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Innovations must be radical to overcome inertia: Steve Leonard, IDA

Zafirah Salim | May 20, 2015
The concept of innovation in the past refers to original ideas and discoveries, but it has now evolved to one that embodies "existing ideas done in a new way".

"Innovation is not a mythical or magical scenario where if you sit and think, great ideas will pop into our head," said Steve Leonard, Executive Deputy Chairman, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), as he delivered his keynote presentation at the inaugural Startup Capitals 2015.

Held at The Pod, National Library Singapore earlier today, this first edition of the Startup Capitals is a thought-leadership conference that celebrates the innovation and startup ecosystem of cities that are making a mark on the world map.

Speaking to various stakeholders in a startup ecosystem at the conference, Leonard said that the road to innovation is essentially built on three pillars: policy, business and technology.

Describing IDA as the "CIO of the [Singapore] government", he said that the agency has implemented several initiatives to help spur innovation.

One such initiative is the TV White Space, effective since November 2014, which aims to facilitate the deployment of the technology and ease demand for more bandwidth amid a growing number of mobile and online users.

Leonard added that setting standards are also critical in policy-making: "If we don't have some common set of standards, it's difficult to innovate. Without some sense of commonality, interoperability will be a big challenge."  

Meanwhile, an example of a business-focused initiative that IDA has launched is Accreditation@IDA. This scheme is designed to accredit promising and innovative Singapore-based technology product start-ups to establish credentials and position them as qualified contenders to enterprise buyers, including the Government.

According to Leonard, this IDA effort serves as a platform to give companies that are "getting off the ground" a little boost to gain more visibility.

Under the technology umbrella, one obvious initiative that IDA has been working on is the Smart Nation platform, which suggests that "everything and everyone should be connected everywhere all the time," said Leonard.

As Singapore moves towards becoming a Smart Nation, IDA is placing a greater emphasis on fostering a culture of creating and building. This culture will encourage Singaporeans and Singapore-based info-technology companies to experiment, collaborate and build new and innovative products and solutions that can help address real world challenges.

The IDA Labs provide physical lab spaces for individuals, companies and government agencies to collaborate; and enables them to work on areas such as generating new ideas, developing new technologies and testing out proof of concepts.

"The IDA Labs is a place where we build something and see if it work and it serves as a good learning point for ourselves," said Leonard. "The innovation message we are trying to convey is this: Things don't always work the first time round. Keep experimenting and find out what didn't go right. If we fail, try again and try it differently this time round."   


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