Measures to help tech start-ups market products faster

Initiatives include programme for research scientists and engineers, new intellectual property framework

If the next big thing in tech is being developed here, the Government wants to make sure the start-up behind it can cut short the process of it becoming a viable product.

It announced a slew of measures yesterday meant to help local tech entrepreneurs market their research and products faster.

These include a new incubator that will support start-ups from polytechnic students and alumni, as well as a 10-week programme for research scientists and engineers.

Giving the opening address at the second Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat signalled the continued support for technopreneurial talent here.

"Innovation is driven by people," he said at the start of the three-day tech conference at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

"Even as we bolster institutional support, we will continue to actively develop technopreneurial talent to drive innovation and enterprise."

One new initiative is a polytechnic-centric start-up incubator called Pollinate, which was launched yesterday at Block 71.

Run by Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic, Pollinate will help start-ups commercialise their products and expand their markets. The National Research Foundation (NRF) will be supporting it with a $1 million fund over three years.

Another initiative, the National Lean LaunchPad, is a 10-week programme for scientists and engineers from local universities and polytechnics to learn how to market their academic research into usable, commercial prototypes or products.

The programme is Singapore's extension of Lean LaunchPad, developed in the United States and first brought here in a pilot by the National University of Singapore's entrepreneurship cluster - NUS Enterprise - in 2013.

The NRF is pumping $8 million over five years to support this national effort, which aims to train more than 1,000 participants, and create 300 technologies that can be commercialised.

Previous start-ups that have benefited from NUS Enterprise's pilot include Cardiogenomics, which launched a test kit for coronary artery disease, and WateROAM, which developed a water filtration system that can be quickly set up in disaster relief areas to provide clean water.

There are 22 teams in the first batch. They are from NUS, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore University of Technology and Design and Nanyang Polytechnic.

Professor Wong Poh Kam, the director of NUS Entrepreneurship Centre, said: "By pushing researchers to get out of the lab and talk to potential users and customers, they will better understand users' needs and think from customers' perspective."

He added that doing so will let them have a better chance of commercialising their inventions.

Mr Heng, who is NRF's deputy chairman, also announced a new tie-up between the agency and Temasek Holdings that will work on commercial entities to build and invest in deep technology start-ups in Singapore. More details will be given by the year end, when the initiative is officially launched.

In addition, the Government will make it easier and faster for public agencies to commercialise the work produced by start-ups through a new intellectual property (IP) framework.

A new National IP Protocol will be launched to simplify and standardise the access to the IP generated by public-funded research and development, which would allow such products to be pushed out to the market more quickly.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2017, with the headline 'Measures to help tech start-ups market products faster'. Subscribe