By Steve Leonard | In the world of blockchain, Singapore has made quite a name for itself as a fast-growing hub in Asia, with a flurry of Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) activities. From SGInnovate’s perspective, blockchain is much more than just cryptocurrency, it is a deep technology (deep tech) that can be applied to a wide spectrum of industries, giving it the potential to create solutions for some of the biggest challenges in the world.
It is no coincidence that blockchain was announced as one of the key focus areas for us when we announced our Deep Tech Nexus strategy last year.
At SGInnovate, we work closely with the scientific and academic community to imagine, start and scale deep tech startups in Singapore that are relevant to the world. Our Deep Tech Nexus strategy guides us in our work with scientists and deeply technical founders to identify and develop talent, provide deep tech startups with investment and business-building guidance, and helping them land their initial customers.
We are already seeing results in our work. We recently invested in our first blockchain and healthcare analytics company – MediLOT Technologies. The startup has developed a decentralized health data platform that is built on the principles of patient centricity, privacy, and equitable data sharing.
MediLOT has built a distributed ledger with a patient’s records that can be viewed by healthcare providers and the patients themselves. Healthcare providers can upload information onto the blockchain, with the patient’s knowledge, which translates to interoperability between healthcare providers, ultimately resulting in better diagnoses and more effective treatments.
A video representation of MediLOT’s decentralized health data platform.
The immutable nature of blockchain makes it an invaluable tool in the field of humanitarian work as well, helping to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable segments of society. AID:Tech, a portfolio company of SGInnovate, is using blockchain to tackle controversies in the charitable sector regarding fair distribution of donations.
The company worked with Dutch PharmAccess for a woman’s aid project in Tanzania, identifying pregnant women and providing them with the care they are entitled to. The project gives each pregnant woman a digital ID that entitles them to pregnancy vitamins and tracks the women’s progress via data added to the blockchain. It achieved a milestone recently when the first baby to be born on the blockchain was delivered on the 13 July 2018. The system is now the driving force behind mothers gaining access to postnatal care, medication and follow up appointments as required.
MediLOT Technologies and AID:Tech are just two examples of deep tech startups that we work with. What brings us together is our common belief that tough societal challenges can be tackled by deep tech. This belief is what drives us at SGInnovate to help create Singapore-based deep tech startups with global impact. With the nation’s multibillion-dollar annual investments in education, communications, and research, Singapore is well positioned to build globally relevant, deep tech products that can improve the lives of people around the world.
Building a company whose product gains market acceptance, withstands the pressures of determined competitors, and is economically successful is already incredibly difficult. Doing all that with a research-backed product that takes a long time to achieve commercial viability is even more challenging. The challenge stems from the small number of venture capital investors and the scarce supply of talent.
This was the reason why SGInnovate was established – to help bridge the gap between research and commercialization. We work with very early stage deep tech startups in high-impact areas such as Health, Energy, and Transportation – areas that we feel have the potential to make the most difference to a global market. Singapore is strategically located in the middle of Southeast Asia, amidst high growth markets, and it is an important member of the global business community, making it the ideal launchpad for deep tech startups to reach the world.
Blockchain, like other deep techs such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics or MedTech have the potential to be harnessed for the good of humanity. The only thing that is holding us back is a self-imposed thinking that because we are in Singapore, we are small, and we lack the wherewithal for international success.
The bottom line is this, Singapore has everything any world-class innovation ecosystem needs: great education, supportive government, plenty of investment capital, strong corporates, local and international talent, and well-funded scientific research. To succeed, we need to think big and take bold actions for our dreams to materialize – this is where SGInnovate comes in to help capable and ambitious individuals turn their ideas into deep tech products that can advance humankind around the world.
About The Author
Mr Steve Leonard is a technology-industry leader with a wide range of experience, having played key roles in building several global technology companies. In his current role as the Founding CEO of SGInnovate – a private limited company wholly owned by the Singapore Government – Mr Leonard has been chartered to lead an organization that builds ‘deep-tech’ companies. Mr Leonard and his team work with local and international partners to help technical founders imagine, start and scale globally-relevant early-stage technology companies from Singapore.