Republic Poly launches new facility to help start-ups, aims to inspire more students to be entrepreneurs

A lactation pod for breastfeeding mothers designed by Go!Mama, one of the start-ups Republic Poly is actively working with. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Come the end of the year, five lactation pods for breastfeeding mothers will be set up across Sentosa.

It is a pilot test for the pods, which are freestanding booths for breastfeeding mothers to express milk or breastfeed their children in privacy, designed by start-up Go!Mama.

Its co-founder Vivian Lee, 35, said: "For building owners who have structural difficulties and space limitations, it is very hard for them to add a space for lactation facilities.

"They can just call us up and deploy a pod - it's plug and play."

The company is one of 29 start-ups that Republic Polytechnic (RP) is actively working with. Out of these, 14 have taken up office space at a new facility set up by the institution to help support start-ups.

The polytechnic's Entrepreneurial Partnership and Innovation Community (Epic) aims to go beyond being an incubator. It combines spaces for prototyping, co-working and events with mentorship and funding programmes that cater to start-ups, including those that have already been incubated, such as Go!Mama.

RP, which calls Epic an "entrepreneurship ecosystem", said it is open to both students and non-students and brings together aspiring entrepreneurs, start-ups, as well as stakeholders from both the public and private sectors.

At the launch of Epic's premises on Wednesday (Aug 25), Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, the guest of honour, spoke of the ingredients needed for effective entrepreneurship education.

He said: "Innovation is a very disciplined pursuit of excellence, a very deliberate attempt at improving things, and most of the time, it requires a lot of hard work.

"This is one of the defining characteristics that I have seen in RP, which I believe will train the students to have this disciplined pursuit of inquiry."

He added that students need to have a deep sense of purpose that goes beyond themselves.

"Without a deep sense of understanding of the challenges faced by the community or the markets, it is impossible to innovate."

This was a sentiment that Ms Lee shared. She said Go!Mama had interviewed 72 mothers to ascertain the problems faced in breastfeeding.

"The No. 1 problem (the mothers told us) is the lack of information about lactation spaces - mothers don't know where to find a lactation space, they don't know what is provided in the lactation space," she said, adding that the other two co-founders are mothers who breastfed their children as well.

"The second problem is the lack of conducive lactation spaces in the community and workplaces," she added.

"For example, a lot of lactation space is actually linked together with toilets. Mothers are not prepared to use it because it smells like a toilet, while you are trying to feed your baby. It's not hygienic, it's not conducive."

Go!Mama co-founder Vivian Lee briefing Education Minister Chan Chun Sing on Aug 25, 2021. With him are (from left) chairman of Republic Poly's board of governors David Wong, Republic Poly principal/CEO Yeo Li Pheow and Second Minister for Education Maliki Osman. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Ms Lee, who is a married mother of two children aged two and seven, said the pods contain smart technology, such as an app that tells breastfeeding mothers where the nearest pod is. The pods will also use Singpass to verify the mother's identity, and feature automated ultraviolet light disinfection to ensure a clean and safe environment.

Ms Lee added that the firm is currently trying to raise enough to fund operations for six months and manufacture 40 pods for a larger pilot trial.

Alternative sustainable protein supplements firm Altimate Nutrition was another start-up featured at the launch.

Co-founder and RP alumnus John Lee, 20, said Altimate Nutrition decided to venture into creating protein bars based on cricket protein, after he and his fellow co-founder Gavriel Tan, 20, read a United Nations report on food of the future.

The insect has been lauded as an alternative source of protein that is much less resource-intensive than other livestock, such as beef.

Among other start-ups RP has incubated are IT solutions and services company VE Capital Asia and automotive concierge platform Motorist.

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