore’s home team.
Synapxe has also unveiled other enablers to support organisations in accelerating HealthTech solutions for the public healthcare system.
“When you are a startup operating in this environment, it’s very challenging… So we are keenly aware that we need to bring down the barriers to entry and speed up time to scale and speed to market,” said Siew Ying Ngiam, CEO of Synapxe at the opening remarks.
To facilitate this, Synapxe introduced the Outcome-Based Spiral Contracting Framework, a procurement system that emphasises outcomes over explicit tech specifications, to enable the faster identification and scaling of innovations. This is based on the Government’s Outcome-Based Procurement model, shares Neo.
Synapxe has introduced HealthTech Advisory Centre, a one-stop centre for participants navigating the public healthcare ecosystem, and an open innovation platform, HealthX Call-For-Innovation, through which startups can submit proposals.