$6m programme launched to fast-track building technology projects

A $6 million accelerator programme was launched yesterday to fast-track development and commercialisation of building technology, especially innovations that do not get past the research stage.

The programme will help firms and innovators find funding and development support to ultimately become real-world projects.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who launched the Built Environment Accelerate to Market Programme at Capital Tower in Robinson Road, said universities have built up expertise in key areas such as materials science and engineering.

But many of these efforts go untapped and never reach the market.

"Imagine we have such a wealth of research capabilities and it is all left in the research institutions, but does not really get translated and bring about benefits to Singaporeans," said Mr Wong. "I think it will be a real pity."

Building and Construction Authority (BCA) chief executive officer Hugh Lim added that some firms have also given feedback that innovation often does not progress beyond the first prototype or pilot phase due to a lack of support for full-scale development.

To solve this, the accelerator programme will help local innovators defray the cost of qualifying projects. Small and medium-sized enterprises will receive up to 70 per cent of the project cost, while larger ones will get half. Projects must address the challenges set out by 14 public agencies and companies in the building industry in order to qualify. They range from smart project management to construction safety.

Enterprise Singapore assistant CEO Eunice Koh said innovators benefit from gaining early access to problem statements that customers are prepared to pay to solve.

Innovators will also be given more opportunities to test-bed or pilot their new solutions in selected buildings and estates, such as some properties owned by JTC Corporation, before they hit the market.

This process is necessary in order to convince building owners and companies that the solutions really work, a BCA spokesman said. During the testing process, regulators like BCA can also spot and address any regulatory issues right away.

"The BuildTech space in Singapore offers great promise for inventors and start-ups, given the ongoing transformation of the sector and the hunger for technology solutions," said the spokesman.

BCA has appointed venture capital firm TNB Accelerator to organise the programme.

The first round of project proposals will close on April 12.

Ng Jun Sen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2019, with the headline '$6m programme launched to fast-track building technology projects'. Print Edition | Subscribe