P&G taps Asian start-ups to solve industry challenges

Three-day virtual innovation festival launched; 27 firms shortlisted to showcase their technology solutions

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat interacting with guests during the launch of iLab 2021, a virtual innovation festival organised by American consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble in partnership with the Economic Development Board.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat interacting with guests during the launch of iLab 2021, a virtual innovation festival organised by American consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble in partnership with the Economic Development Board.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Singapore is committed to investing in innovation and research and development as it must adapt even faster in a complex post-pandemic world, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.

He was speaking at the launch of iLab 2021, a three-day virtual innovation festival organised by American consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) in partnership with the Economic Development Board (EDB).

"How well we can innovate will determine whether we can emerge stronger in a post-Covid-19 world. This is why innovation is a key pillar of our economic transformation," he said.

The innovation festival brings together local and regional start-ups to develop technology solutions for P&G to tackle challenges in advertising, retail and supply chain.

Some 100 start-ups were assessed before the festival and the top 27 were shortlisted to showcase their technology solutions.

"Singapore is home to one of the strongest and most vibrant innovation ecosystems in the region, with a diverse pool of talent constantly striving for new ideas and solutions to solve future challenges," said Mr Magesvaran Suranjan, P&G president for the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa.

He said the company wants to leverage Singapore as the innovation hub for the firm and the industry, leading digital transformation and powering innovation across all aspects of its business.

DPM Heng said the Government is also redoubling its efforts to strengthen the start-up ecosystem here, with a move last year to enhance mentorship, funding and support for budding entrepreneurs.

"We are growing the momentum of corporate venturing in Singapore. EDB is partnering large corporates to create new ventures by deploying experienced officers to co-develop new ideas and providing risk-sharing capital," he said.

Singapore is investing $25 billion in research, innovation and enterprise over the next five years. This will go towards initiatives such as growing a scientific base that firms can tap, investing in growth areas like the digital economy and better aligning research and development with industry transformation efforts.

"All these are part of our efforts to build Singapore as a global Asia node of innovation, technology and enterprise," Mr Heng said.

"In the last few decades, the Asian region has grown significantly and therefore Singapore is very well positioned to be... linking the world to Asia and Asia to the world.

"I also believe that technology, innovation and enterprise will be the future - to not only solve many of the major challenges that the world is facing, but also to ensure that we can continue to achieve sustainable economic development."

US charge d'affaires Rafik Mansour said in an opening address: "Just as we have done for more than half a century now, the United States will continue working with Singapore to strengthen our mutual economic interests and people-to-people ties."

He encouraged participating entrepreneurs in the festival to expand beyond their borders and look to open markets like the US.

One of the start-ups chosen for the festival was AiChat, which offers a chatbot powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to answer consumers' questions and educate them about products.

Co-founder and chief executive Kester Poh said: "This reduces manpower and also drives the return on investment for the firms in their marketing and sales efforts."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2021, with the headline 'P&G taps Asian start-ups to solve industry challenges'. Subscribe