Committed to actively contribute to Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative, the National University of Singapore (NUS) has launched the innovation4.0 (i4.0) building on Tuesday (Sept 4). This six-storey building is the home of the NUS Smart Nation Research Cluster, where 12 interdisciplinary research entities including artificial intelligence, data science, and analytics are housed.
In a press release, NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye said that the inauguration of innovation4.0 marks the consolidation and further expansion of NUS’ digital innovation activities. This state-of-the-art building not only houses the key R&D initiatives in the NUS Smart Nation Research Cluster, but also the entire value chain needed to bring innovations and solutions from the lab to the market. He expected that the new facility will be become a thriving ecosystem that encourages collaboration and synergy.
In conjunction with the launch of i4.0, Minister for Finance and Chairman of the National Research Foundation Heng Swee Keat announced a new initiative called the NUS Graduate Research Innovation Programme (GRIP). The programme aims to tap on the university’s top graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and research staff to develop and run high potential startups based on deep technologies. NUS will spend as much as $25 million funds to co-create up to 250 companies over the next five years.
Prof Tan said, “NUS is highly regarded for our cutting-edge research. Today, we are making an unprecedented commitment to accelerate the movement of our scientific breakthroughs out of the lab and into the market in a concerted manner, so that we can fully unlock the economic and social benefits of NUS’ inventions and discoveries.”
Expecting to award up to 50 projects each year, GRIP will provide successful candidates an intensive three-month business validation and venture creation programme. They will work alongside seasoned tech company veterans to develop an operational business model, IP licensing and development plan, and go-to-market strategies for their startup ideas. Each project will be supported by supported by a team of experienced staff to help the inventors design and build their first prototypes. The inventors will also have access to valuable market information to identify their first markets.
Within three to six months after being selected, and after going through the venture creation process, the team will be evaluated by a panel for the first tranche of investment of S$50,000. This early investment will enable the startup to continue engaging with its mentors and further develop its prototype. When the startup subsequently receives a further external investment or innovation grant, the second tranche of S$50,000 will then be invested by NUS. As part of the programme, NUS will also be providing project management advice, prototyping services, as well as lab facilities to speed up the venture creation process.
Prof Tan elaborated, “Mentorship and funding are crucial for early-stage startups. NUS GRIP aims to guide and support our talented graduate students and researchers as they kick-start their ventures. We hope to create a strong pipeline of research-based technology companies that will introduce innovative applications and technologies to Singapore and the global markets. Each of these tech-based startups would create innovation-based jobs, benefitting the Singapore economy in the long run.”
The first call for startup ideas was made in August 2018, and the selection process is currently on-going. The inaugural batch of 25 NUS GRIP participants is expected to be selected by October 2018.