Gearing up for access to advanced tech

Innovation will get a boost from an initiative that will let companies access advanced equipment and training.

Existing public-private partnerships between companies and research institutes will also be expanded.

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) will spearhead the drive, notably through the new Tech Access Initiative. This will involve A*Star providing access to its specialised equipment to companies that use advanced machine tools to create prototypes and test their products.

The list of gear available will be made public by September, and is expected to include advanced equipment such as robotised 3D scanners and high-pressure cold sprays for additive manufacturing.

Existing programmes have also been expanded, such as the Headstart programme.

This lets small and medium-sized enterprises collaborate with A*Star on research, while enjoying royalty-free and exclusive intellectual property licences for 18 months. This was extended to 36 months with effect from yesterday.

An initiative under which A*Star helps local firms improve their use of technology was also expanded, with the agency aiming to help 400 companies in four years.

Ms Tan Ching Ne, digital tax leader for PwC Singapore, noted the importance of public-private partnerships in generating innovation.

She said: "(These) can provide the important thrust to help companies leapfrog into the next level of advancement."

Mr Rohan Pasari, co-founder of education start-up Cialfo, said his firm would consider developing intellectual property with A*Star, as it is looking into capabilities that would be time-consuming to develop in-house.

He added that the extended 36-month licence was very attractive as start-ups can enjoy the monetary benefits for a longer time.

"That is an important consideration for a young tech start-up, both from a cash flow perspective as well as investment attractiveness," he said.

 

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Mr Anthony Chow, chief executive of start-up Igloohome, which develops smart locks, said it "would be great to work with A*Star on some of the more esoteric topics like cryptography and systems security that are core to our technology". However, he added that start-ups are often in a race against time and need to evaluate the commitment for such a partnership.

General manager Adrian Long of V3 Smart Technologies, which makes cloud-based robotic solutions, said it would be helpful to have more access to equipment that can assist with prototyping.

Still, he said he would prefer to have government grants to buy some of the equipment, as working with A*Star would require a commercial arrangement that would affect the ownership of the intellectual property licence.

Lee Xin En

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2017, with the headline 'Gearing up for access to advanced tech'. Print Edition | Subscribe