SGInnovate launches to scale up local startups

New tech agency launches with Steve Leonard as CEO.

Singapore has launched SGInnovate, a new agency to help local entrepreneurs build products for global markets. “We want to build for bigger markets from Singapore, with Singapore,” said Steve Leonard, the agency’s CEO and former IDA boss, at the launch yesterday. “We don’t want to define ourselves to building strictly and only for Singapore.” The new agency sits under the National Research Foundation and will help early stage startups and aspiring entrepreneurs connect with scientists, engineers, financiers and mentors. The government’s startup investment firm - Infocomm Investments - has merged with the new agency. SGInnovate will focus on seven sectors: artificial intelligence, robotics, digital health, financial services, smart energy, digital manufacturing and transportation. Singapore wants to see more startups and commercial products built out of scientific research, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at the launch. The country must “strengthen our networks, in order to enhance the pipeline of potentially successful commercial applications from research”, he said. “We are also doing well in terms of VC investments, but not enough of their investee companies spring from technologies from our research labs,” he added. “More of our research has to translate to commercial output. Patent output in Singapore is still relatively low, and there is still much opportunity to develop commercial outcomes downstream.” SGInnovate has taken specific steps to encourage this. It will have scientists-in-residence from local universities to advise entrepreneurs. It will also allow researchers to work with startups to develop products from their findings. The partner institutes are National University of Singapore, Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Institute of Technology, and Singapore University of Technology and Design. The agency’s office will house consultants from the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore to advise entrepreneurs on patent strategies. It has also partnered with established companies like McLaren Applied Technologies and AI company NVIDIA to work with startups. It has brought in UK investor Entrepreneur First which invests in people with science and tech skills, and helps them translate ideas into commercial opportunities.