Singapore government agencies commit S$40m to National Innovation Challenges

ENTERPRISE Singapore (ESG), the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) have dedicated S$40 million in funding to National Innovation Challenges (NICs).

The NICs were announced by Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in the Fortitude Budget. They aim to create cross-industry collaborations to co-innovate and tackle immediate needs for safe reopening amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The three government agencies launched a series of seven NICs on Wednesday, in a bid to accelerate innovation efforts and help enterprises develop solutions to overcome challenges in a post-Covid-19 world.

Each challenge is allocated up to S$2 million in funding to ramp up the development and adoption of these solutions, according to a joint statement from the three agencies.

The NICs will "catalyse" partnerships by providing a platform for enterprises, government agencies, research institutions, institutes of higher learning as well as trade associations and chambers to team up.

Through the platform, companies and government agencies will be able to gain access to a diverse pool of small and medium enterprises with new solutions which can be applied across industries.

Meanwhile, solution providers can innovate and create solutions that are catered to industry demands. Participation from trade associations and chambers, as well as end-users like companies and government agencies, will help ensure the solutions are practical and industry-relevant.

Companies will also get opportunities to tap the latest research from research institutions and institutes of higher learning, ensuring academic ideas are grounded in industry relevance and experience, the statement said.

"In an increasingly complex and uncertain world, our ability to work together and innovate will give us an edge in seeking opportunities at home and abroad. Our strengths at home will enable us to contribute to the global community," said Mr Heng of the NICs in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

The new series of NICs will host seven challenge statements, with three statements addressing higher accuracy of shipping container inspections, more productive tracking and tracing of cargo and increasing productivity through artificial intelligence.

These three statements were launched in conjunction with the Trade and Connectivity Challenge on Wednesday. The Trade and Connectivity Challenge is an open innovation call connecting corporates and startups to co-innovate solutions which accelerate the development and adoption of technology across the transport and logistics supply chain.

The remaining four challenge statements will be hosted on IMDA's Open Innovation Platform. They seek to address challenges across sectors from tourism, the MICE sector, to construction.

All NIC challenges will be hosted on the Open Innovation Network, a national gateway to all open innovation challenges and activities in Singapore.

ESG chairman Peter Ong said the NICs will offer innovative enterprises opportunities to work with potential customers to test novel solutions.

"This will help them build up their track record and scale their solutions to grow both in Singapore and overseas," he said. 

IMDA chief executive Lew Chuen Hong said: "With the NICs, the government is taking an additional step in committing resources and prioritising the deployment and adoption of successful pilots across industry sectors."

The next batch of NICs is expected to launch in the fourth quarter, said ESG, IMDA and NRF.