$40m for 4 big firms to invest in tech start-ups

NRF Chief Executive Low Teck Seng (left) and CapitaLand's chief corporate development officer, Mr Ng Kok Siong.
NRF Chief Executive Low Teck Seng (left) and CapitaLand's chief corporate development officer, Mr Ng Kok Siong. PHOTO: NATIONAL RESEARCH FOUNDATION SINGAPORE

CapitaLand, YCH, Wilmar and DeClout given NRF grants

A national research fund has expanded its scope by awarding grants to large local companies instead of just venture capital firms as it has done in the past.

The National Research Foundation's (NRF) Early Stage Venture Fund has made grants to property giant CapitaLand, tech firm DeClout, agribusiness company Wilmar International and supply chain company YCH Group.

This is the third round of the fund, which aims to encourage co-investment in innovative local tech start-ups. It made its initial grants in 2008 and again in 2014. It has partnered 10 venture capital firms, including Golden Gate Ventures and Monk's Hill Ventures.

The grant works on a co-investment basis, with the NRF matching each company's investment dollar-for-dollar, up to $10 million. This means that the investment this round totals a possible $40 million over four companies.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative, announced the funding yesterday at InnovFest unBound, an event organised by the Infocomm Development Authority focusing on new tech developments.

"What we want to tell these large local enterprises is that we want you to go and scan the horizon, identify small start-ups which may have novel, potentially transformative ideas in your industry... and we will provide funding to support these partnerships," he said.

GIVING SUPPORT

If I'm a start-up looking to partner a large local enterprise, I can look forward to the infrastructure support that they can provide, and I can look forward to the networks they're bringing along with them.

NRF CHIEF EXECUTIVE LOW TECK SENG

OFFERING OPPORTUNITIES

With our significant asset base and network, we offer tremendous opportunities for Singapore-based start-ups with emerging technologies to test, validate and enhance their innovations at our properties.

MR NG KOK SIONG, CapitaLand's chief corporate development officer

NRF chief executive Low Teck Seng noted that pairing large enterprises with start-ups will give the smaller company a leg up in terms of resources and industry expertise.

"If I'm a start-up looking to partner a large local enterprise, I can look forward to the infrastructure support that they can provide, and I can look forward to the networks that they're bringing along with them," added Professor Low.

Mr Ng Kok Siong, CapitaLand's chief corporate development officer, said in a statement: "With our significant asset base and network, we offer tremendous opportunities for Singapore-based start-ups with emerging technologies to test, validate and enhance their innovations at our properties."

Mr James Ong, an investment committee member of Supply Chain Angels, the corporate venture arm of YCH Group, told the media at the event: "Innovation within the company is usually incremental. We think that by opening up to start-ups and understanding how they look at things, we can become much more productive and much more innovative, and have a different mindset from what we have internally."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2016, with the headline '$40m for 4 big firms to invest in tech start-ups'. Print Edition | Subscribe