Venture investments in deep-tech sector gain traction in Singapore

Commercial buildings in the central business district are illuminated at dusk in Singapore. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Deep tech venture investments are gaining traction in Singapore.

According to a statement by Enterprise Singapore, deep tech investments jumped 25 per cent on-year to $305.2 million (S$416.4 million) across 76 deals from January to September this year. These were investments in advanced manufacturing, urban solutions and sustainability, and healthcare and biomedical sciences.

Deep tech, however, still represents a small fraction – less than 4 per cent of all venture deals made over the same period. Enterprise Singapore attributed this to the lack of lead investors with the expertise and experience to back deep tech startups.

Edwin Chow, Enterprise Singapore’s assistant CEO for Innovation and Enterprise said: “While the numbers are still small, it is encouraging to see emerging VC interest in the deep tech domains. Globally, we see that ageing, wealthier population, as well as urbanisation and climate change will create a growing demand for new, innovative solutions.”

He continued: “We expect to see more deep tech startups being formed – be it through spinouts from our institutes of higher learning or incubators and accelerators – to address these needs. To succeed, they will require more early-stage venture funding.”

Breakdown by deep tech sector

Urban solutions and sustainability startups raised the most capital over the same period at $110.2 million (S$150.4 million), followed by healthcare and biomedical sciences startups at $108.7 million (S$148.3 million), and advanced manufacturing startups at $86.3 million (S$117.8 million).

The urban solutions and sustainability sector saw a significant growth of 56 per cent, mainly due to increasing attention to cleantech and sustainability. Enterprise SG also highlighted rising interest in agri-food tech startups this year, particularly under the government’s push towards developing Singapore into a food and nutrition hub for Asia.

Digital health startups comprised the majority of funds received under the healthcare and biomedical sciences sector, receiving $93 million (S$126.9 million), followed by pharma-biotech and other medtech startups which secured $15.68 million (S$21.4 million) in venture capital.

Beyond deep tech 

Digital tech startups continue to dominate, accounting for 93.2 per cent of the total quantum. In the first nine months of 2019, the number of investments made in digital startups reached 278 deals, up from 145 the previous year.

Fintech startups in particular also crossed the S$1 billion ($0.73 billion) milestone in the first nine months of 2019, growing 69 per cent on-year.

Enterprise Singapore also highlighted growth across various stages of funding.

Early-stage funding almost doubled over the same period to $649.4 million (S$886.1 million) across 304 deals, while growth stage funding rose by 33 per cent to reach $9.2 billion (S$12.5 billion) in 83 deals.

Chow added: “Access to smart financing is essential to support the development of deep tech startups based in Singapore. We will continue to work with partners such as MAS to catalyse more smart monies into startups in deep tech domains. As we develop Singapore into a Global-Asia node for tech, innovation, and enterprise, we need to build on the momentum to capture and catalyse more venture activities here.”

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.