Singapore unveils acceleration programme for startups eyeing Sweden

Enterprise Singapore and Business Sweden launch an initiative to help startups and technology small and midsize businesses from the Asian nation offer their products to other Nordic countries through Sweden.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Singapore startups and technology small and midsize businesses (SMBs) now have a pathway to tap opportunities in the Nordic region through an acceleration programme to Sweden. They will have access to resources such as coaching on business regulations and networking sessions with potential investors. 

The Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) acceleration programme was unveiled Thursday by Enterprise Singapore, which said the launch marked the first time the scheme had been introduced in the Nordic region. The Stockholm iteration would be run by Swedish digital accelerator Epicenter, with support from government agencies Business Sweden and Vinnova. 

Jointly owned by the Swedish state and Swedish business sector, Business Sweden aims to help international companies access the local market as well as assist Swedish businesses in their expansion. Vinnova oversees state funding for research and development (R&D). 

The pilot programme in Stockholm was the first GIA acceleration scheme this year and would provide Singapore startups and technology SMBs an easier way to access opportunities in overseas markets as well as facilitate bilateral collaboration in innovation. It would further complement existing GIA initiatives across the globe, said Enterprise Singapore. 

The government agency said it worked with local GIA partners to run the acceleration programmes in 15 cities, including Bangalore, London, Berlin, and San Francisco. It noted that the number of companies participating in the programmes doubled last year over 2020. 

The eight-weeks hybrid programme for GIA Stockholm would encompass activities such as online coaching sessions on Sweden's business regulations and culture and market entry strategies. 

Singapore startups and technology SMBs also would be able to participate in business matching sessions in Stockholm and meet with potential partners for collaborative opportunities, such as investors, research institutes, and fellow startups. This would enable the Singapore companies to testbed and scale their products and services to other Nordic countries through Sweden, said Enterprise Singapore. 

Apart from the GIA Stockholm programme, Singapore and Swedish companies also could be involved in joint R&D initiatives within the Eureka Network, to which both countries were associated. 

Set up in 1985, Eureka is an intergovernmental network that supports R&D and innovation initiatives involving industry players, research centres, and universities across all technology sectors. 

Enterprise Singapore's chairman Peter Ong said at the launch in Stockholm: "As small, innovation-driven economies, Singapore and Sweden have much in common and we are very much like-minded. The Nordics are at the forefront of innovation, tech, and sustainability. The region has the highest number of unicorns per capita after Silicon Valley. Sweden itself is consistently ranked as a global innovation leader. 

"Singapore, on the other hand, is at the heart of a thriving Southeast Asia's startup ecosystem," Ong said. "In 2021, Singapore-based tech startups raised close to $11 billion, almost triple the $4 billion raised in 2020. Of the 21 unicorns that were formed in Southeast Asia in 2021, 11 are based in Singapore."

The GIA Stockholm pilot programme would enable Singapore companies to connect with the innovation and technology communities in the Nordics, and drive their access into the region for business growth. He aded that Swedish companies and investors also were encouraged to partner with and invest in Singapore's startup ecosystem.

Business Sweden CEO Jan Larsson said: "Singapore has for some time been a natural springboard for Swedish entrepreneurs to enter Southeast Asia. It's now great to see how we can reverse the cooperation by nurturing our ecosystem with impactful ideas from Singapore, using Stockholm and the Epicenter team as a scaleup factory with our global unicorns and multinationals."

Ong said: "As borders reopen and global economies recover, it is timely for Singapore companies to resume growth activities, strengthen innovation collaboration with international partners, and expand overseas. Europe has a mature innovation ecosystem that Singapore companies can leverage to co-develop new solutions. Sweden, which has produced some of the top tech unicorns including Spotify and Klarna, provides tech and innovation opportunities for Singapore companies in areas such as sustainability, healthtech, games, and smart cities."


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