Technopreneurial spirit key to creating value

Singapore sees need to cultivate technopreneurship among students as global IT industry remains relatively resilient despite economic climate, say educators.

SINGAPORE--With IT appearing to hold better globally than most other sectors in the current economic climate, cultivating the technopreneurial spirit is key, say educators.

Mervin Beng, director of Republic Polytechnic's School of IT, said as demand for technology sustains, if not increases, technopreneurial skills learnt will allow graduates to utilize these concepts and apply them into starting their own businesses.

Even "in hard times, there is still room for technopreneurs to emerge", Beng said in an e-mail to ZDNet Asia.

Amid the current downturn, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurial skills are essential, he said. "The reality is that the business skills are very important as enablers, but the core technological, innovation and design skills are still what creates value in the market for the customer."

Vesa Kangaslahti, assistant professor at Nanyang Technopreneurship Center, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), highlighted that entrepreneurship is not only about starting a company, one can also use such skills within a company that is producing innovative ideas.

And as businesses now utilize technology to operate, it is essential for entrepreneurs to acquire technological skills too, Kangaslahti said in an interview.

To this end, Beng noted, polytechnics and universities in Singapore have incorporated technopreneurship skills into their curriculum, providing students with the fundamental knowledge, industry exposure, and necessary business and entrepreneurship skills, he said.

NTU, for example, runs seminars designed to get its student more interested in entrepreneurship and innovation. Kangaslahti said undergraduates are also given opportunities to go overseas to present their business plans to "angel investors" and venture capitalists.

Timothy Chan, director of Singapore Polytechnic's (SP) School of Digital Media and Infocomm Technology, said various schools have also set up funds to encourage students to innovate and start enterprises. One of these is Singapore Polytechnic's Spice (SP Innovative, Creativity and Enterprise) fund.

Support from the government
Kangaslahti said "exceptional initiatives" and funding from government body Spring Singapore, too have helped to promote technopreneurship in the country.

For example, Spring Singapore's Young Entrepreneur Scheme for Startups, or YES!Startups, helps nurture and encourage the younger generation to bring their technopreneurial skills to use.

Sim Choon Siong, deputy director, entrepreneurship development, Spring Singapore, said since its launch six months ago, YES! Startups has helped 24 youths to start 14 innovative businesses.

"We would be happy if some of these startups become successful enterprises. Even if some should fail, we would be equally happy if the entrepreneurs could learn some valuable entrepreneurship lessons through their experience, pick themselves up, and try again," said Sim in an e-mail.

He added it is currently too early to tell how effective the scheme has been. "This will depend on how these youths could hone their entrepreneurial skills as they run and build their businesses."

The educators agreed that such initiatives and funding are significantly helping to cultivate technopreneurship in Singapore. However, they felt there is need for improvements in some other areas.

Chan said: "It will be good if experienced entrepreneurs can mentor and share their domain knowledge with the younger ones." For example, they could provide guidance on how to take a conceptual business idea to actual implementation.

Through their real-life experiences, these experienced entrepreneurs can help budding ones foresee potential risks and pitfalls, allowing them a greater chance at succeeding in their business ventures, he said.

Beng also suggested students get more exposure to how real startups, or people who have created startups, operate in places such as Silicon Valley.

Based in Singapore, Konrad Foo is an intern with ZDNet Asia.