By Babita Sivarajah | AI technology has taken amazing leaps forward in recent years and Singapore wants to be viewed as a country leading the way into the next chapter of this technology. It understands the great opportunities in this field and actively wants to drive new business into the country. Singapore has various opportunities for funding research and technical advancement in this arena.
An Inviting Landscape
Singapore wants to be a global centre of excellence for new technology and the government is pushing this forward by introducing initiatives to tempt AI tech companies. (Never forget the tax incentives, too.) One major initiative is a National Programme called AI Singapore (AI.SG) announced in May 2017 with the aim to “power the future digital economy”.
AI Singapore is a collaboration of AI startups with Singapore-based research institutions. This government-wide partnership involves many of the main players: the National Research Foundation (NRF), the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SMART), the Economic Development Board (EDB), the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), SGInnovate, and Integrated Health Information Systems. The NRF is looking to invest up to S$150 million (about US$108 million) over the next five years in AI Singapore.
“The scale and approach of AI.SG are unique,” says a spokesperson for MRF Singapore. “The multi-disciplinary project teams in AI.SG will work collaboratively across institutional affiliations, disciplines and national borders to investigate fundamentally different approaches to develop innovative AI technology and solutions. A key feature of AI.SG will be a series of Grand Challenges that will inspire both the researchers and the end users to tackle major societal challenges that are not only relevant for Singapore but also the global community.”
Although AI Singapore does not disburse grants to organizations to develop AI products or services, its aim is to provide the technology go-to-place and AI expertise for collaboration on AI projects to de-risk part of the project implementation costs.
The Starting Line For Funding
The first port of call to find funding opportunities for your AI enterprise should be SPRING, which is the Singapore enterprise development agency that sits under the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
SPRING works with partners to help enterprises in financing, capability and management development, technology and innovation and access to markets.
It will merge with IE Singapore to form Enterprise Singapore in Q2 2018.
SPRING SEEDS Capital (SSC)
The investment arm of SPRING is SPRING SEEDS Capital (SSC), which co-invests with independent investor(s) in commercially viable Singapore-based startups with innovative and robust intellectual content that are scalable across international markets. SSC has committed up to S$100 million for potential startups. Plenty of capital opportunity.
SC runs the initiative Startup SG, which represents the shared interests of the startup community and positions Singapore as a leading startup hub. It provides entrepreneurs with a launchpad to connect them to the global stage and a platform to access local support initiatives.
Under the initiative there are six main areas of support. The first three listed below offer financial support. The current scope of your business will determine which area is most appropriate for you. Once this is decided you can then delve into the application procedure. The agency will have strict guidelines.
- Startup SG Equity – This scheme catalyses private-sector investment for startups through government equity co-investment. Under Startup SG Equity, SSC supports early-stage startups across a wide range of technology and industry domain areas. Startup SG Equity has different investment parameters for general tech and deep tech startups.
- Startup SG Tech – A competitive grant that fast-tracks the development of proprietary technology solutions. Through Startup SG Tech, companies may receive early-stage funding for the commercialisation of proprietary technology.Startup SG Loan – Highlights government-backed loans for startups’ working capital, equipment/factory financing and trade financing needs, offered through participating financial institutions. Currently, two loans are on offer:
- SME Miro Loans – Companies with 10 or less employees that have products or services on the market may access working capital financing of up to S$100,000 to support their day-to-day business operations.
- SME Venture Loan – Innovative, high-growth companies that have products or services on the market may access alternative financing of up to S$5 million for business expansion.
- Startup SG Founder – If looking for a mentor, this initiative recognizes how invaluable a mentor can be and helps provide a match to your business and current need. It will fund up to S$30,000 to first-time entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas by matching S$3 to every S$1 raised by the startup.
- Startup SG Accelerator – Aims to help fast track your idea in strategic growth sectors. It wants to work with incubators to promote the growth of startups through the mentorship and networks of selected partners.
- Startup SG Talent – This is about bringing together great minds. They want to set up an environment that encourages global talent to join local startups and set up innovative businesses in Singapore.
Economic Development Board (EDB)
There are also various schemes and grants offered by the Economic Development Board (EDB); another government agency under The Ministry of Trade and Industry.
The main difference between these grants and the StartUp SG initiatives is the stage at which your business is at. The EDB mainly wants to address growth of a fully formed business and help expand its capacities and activities within Singapore.
Research Incentive Scheme For Companies (RISC)
The Research Incentive Scheme for Companies (RISC) encourages the development of research and development capabilities and technologies through the support of projects in the areas of science and technology.
Training Grant for Company (TGC)
The Training Grant for Company (TGC) encourages manpower capability development in applying new technologies, industrial skills and professional know-how through the support of training programmes for companies’ employees.
Productivity Grant (PG)
The Productivity Grant (PG) encourages firm-level projects which aim at improvements to energy, water, land or labour efficiencies through transformation efforts to enhance companies’ operations or involving adoption of technologies.
Singapore provides a very engaged and committed environment for a business in the AI arena. There are no shortages of funding opportunities or opportunities to nurture your business.
About The Author
Babita Sivarajah is the Co-founder of SES International and The SE Solutions Agency, both of which enable foreign businesses to set up in Singapore and the Asian market. She runs the Business Advisory team and is a licensed immigration specialist.