To give a big push to the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, Singapore is looking at tweaking its existing startup funding regime along with moving large local enterprises (LLEs) to collaborate with high-tech start-ups in 2016.
The Straits Times reported that various funding schemes, currently distributed across various public sector agencies, will be consolidated under the National Research Foundation (NRF). Concurrently, a broader emphasis will be placed on sectors like medical technology and engineering, to support and leverage on the city-state’s traditional Singapore’s strengths in electronics, disk drives and manufacturing.
LLEs are also being encouraged to establish corporate venture units on the lines of US multinationals like Intel Corp.
The NRF has established a fund of S$40 million to support the corporate venture scheme with the NRF matching the investment of local enterprises on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
These ventures will allow LLEs to develop insights into new technologies, in addition to providing managerial support and test-bedding for new products and services devised by startup ventures. These efforts will be able to access financial support from the NRF. Additionally, NRF intends to design a simpler funding framework for various financing schemes to provide greater clarity to entrepreneurs.
An example of one change is the integration of the iJam programme,which provides S$50,000 grant to support interactive digital media projects. This scheme is being rebranded and transferred to the NRF from the Media Development Authority (MDA).
The NRF’s own Technology Incubation Scheme (TIS), which involves working with tech incubators to hot-house start-ups, will also be tweaked and integrated with other funding programmes. To date, with 70 per cent of all startup ventured funded classified as infommunication technology (ICT) ventures, there is a need to diversify and expand into other domains like medical technologies, cleantech and engineering.
Between 2008 and 2015, the NRF invested S$41.3 million in 144 startup ventures. Of these, 58 ventures, which include corporations like iCarsClub and TradeGecko, drew an additional S$315 million in follow-on funding, while 25 firms dissolved due to lack of funds or product failure.
However, concerns have been placed about the ICT sector becoming sidelined in favour of other high-technology industries, despite the positive news. Bill Liu, chairman and managing partner of business incubator Stream Global stated: “ICT products and services are very much enablers of the economy, so they should continue to get support.”