Deep-tech sector needs more talent, effort: Heng

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat (centre) at SGInnovate's second anniversary celebration yesterday with (from left) board member Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara, CEO Steve Leonard, chairman Yong Ying-I and board member Jean-Luc Butel.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat (centre) at SGInnovate's second anniversary celebration yesterday with (from left) board member Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara, CEO Steve Leonard, chairman Yong Ying-I and board member Jean-Luc Butel.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SGInnovate ramps up investments, apprenticeship opportunities for students

More talent and effort are needed to grow the deep-tech industry in Singapore, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.

He was speaking at a ceremony to mark the second anniversary of SGInnovate, a company that aims to grow entrepreneurs in the sector. It has invested in 45 start-ups, grown a 23,000-strong community focused on deep tech, or cutting-edge technology, and holds about 100 events a year.

Mr Heng said: "Deep-tech start-ups can be a powerful engine of innovation, either on their own, or in collaboration with large corporates in open innovation platforms.

"A vibrant innovation and enterprise ecosystem enables deep-tech innovations to be quickly brought to market, and scaled across markets globally. Enterprises can tap the R&D done here in Singapore, but also in other countries, to innovate and serve markets in Singapore and abroad."

The deep-tech industry here has to grow by having strong collaboration between local and global stakeholders, smart capital and by nurturing more talent, Mr Heng added.

To this end, SGInnovate founding chief executive Steve Leonard said the organisation would be making new investments and creating apprenticeship opportunities for students.

It will set aside places in its Summation Programme for students from National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University and Singapore University of Technology and Design.

BUILDING TALENT POOL

We have built up a sizeable pool of research scientists and engineers. In the coming years, we aim to grow more talent to translate our R&D ideas to marketable products and services. ''

FINANCE MINISTER HENG SWEE KEAT, on turning ideas into marketable products.

This programme for local and foreign university students features a three-to six-month internship with deep-tech companies.

There are around 20 to 30 places in each cohort. It started its first run in March.

So far, 23 students have benefited from the programme.

Around 100 students have submitted applications for the third round of the programme.

Mr Heng added that talent is key in enabling innovation: "We have built up a sizeable pool of research scientists and engineers. In the coming years, we aim to grow more talent to translate our R&D ideas to marketable products and services."

The talent Singapore needs includes visionary start-up founders, skilled technologists with a deep knowledge of the science in their fields of expertise and technology leaders well versed in both business and technology.

Mr Heng said SGInnovate is looking to "create more opportunities for these talents to converge".

He said: "With this convergence of minds, I hope many more creative ideas can be turned into innovative products and services, and deep-tech start-ups from Singapore can scale and succeed in global markets."

Mr Leonard noted that the company is investing in three deep-tech start-ups that are working on "difficult and important problems".

Horizon Quantum Computing is developing new generations of tools to help software engineers build quantum-enhanced applications, while Involt is devising new energy storage cells to help reduce carbon footprint.

Portcast is building digital solutions for the logistics industry to help companies better predict global cargo flows to set prices dynamically and use their assets more efficiently.

Mr Heng said: "We are on the right path, but there is always more that we can do. I look forward to seeing many more start-ups in Singapore succeed and create a positive momentum for our efforts ahead."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2018, with the headline 'Deep-tech sector needs more talent, effort: Heng'. Print Edition | Subscribe