Discover Enterprise Singapore with Sophia Ng

Discover Enterprise Singapore with Sophia Ng

About Enterprise Singapore

How would you describe Enterprise Singapore and its main objectives?

Enterprise Singapore is an economic agency under Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry. Our key role is to champion enterprise development and help companies build capabilities, innovate, and go global. We do so in many ways, including by building a robust infrastructure as a leading global trade hub and leveraging quality & standards to build trust in Singapore’s businesses. Importantly, we drive the growth of Singapore’s innovation and tech startup ecosystem to anchor innovation activities. Not only does this help to make our companies more competitive, but it also positions us well to catalyze the development of disruptive solutions that can be a force of good to create a global impact.

Singapore’s Deep Tech Ecosystem

What makes Singapore one of the most attractive deep tech ecosystems for startups?

Singapore’s deep tech ecosystem stands out due to its unique blend of vibrancy and diversity, attracting global talent and fostering collaborative innovation. At the heart of our success is an understanding of the necessities for deep tech startups to grow. We are devoted to creating an environment that nurtures growth through strategic and smart investments in deep scientific research and commercial pathways.

Our ecosystem is supported by world-class research institutions such as A*STAR and boasts a significant talent pool of close to 40,000 research scientists and engineers. This foundational strength is augmented by a dynamic commercial landscape. We are home to about 7,000 multinational corporations including giants like Engie, Cargill, and Shell, many of which have established innovation hubs here to co-innovate with startups. This synergy between research and commercial sectors ensures startups have unparalleled access to talent, cutting-edge infrastructure, and venture support, enabling a seamless transition from lab discoveries to market solutions. 

Furthermore, the ecosystem’s attractiveness is enhanced by the influx of international venture builders and investors, such as Accelerator Life Science Partners and Polaris Partners, choosing Singapore as their base. This not only adds to the diversity and vibrancy of our ecosystem but also enhances our collective knowledge and resources, contributing to an evolving and maturing landscape.

I am thrilled about the future, witnessing how each new partner and startup enriches our ecosystem, bringing in fresh perspectives and driving us toward new heights of innovation.

What does the investment landscape look like in Singapore and what are the latest trends you’re witnessing?

Over the last decade, venture investment has grown significantly to US$10.9 billion in 2022 across more than 400 venture capital firms. However, the continued funding winter caused by macroeconomic headwinds has impacted the fundraising landscape. The region and Singapore are not spared. We saw a decline in both deal flow and volume in the first nine months of 2023. Yet, we have weathered the storm fairly well, and our fundamentals as a leading startup hub in the region have helped to cushion the impact on our ecosystem.

Singapore remains the top destination for venture capital investment in Southeast Asia, accounting for over 60% of the total deal value recorded in six of the largest economies in the region. We are seeing bright spots in deep tech sectors such as HealthTech, GreenTech, and AgriTech which have bucked the overall funding slowdown trend. The deal volume of HealthTech and GreenTech more than doubled year-on-year. In particular, GreenTech saw the most traction for green tech enterprises with hardware capabilities in renewable energy, waste management and battery services attracting investments.

How does Singapore’s commitment to sustainability and green technology present opportunities for growth and innovation within the local market?

Singapore Green Plan 2030 underscores our commitment to sustainability and signals strong support for innovation and entrepreneurship in the green tech space, offering a conducive environment for startups to thrive and contribute to our nation’s sustainability goals. The plan’s emphasis on sustainable development in urban areas offers a canvas for startups focusing on designing and deploying solutions that can significantly impact urban living, energy consumption, and environmental footprints.

Initiatives like the Sustainability Open Innovation Challenge serve as pivotal platforms for bridging demand drivers with SMEs and startups.  Since its launch in 2020, the challenge has brought together industry partners and creative innovators to co-develop sustainable solutions in key areas such as sustainable materials, packaging, and zero-waste. The challenge has brought in 66 unique demand drivers, and 96 challenge statements and received over 1,600 proposals around the world to spur innovation in the sustainability space.

What about the rest of South-East Asia? What are the opportunities and how to address them?

Southeast Asia is a region ripe with opportunities driven by key trends, including urbanization necessitating smart city solutions, especially in waste reduction and energy efficiency; the region’s growing focus on sustainability driving demand for GreenTech and renewable energy solutions to address environmental concerns; and diverse healthcare needs presenting opportunities to improve access and quality through AI-driven diagnostics and personalized medicine.

Singapore is well-positioned to support startups in seizing these opportunities due to our strong connectivity with ASEAN markets, world-class research infrastructure, and technical talent pool. For example, Forte Biotech, an AgriTech startup that empowers prawn farmers with sustainable solutions to prawn farming and food security, set up in Singapore to take advantage of Singapore’s stable supply chain and state-of-the-art research laboratories to conduct research and product iterations. With their research team anchored in Singapore, Forte Biotech developed their proprietary disease surveillance kits which were primarily tested and deployed in Vietnam. Mobility startup, nuTonomy (now Motional) also chose to establish operations in Singapore as our ecosystem offered a suitable testbed for their autonomous vehicle technology.

What are the current challenges faced by deep tech startups in Singapore?

Deep tech startups in Singapore face inherent challenges common to the sector worldwide, including the need for long development times, substantial and patient capital, and a blend of advanced scientific and business expertise. Addressing these, Singapore is actively enhancing its ecosystem to support these startups by attracting top talents and investing in impactful technologies. EnterpriseSG’s partnerships with venture builders like Xora Innovation are key to offering startups crucial guidance, access to networks, and domain expertise. These efforts aim to shorten startups’ path to market and increase their chances of success, reinforcing Singapore’s position as a dynamic hub for deep tech innovation.

Share with us one of the most successful deep tech startups from the region.

MiRXES is a Singapore-based biotech startup that has pioneered breakthroughs in the field of RNA technology, particularly in the early detection of cancer. Founded in 2014 as a spin-off from Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR), MiRXES has developed innovative diagnostic solutions that leverage the power of RNA to provide early, actionable, and personalized diagnoses across the care continuum. Its flagship product, GASTROClear, a microRNA blood test for early gastric cancer detection, is available in six key Asia Pacific markets and in August last year, attained Breakthrough Device Designation from the US FDA, making them a first mover in that space for cancer testing. Since inception, they have raised US$170 million and are on their journey towards IPO last year.

Could you share how Enterprise Singapore facilitates international market entry and innovation activities for local companies?

EnterpriseSG supports local companies in international market entry and innovation through a global network spanning 37 overseas centers in 23 countries. Leveraging partnerships with world-leading innovation hubs, we provide Singapore enterprises with crucial market access. The Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) plays a key role in facilitating both inbound and outbound opportunities for innovative startups, including co-innovation projects and integration into global R&D networks like the EUREKA network, which connects over 45 countries.

GIA acceleration programs offer startup workshops, mentorship, and networking opportunities with potential clients and partners in major innovation centers. Over 500 startups and companies, including in deep tech, have benefited, with notable successes like Engine Biosciences expanding into the US and engaging with pharmaceutical giants.

Beyond fostering innovation networks, we also facilitate community engagement and deal-making in the global innovation ecosystem through events like the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SWITCH). Last year, SWITCH gathered 15,000 startups, entrepreneurs, investors, corporates, and public sector leaders to explore trends and opportunities in deep tech. Be sure to mark your calendar to join us at SWITCH happening 28-30 October 2024 in Singapore.

The event, alongside the SLINGSHOT deep tech startup competition, offers plenty of networking and partnership opportunities. With SLINGSHOT 2024 underway, we’re inviting founders to showcase their innovations in emerging domains to a global audience of investors and corporates.

Social Media Sharing