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National Research Foundation launches S$40 million fund to nurture local tech start-ups

Zafirah Salim | Sept. 23, 2015
Called the third Early Stage Venture Fund (ESVFIII), it will help catalyse the growth of high-tech innovative companies through government co-investments with large local enterprises from the private sector.

National Research Foundation (NRF) launched on Monday (Sept 21) the third Early Stage Venture Fund, also known as ESVFIII, to catalyse the establishment of corporate venture funds by large local enterprises (LLEs).

This was announced at Techventure 2015, a two-day international tech startup and investor event held in Singapore from Sept 21 to 22. Now into its 19th edition, Techventure 2015 serves as a platform for global venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and startup founders to meet, network and build business partnerships.

Delivering his opening address at the event, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources and Minister-in-charge of Smart Nation said that this fund will catalyse the growth of high-tech innovative companies through government co-investments with private sector LLEs. This facilitates the development of technology ecosystems, where smaller companies grow around a core of larger companies.

It also serves as a way for LLEs to remain competitive and renew their technology base by accessing new technologies being developed and prototyped through the smaller startups around them in the ecosystem, he added.

In turn, investee companies can leverage the organisational resources of its corporate partner to overcome barriers to commercialisation, and access networks and expertise to go global.

S$40 million has been set aside for this scheme, and an open call inviting applications from eligible LLEs is expected in October 2015. Selected corporate venture funds with good proposals on how they can grow the local tech ecosystem will be awarded by the end of March 2016.

"The point here is our LLEs need to refresh themselves and stay up-to-date and find new opportunities. One good way for them to do so will be in supporting startups clustered in a local ecosystem, which will be a win-win situation for both entities," said Dr Balakrishnan.

He also announced the formation of LUX Photonics Consortium, which is established in partnership with Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and seven other research laboratories and companies.

According to Dr Balakrishnan, the consortium seeks to encourage stronger collaborations between institutes of higher learning and the industry in developing applications, as well as act as a link with the global photonics network. The photonics research will include developing ultra-fast Internet through new fibre-optic cables or electronic circuits powered by light instead of electricity.

Lastly, he talked about the launch of a joint test-bedding initiative between Singapore and the United Kingdom. With the support of partner agencies like SPRING Singapore, Intellectual Property Intermediary (IPI), NRF, JTC, as well as Innovate UK and the British High Commission, SMEs from both countries can collaborate and carry out test-bedding and technology demonstration in areas such as mobility and urban sustainability.


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