Committee on the Future Economy report: Strategy 3: Strengthen enterprise capabilities to innovate, scale up

Boost IP regime, start-up ecosystem and fund-raising options

Twenty-three financial institutions opened their fintech labs and innovation centres to visitors during the FinTech Festival at Fusionopolis.
Twenty-three financial institutions opened their fintech labs and innovation centres to visitors during the FinTech Festival at Fusionopolis.PHOTO: ST FILE

Strategy 3: Strengthen enterprise capabilities to innovate, scale up

A stronger intellectual property regime, a more vibrant start-up ecosystem and a wider variety of fundraising options for high-growth companies.

These are some essential ingredients to make Singapore a choice location for innovative companies developing products and solutions for the world, according to the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE).

"Our economy is only as strong and resilient as each of our enterprises can be competitive," the committee noted, adding that this effort requires government agencies, industry and other stakeholders to work together to build an ecosystem for innovation and enterprise growth.

The committee made a number of key recommendations aimed at developing the innovation ecosystem.

First, it suggested that Singapore's intellectual property (IP) regime be strengthened to help enterprises commercialise research findings and IP from research institutions.

 
 

The committee also called for further boosts to the start-up ecosystem by enhancing mentorship, helping to raise the profile of Singapore start-ups and expanding the entrepreneurial pipeline. This means remaining open to entrepreneurial talent from around the world, and facilitating mentorship and networking within the start-up community so that experienced individuals can work with up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

This includes growing the community of IP and commercialisation experts and developing a standardised IP protocol to be adopted by all public agencies and publicly funded research entities - such as the Agency for Science, Technology and Research institutes, autonomous universities and hospitals.

"We are starting from a position of strength. We already have a critical mass of high-tech sectors in Singapore, a vibrant start-up and financing ecosystem, world-renowned universities and research institutions, and a strong global pool of research scientists and engineers," the report noted.

The committee also called for further boosts to the start-up ecosystem by enhancing mentorship, helping to raise the profile of Singapore start-ups and expanding the entrepreneurial pipeline.

This means remaining open to entrepreneurial talent from around the world, and facilitating mentorship and networking within the start-up community so that experienced individuals can work with up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

Ultimately, Singapore needs to be more open to change and risk-taking in order to survive in a world where disruption has become the norm, said Trade and Industry (Industry) Minister S. Iswaran.

Mr Iswaran, co-chairman of the CFE, added that the Government, enterprises and individuals cannot become "ossified in their position". "We must be prepared to learn from (failure), learn to fail fast, fail smart and recalibrate," he said.

The CFE also made recommendations aimed at helping companies to scale up. These included a call for deeper collaboration between large and small enterprises, for instance, through corporate venture funds.

The panel also suggested that high-growth enterprises receive more dedicated and customised help when venturing abroad, as well as more support for raising capital.

"For enterprises based here to scale up, more smart and patient growth capital - long-term capital which brings along ideas and expertise - is needed," the report said.

"We should encourage a variety of private-sector funding sources, including banks, venture capital funds and private equity funds. Where appropriate, the Government can partner these funds to invest for growth."

 

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A simpler regulatory framework for venture capital firms would help boost the ecosystem here, the committee said, adding that the Government should look into encouraging more private equity firms to invest growth capital in Singapore-based companies looking to regionalise.

The committee suggested a private market platform for Asian enterprises to access financing from a wider network of investors.

It also said that the Government should permit dual-class share structures for listed companies, while instituting safeguards to promote market transparency and mitigate governance risks.

The sum of all these efforts should create a "strong base of globally competitive enterprises", which will in turn "support our economy to grow and create good jobs".

An integrated ecosystem supporting innovative growth companies from the start-up phase to late-stage growth is critical in strengthening the capital market, said Dr Steven Fang, chief executive of CapBridge, an online platform that allows companies to raise capital from a global pool of investors.

"While ample funding for early-stage start-ups is important, it is equally critical to have funds for late-stage enterprises, and here is where we see the gap," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2017, with the headline 'Boost IP regime, start-up ecosystem and fund-raising options'. Print Edition | Subscribe