ACE Helps Differentiated Startups Grow
Besides funding and mentoring, assistance to tap technology ideas
1. Aspiring entrepreneurs with differentiated ideas can look forward to help in getting their business off the ground, thanks to the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE), the private-public sector movement that promotes entrepreneurship in Singapore. They will receive support through mentoring and funding under the ACE Startups scheme, which provides up to $50,000 for first-time entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into a business.
2. Among the changes that ACE announced in its new direction in January was the lifting of the age limit of 26 years for the Young Entrepreneurs’ Scheme for Startups (YES! Startups) and renaming it as ACE Startups. Since ACE Startups was launched, 190 applications were received in the first call for proposals, from 1 February to 16 March. They are being evaluated and successful applicants will be awarded the grant at a ceremony in May.
3. The evaluation panel comprised representatives from the private sector and public institutions. They include entrepreneurs Ms Elim Chew of 77th Street, Dr Antony Ng of D’Crypt Pte Ltd, Mr Darius Cheung who founded tenCube, and Dr Lily Chan from NUS Enterprise. The panellists noted that while the response was encouraging, the majority of the applications were ‘me-too’ business ideas that lacked differentiation. About two in five proposals received were in F&B, retail, fashion and education services; another two in five were in info-comm technology (ICT) and e-commerce, and the rest in other industries.
4. “It is important for businesses to leverage on technology and intellectual property (IP) to gain a competitive advantage and be scalable. One way for startups to differentiate themselves is to tap the ideas and pool of IPs generated by the institutions of higher learning and research institutes,” said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Mr Teo Ser Luck, who is also Chairman of ACE.
5. “We have no lack of ideas, with more than 3,000 patents filed by both the public and private sectors in 2010, putting Singapore in the same league of research-intensive countries like the US, Germany, France, Switzerland, Denmark and Taiwan.1
To help commercialise all these ideas, ACE has set up a task force, called the ACE Tech- Connect Task Force, to address possible gaps in the current IP landscape and to connect enterprises with a ready pool of technology ideas as well as potential partners and investors. The task force will synergise efforts to assist our enterprises in IP commercialisation which, we hope, will increase the number of IPs being licensed, or spin off good startups which will become successful companies in the future,” Mr Teo added.
6. The task force will comprise ACE members from public institutions and the private sector, including Cordlife Ltd, Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd (ETPL), Intellectual Property Intermediary (IPI) Ltd, Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), National Research Foundation (NRF), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), National University of Singapore (NUS), and the Business Angels Network Southeast Asia (BANSEA). Dr Steven Fang, the Founder & Group CEO of Cordlife Ltd, who is also the Deputy Chairman of ACE and Chair of the ACE Mentoring Sub-Committee, will co-chair the task force with Mr Philip Lim, CEO of ETPL who is also an ACE Steering Committee member.
7. Said Dr Fang, “The task force hopes to bring technology ideas and entrepreneurs together. We have a good mix of representatives from both the private and public sectors. We will be looking at the best practices of Technology Transfer Offices in other countries and come up with ways to encourage and facilitate IP translation and adoption. We will also coordinate activities and resources to provide convenient one-stop access for enterprises and researchers.”
8. The ACE Tech- Connect Task Force hopes to facilitate the growth of companies like HistoIndex Pte Ltd and iTwin, which were set up in 2010 by A*Star researchers who turned entrepreneurs. HistoIndex’s Drs Dean Tai and Gideon Ho turned their research into Genesis, a machine which can diagnose liver fibrosis in minutes, compared to hours or even days using conventional staining methods. Also born in the laboratory is iTwin, a plug-and-play file- sharing USB device. Its co-founder and CEO, Dr Lux Anantharaman, started off as researcher trying to find a simple and secure solution to access files remotely. He transformed iTwin from an idea into a US$100 product which is distributed in markets across the US, Europe and the Asia-Pacific.
1 National Survey of R&D in Singapore, 2010. Published by A*Star, Dec 2011