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Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at the Inaugural Experience the Power of Innovation and Collaboration (EPIC)

Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at the Inaugural Experience the Power of Innovation and Collaboration (EPIC)

Dr Mark Hon, Chairman, Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE),
Mr Edmas Neo, CEO ACE, 
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. It gives me great pleasure to join you this afternoon at the inaugural Experience the Power of Innovation and Collaboration (EPIC). Today’s event also brings us together to celebrate ACE’s 5th anniversary as a private sector-led organisation driving innovation and entrepreneurship in Singapore. Today, I would like to take this opportunity to not only review what ACE has done, but to also give you a sense of an update of what we have been doing in the entrepreneurship space in the last few years. 

Our startup ecosystem is growing through the efforts of partners such as ACE

2. Why entrepreneurship and why startups? Startups are essential to any vibrant innovation and enterprise ecosystem. Over the years, our startup ecosystem has been growing from strength to strength. Today, Singapore houses more than 4,000 technology startups and over 100 startup enablers such as accelerators and incubators. Singapore has also nurtured some well-known unicorns in Southeast Asia, such as SEA (formerly known as Garena), Razer, Lazada, Grab and Trax. These are all quite well-known names. 

3. The research and innovation community at one-north has contributed to the increasing vibrancy of our startup ecosystem. Today, one-north comprises a 50,000-strong community of leading corporates, startups, enablers, institutes of higher learning (IHLs), research institutes and public institutions such as A*STAR. one-north is set to grow further, with local unicorns Razer and Grab opening their headquarters here next year. 

4. LaunchPad @ one-north is developed by JTC, and supported by Enterprise Singapore, A*STAR, IMDA and NRF. These are all Government agencies that are coming together as a whole-of-government effort to capitalise the development of the startup ecosystem here. This place offers a nurturing environment for early-stage startups to begin their entrepreneurship journey. The first batches of startups that benefitted and graduated from the LaunchPad ecosystem in 2015 include Carousell and MoneySmart. Carousell hosts a consumer-to-consumer mobile marketplace, and MoneySmart manages an online personal finance management portal. Over the years, we have seen more success stories, such as igloohome and KaHa. iglooHome is a smart lock maker and KaHa produces smart wearable devices. Both of these startups secured Series B funding this year. Today, LaunchPad @ one-north is home to a pool of 5,500 entrepreneurial talents from around 800 startups and 50 enablers. 

5. ACE is a key member of the LaunchPad community and the broader startup ecosystem. ACE was founded in 2003 as a public-led organisation to champion entrepreneurship in Singapore. At that time the system was not yet mature, thus the Government had to take the lead to get this going. In 2014, arising from the Entrepreneurship Review Committee’s recommendations, ACE evolved to become a national private-led organisation, supported by Enterprise Singapore. This makes sense as it has to be entrepreneurs leading entrepreneurs in this change, so that it is people with experience working with startups who are leading the rest of the startups to scale and to grow.  

6. Over the years, ACE has been working closely with Enterprise Singapore to catalyse the growth of the startup ecosystem by connecting ecosystems for technologies, funding and talent; helping startups to scale, internationalise; and to facilitate more co-innovation. 

7. This year marks ACE’s 5th anniversary as a national private-led organisation. To-date, ACE has supported more than 2,000 startups through various programmes, engagements, grants and deals, and facilitated more than 200 mentorships through the ACE Mentorship Programme. This is part of Enterprise Singapore’s broader Startup SG umbrella, which provides support for startups and entrepreneurs in areas such as infrastructure, talent and networks. 

8. We need ecosystem enablers such as ACE to continue driving the growth of our startup ecosystem. 

Co-innovation is a win-win approach to grow the startup and broader enterprise ecosystem

9. Growing the startup ecosystem involves not just growing startups, but also facilitating collaborations among startups, and between startups and other organisations such as corporates and IHLs. Collaborating to innovate, i.e. co-innovation, between startups and other organisations offers win-win opportunities for both. Startups get access to new resources and build up their reputation quickly through partnerships with the larger organisations, and the corporates themselves benefit from access to cutting-edge innovative solutions. 

10. This theme of innovation and collaboration is central to today’s event. I hope that many of you can forge meaningful connections during EPIC to spark off possible collaborations for innovation. 

11. To facilitate corporate co-innovation with startups even after today’s EPIC event, I am pleased to announce the launch of ACE’s Innovation Enablers Network (IEN). This is a new network set up by ACE in conjunction with its 5th anniversary, and supported by Enterprise Singapore. The network aims to bring together active innovation enablers in order to aggregate corporate co-innovation opportunities and provide a platform for corporates and startups to drive co-innovation. This complements the Startup SG Network which provides an online listing of deep tech startups, investors, incubators and accelerators. In some ways, what we are trying to do is to enmesh the network further to create more linkages and opportunities for cross-pollination of ideas and for building relationships for conversations to take place as many innovative ideas can spark off from there to become world-winning ideas. 

12. I am glad to see that members of the one-north community have already started co-innovating. Over 65 corporates, such as JCS Group and ST Engineering, have plugged themselves into the startup ecosystem and are co-innovating with the startups to develop new business solutions. For instance, MEMSing Pte Ltd, which is being incubated by JCS Venture Lab, has developed an underwater acoustic sensing module and system for water and oil pipeline leak detection. The startup, which was set up under the Venture Co-Creation (VCC) partnership between JCS and A*ccelerate, utilises A*STAR intellectual property and JCS’ commercialisation and engineering expertise to develop its own capabilities and accelerate its growth.

13. Unlike corporate innovation labs which are based on a particular corporate co-innovating with startups, innovation enablers are different. They are open to working with different corporates to facilitate corporate co-innovation. By forming a network of innovation enablers, the IEN will give a greater boost to this trend towards open co-innovation in LaunchPad and one-north. Besides benefiting startups in their strategic partnerships with corporates, the network will also support the value proposition of Singapore as a global innovation and startup hub. 

14. Organisations such as A*ccelerate, Agorize, Airmaker, KPMG Digital Village, IMDA, ImpacTech, IPI and Padang & Co are innovation enablers that have come on board as founding members of the IEN. I strongly encourage more organisations to join the network to make this network even more connected to hopefully spark off more ideas.

Closing remarks

15. On this note, I would like to once again congratulate ACE on its 5th anniversary and for launching IEN today. I am confident that ACE and its partners will continue to work closely to develop Singapore as a global startup hub. Today’s EPIC event is an important step towards achieving this vision. 

16. Thank you and I wish everyone an EPIC afternoon and an EPIC journey in entrepreneurship going forward.  
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