Innovation challenges launched to create solutions for post-virus era

The seven National Innovation Challenges seek to catalyse partnerships across the economy and foster innovation opportunities.
The seven National Innovation Challenges seek to catalyse partnerships across the economy and foster innovation opportunities.PHOTO: ST FILE

Solutions envisioned in a post-Covid-19 world include better tracking and tracing of cargo, tapping an augmented virtual reality platform to create new tourism experiences and pioneering a system that can ensure a safe work environment for the construction industry.

A call for such solutions has been launched, with $40 million set aside for National Innovation Challenges (NICs), initiatives meant to accelerate innovation efforts and help enterprises develop them.

Seven challenges across five sectors - transport and logistics; built environment; meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice); tourism; and the maritime industry - were unveiled by government agencies Enterprise Singapore (ESG), the Infocomm Media Development Authority and the National Research Foundation Singapore yesterday.

They are aimed at accelerating industry-led innovation calls to help firms build resilience and emerge stronger in the post-Covid-19 era.

Three challenge statements, which are also part of ESG's Trade and Connectivity Challenge 2020, address the need for higher accuracy of shipping container inspections, tackle the issue of more productive tracking and tracing of cargo, and seek to increase productivity through artificial intelligence.

The other four aim to position Singapore as a safe place to conduct business both locally and internationally, while helping to revive the events and construction sectors after the coronavirus outbreak.

The cross-industry collaborations will tackle the immediate need for safe reopening after the pandemic and also address mid-and long-term sectoral challenges to help firms emerge stronger after the crisis, the agencies said.

The next round of challenges is expected to launch in the fourth quarter, with up to $2 million in funding allocated for each challenge.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who announced the series of challenges during the Fortitude Budget in May, said in a Facebook post yesterday: "Through these efforts, we also hope to build a stronger culture of innovation here in Singapore - among individuals, companies, trade associations, research and academic institutions and the Government.

"In an increasingly complex and uncertain world, our ability to work together and innovate will give us an edge in seeking opportunities at home and abroad. Our strengths at home will enable us to contribute to the global community."

ESG's Trade and Connectivity Challenge 2020, which was also launched yesterday, has drawn participation from 13 corporations and organisations looking for innovative solutions to strengthen supply chain processes and ensure business continuity.

 
 

Start-ups and firms will work on 28 challenge statements focusing primarily on solutions that leverage big data analytics, automation, sustainability and post-Covid-19 efforts. The challenge statements are divided into two tracks - industry-specific and enterprise-level issues.

Of these, three of them are under the industry track, which is new to this year's challenge and invites corporates and trade associations and chambers to explore solutions that have the potential to be scaled for sector-wide applications. These challenges, championed by the Container Depot and Logistics Association Singapore, ground-handling firm Sats and supply chain player YCH Group, are part of the NICs.

For the 25 other challenges, under the enterprise track, shortlisted start-ups will be able to trial and assess the effectiveness of solutions via paid trials with corporates.

Among the challenges is one from local car rental company Lumens Auto, which is looking for technology-enabled solutions to reduce accident rates among drivers.

The prize pool for the enterprise track has been doubled to $100,000, with the winning start-up receiving $30,000 and a fast track to start-up competition Slingshot 2020.

The call for entries under the enterprise track ends on Sept 15, while industry track submissions close on Oct 1. Applications can be submitted at https://tradeandconnectivity.innovation-challenge.sg/

In last year's inaugural challenge, six corporates put out problem statements on themes like blockchain, drawing submissions from around 50 local and overseas entities.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2020, with the headline 'Innovation challenges launched to create solutions for post-virus era'. Subscribe