SGInnovate to invest in 20 start-ups, engage 15,000 participants under new deep tech strategy

CEO Steve Leonard said that over the past year, SGInnovate has met and worked with hundreds of researchers, founders, corporates and investors. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - SGInnovate will invest in at least 20 deep tech start-ups founded in Singapore and have 15,000 participants take part in more than 150 deep-tech events in 2018, the Singapore Government-owned innovation platform said on Wednesday (Nov 29).

SGInnovate, a one-year-old entity that focuses on research-driven technologies, also said that it will intensify its efforts around artificial intelligence (AI), which it identified as a transformational technology that will impact most industries.

Those targets were announced as part of a new "Deep Tech Nexus" strategy to further strengthen Singapore's deep-tech startup ecosystem in the next year.

One goal is to "make direct investments" into at least 20 deep-tech startups that are in the pre-seed, seed or Series A stages, and that are founded in Singapore in 2018.

The Business Times understands that SGInnovate will invest in deep-tech companies that are built out of Entrepreneur First (EF), a UK-headquartered partner of SGInnovate that brings together deep-tech talent and accelerates the building of deep-tech companies. SGInnovate will invest in deep-tech companies outside of EF as well, BT has learnt.

SGInnovate added that it will manage a portion of the S$200-million Startup SG Equity fund - which will see it co-invest in deep-tech startups alongside venture capital firms that include Jungle Ventures and NSI Ventures. Startup SG Equity, a scheme set up in March, allows the government to co-invest with appointed private sector investors in deep-tech or general-tech startups.

As part of "Deep Tech Nexus", SGInnovate will also host deep-tech related networking events for researchers, entrepreneurs and investors to discuss "important future topics" such as AI. The goal is to have 15,000 participants attend more than 150 such events.

SGInnovate will organise learning programmes delivered by industry leaders on areas such as machine learning, deep learning and data analytics. The goal is to have 1,500 people take part in such 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 talent to deep-tech startups.

SGInnovate's new focus on AI will align it with the Singapore government's AI Singapore (AISG) mission to bring together Singapore-based research institutions, AI startups and corporates to grow Singapore's AI capabilities. The Singapore government set up AISG in May and committed up to S$150 million to the initiative.

To boost AI capabilities, SGInnovate said that it has partnered industry players including General Assembly, GIC, IBM, National Supercomputing Centre Singapore,, NVIDIA, Red Dragon AI and SingularityNET to train AI talent and facilitate startups' access to AI technologies.

Steve Leonard, founding chief executive officer of SGInnovate, said: "SGInnovate was formed in 2016 because we believe Singapore can create globally-relevant deep tech products and companies. Singapore has great strengths in academia and scientific research, but we saw a gap in the critical 'business-building' capabilities needed to create a viable deep tech company.

"Over the past year, we have met and worked with hundreds of researchers, founders, corporates and investors. Being so immersed in the deep tech founder community has given us a rich understanding of the specific challenges facing these entrepreneurs. Tackling these challenges gives our second year of operation great clarity and focus - and this has led to our 'Deep Tech Nexus' strategy."

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