SGInnovate to invest in 20 deep-tech startups

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam with NUS Entrepreneurship Centre director Wong Poh Kam, who is also a professor at NUS Business School, and other SGInnovate partners at the launch of SGInnovate last year. SGInnovate will manage a part of
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam with NUS Entrepreneurship Centre director Wong Poh Kam, who is also a professor at NUS Business School, and other SGInnovate partners at the launch of SGInnovate last year. SGInnovate will manage a part of the $200-million Start-up SG Equity fund as well. This involves co-investing in deep-tech start-ups alongside venture capital firms.ST FILE PHOTO

Focus will be on areas such as AI, blockchain and medtech

A government-owned innovation platform will invest millions of dollars in a range of start-ups working in a field known as deep tech.

SGinnovate, which focuses on tech-intensive, research-driven product companies, will also intensify its efforts in artificial intelligence (AI), which it identified as a transformational technology that will impact most industries.

Deep tech encompasses such technology given that it is based on radical engineering or scientific breakthroughs.

SGinnovate's aims were announced yesterday as part of a new "Deep Tech Nexus" strategy to further strengthen Singapore's deep-tech start-up ecosystem in 2018.

One goal is to make direct investments in at least 20 early-stage, deep-tech start-ups founded here.

SGInnovate will put in up to $100,000 in a pre-seed start-up, $100,000 to $1 million in a seed start-up and over $1 million in a Series A start-up.

The Straits Times understands SGInnovate will invest in firms that are built out of Entrepreneur First (EF), a British-based partner that brings together deep-tech talent and accelerates the building of companies. SGInnovate will also invest in deep-tech firms outside of EF.

SGInnovate will put in up to $100,000 in a pre-seed start-up, $100,000 to $1 million in a seed start-up and over $1 million in a Series A start-up.

SGInnovate, which was set up about a year ago, will manage a part of the $200-million Start-up SG Equity fund as well. This involves co-investing in deep-tech start-ups alongside venture capital firms, including Jungle Ventures and NSI Ventures.

Start-up SG Equity was set up in March and allows the government to co-invest with private sector investors in deep-tech start-ups.

Mr Steve Leonard, founding chief executive of SGInnovate, said the platform enjoys a "unique position" of being a private limited company owned by the government, which allows it to be more "risk on" and invest in deep-tech start-ups, whose solutions typically take longer to be created and commercialised.

"We see ourselves as an inside outsider ... and deep-tech evangelists."

SGInnovate will host deep-tech related networking events for researchers, entrepreneurs and investors to discuss "important future topics" such as AI, blockchain and medtech. The goal is to have 15,000 participants attend more than 150 such events next year

SGInnovate will organise learning programmes with industry leaders in areas such as machine learning, deep learning and data analytics.

It wants to draw 1,500 people to take part in these programmes over the next two years. SGInnovate will also work to expand the deep-tech talent network here, with a goal to connect 2,000 people to start-ups.

SGInnovate has partnered industry players including General Assembly, GIC, IBM, National Supercomputing Centre Singapore, Red Dragon AI and SingularityNET to build AI talent and facilitate start-up access to AI technologies.

SingularityNET is an open marketplace that enables the exchange of AI services.

It will support SGInnovate by providing technical experts for its training sessions and offering AI start-ups early access to its platform.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2017, with the headline 'SGInnovate to invest in 20 deep-tech startups'. Print Edition | Subscribe