Singapore university puts up $18.1M to help students, researchers create startups

National University of Singapore (NUS) has pledged S$25 million (US$18.18 million) over five years to co-create 250 tech startups with its graduate students and research staff.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) is setting aside S$25 million (US$18.18 million) over the next five years to help its graduate students and research staff create tech startups.

The initiative is part of the university's new "innovation4.0 building", launched Wednesday, which spans six stories and houses its 12 research entities, including the NUS Smart Nation Research Cluster and Cybersecurity Laboratory, as wells teams specialising in artificial intelligence (AI), data science, and analytics.

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The S$25 million fund aimed to tap the university's own talent pool and would see NUS jointly establish 250 startups, focusing on "deep technologies". The programme also was part of efforts to bring its scientific discoveries outside the lab and into the market, and "unlock the economic and social benefits" of the university's inventions, said NUS President Tan Eng Chye.

Under the programme, up to 50 projects would be funded each year, with successful candidates put on a three-month business validation and venture creation scheme. These participants would work with executives from tech companies to develop an operational business model, IP licensing and development plan, and go-to-market strategies to fuel their startup ideas.

These inventors also would be guided by experienced staff to design and build their first prototypes as well as have access to industry data to identify potential markets to target.

Upon completing their venture creation process, the startups would be assessed for the initial investment of S$50,000, which would fund further development of their prototypes and continued engagement with their mentors. These young companies then would receive an additional S$50,000 from NUS to further develop their business ideas. The Singapore university would offer project management guidance and support to build their prototypes, as well as access to lab facilities.

Selection process for the first batch of startups currently is ongoing and expected to be finalised by next month.

Tan added: "Mentorship and funding are crucial for early-stage startups. We hope to create a strong pipeline of research-based technology companies that will introduce innovative applications and technologies to Singapore and the global markets. Each of these tech-based startups would create innovation-based jobs, benefitting the Singapore economy in the long run."

On the launch of its innovation4.0 building, NUS said up to eight additional research teams were expected to move into the new facility by end-2019. It said the site featured "interactive workspaces" that aimed to fuel ideas in areas such as smart mobility, smart living, digital health, and smart logistics.

When fully operational in two years, the new refurbished building would house more than 1,000 researchers, inventors, and supporting staff, NUS said.