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Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at MTI's Committee of Supply 2020 on Second Supplementary Estimates

Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at MTI's Committee of Supply 2020 on Second Supplementary Estimates

1. Mr Chairman, startups play an important role in our economy. They contribute to the development of new technologies and the rejuvenation of traditional industries.

Strengthening the Innovation Ecosystem: Startups

2.  We have set aside $285 million in the Fortitude Budget to provide financing support for promising startups. Ms Anthea Ong asked why our startups need more help and how we intend to identify the promising ones. The keyword here is ‘promising’.

3. Startups, especially those that work on cutting-edge technologies, need to be nurtured with long-term patient capital.  COVID-19 has sharply curtailed the availability of such capital.  The Special Situation Fund for Startups is intended to fill the gap.  Other countries like the UK and France have introduced similar measures. 

4. Without help from Government, many high potential startups will likely scale back their innovation activities or even cease prematurely. This will be a loss to Singapore and would certainly have a detrimental impact on Singapore’s innovation ecosystem, which we have painstakingly built over the years. By helping promising startups sustain their growth momentum, we want to maintain the vibrancy of our ecosystem, and maximise the value of our innovation-related investments.

5. To impose market discipline, the scheme will operate on a co-investment basis with private sector investors that have expertise in assessing the value and viability of startups. This will also help “crowd in” more private capital. The co-investors can also offer industry insights, networks, and mentorships to help our startups succeed.

Conclusion

6.  Mr Chairman, the COVID-19 pandemic presents many immediate challenges. But even as we address the immediate concerns, we must not forget to put in place plans for our future, so that Singapore, our companies and Singaporeans can emerge stronger post COVID-19. Startups are a critical part of these plans.

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