New scheme to help S'pore firms expand in South Korea

Singapore tech start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) now have greater access to business and partnership opportunities in South Korea, with the launch of a new market access programme in Seoul.

The programme, Rainmaking Expand Korea, was launched yesterday at an event held at JustCo Tower in Seoul as part of the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (Switch).

The partnership between government agency Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and global corporate innovation firm Rainmaking is intended to help Singapore firms expand and grow in South Korea.

Speaking at the launch yesterday, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng noted that the programme will provide further impetus for partnerships between firms in Singapore and South Korea.

Some Singapore firms have already made their way into South Korea, he said, citing rental e-scooter company Neuron Mobility and robotic solutions provider Senserbot as successful examples.

Singapore start-ups and SMEs that forge partnerships through Rainmaking Expand Korea can receive funding for the development of solutions, said Dr Tan, who is also Second Minister for Trade and Industry. This would be done through joint innovation calls by the current partnership between ESG and the Korea Institute for Advancement of Technology under the Eureka network.

Eureka is an intergovernmental network - which Singapore is a part of - that supports international cooperation in research and development.

Dr Tan said that Rainmaking Expand Korea complements the existing K-Startup Centre, which was launched by South Korea's Ministry of SMEs and Start-ups in July last year and supported by ESG. Thirteen South Korean start-ups have been set up in the Republic since the centre's launch last year.

Yesterday, Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo spoke virtually about Singapore's artificial intelligence (AI) strategy at Switch, which is being held in conjunction with the Singapore Fintech Festival until tomorrow.

Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that Singapore would set aside an additional $180 million to accelerate AI research, on top of the $500 million it has committed so far. He also launched two new public AI programmes targeted at the finance industry and government sector.

In her speech, Mrs Teo outlined how the Republic has been preparing for a future driven by AI, in particular, through its efforts to strengthen partnerships, education and training, the use of data and AI governance.

One key focus of Singapore's national AI strategy has been to strengthen partnerships among the Government, academia and industry, she said.

To this end, many test-bed sites and regulatory sandboxes have been set up to test and refine new AI technologies in a safe environment. One example is the Centre for Healthcare Innovation Start-up Enterprise Link, where technologies like medical imaging and clinical risk scoring solutions are tested.

Mrs Teo, who is also Minister-in-charge of Smart Nation and Cybersecurity, pointed out that as AI becomes more pervasive, its impact on Singaporeans' lives will increase. She stressed the need for the safe and ethical use of AI systems. "We must strengthen business and consumer trust, which will in turn spur AI innovation, allowing Singapore to tap the immense potential of AI," she said.

This is done through the promotion of guidelines and best practices which provide practical steps that organisations can take to deploy AI systems more responsibly, as well as the recommendation of technical tools which organisations can use to ensure that their AI systems are fair and ethical, the minister added.

An AI governance testing framework and technical tools are also under development to help owners and developers be more transparent about their solutions, Mrs Teo said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2021, with the headline New scheme to help S'pore firms expand in South Korea. Subscribe