The National Research Foundation of Singapore (NRF) has awarded a total of S$40 million to four large local enterprises (LLEs) under the third installment of its Early Stage Venture Fund (ESVFIII).
The move aims to encourage LLEs to invest in local technology startups as part of their overall corporate strategy, in hopes of improving their innovation capacity. Meanwhile, it enables startups to scale up by leveraging LLE's mentorship, resources and networks.
ESVF was launched in July 2008 to catalyse venture capital for the high-tech startup sector. Under ESVFIII, NRF is providing S$10 million to each of the four LLEs on a dollar-to-dollar matching basis. The first two rounds of ESVF saw NRF awarding venture capitalists S$50 million a round, also on a matching basis.
The four LLEs are:
- Real estate company CapitaLand, which is looking for startups that focus on design and construction, operations and maintenance, sales and leasing, customer engagement, workplace productivity or smart living solutions. It hopes that working with such startups will help it "develop the real estate of the future, which consists of integrated and interconnected smart buildings as well as seamless online and offline customer experiences," said Ng Kok Siong, Chief Corporate Development Officer of CapitaLand.
- IT infrastructure firm DeClout Limited, which aims to "form long-term partnerships" with disruptive startups in the digital economy, including big data analytics, smart logistics, cyber security and financial technology, said Kelvin Tay, Chief Executive Officer of Corous360 (which is a member of DeClout). The company hopes to "leverage what their chosen startups have developed for their business and bring those innovations to the regional level," added Tay.
- Agribusiness company Wilmar International, which is on the hunt for technologies with the potential to cause a wide disruptive impact on agriculture, food, human and animal health, and industrial biotechnology.
- Supply chain firm YCH Group, which seeks to work with startups in "uberisation" of logistics that maximise utilisation of capital and assets, 3D printing for on-demand production, robotics, big data analytics, and the deployment of fintech for the supply chain industry. So far, it has shortlisted five startups in the areas of drones, Internet of Things and virtualisation of warehouses, said James Ong, Investment Committee Member of YCH Groups' corporate venture arm, Supply Chain Angels (SCA). He added that the chosen startups will not only be mentored by its in-house technology team but also venture capitalist investors and management leaders from listed companies.
Commenting on the ESVFIII, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative, said: "We want LLEs to scan the horizon, identify startups which may have potentially transformative ideas in their industry, test [their innovations], and if it works, they gain. [Ultimately,] we are trying to encourage our own local big boys to partner our local start-ups."
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