Singapore: A global-Asia gateway for R&D and innovation

Home to world-class innovations like the Supertree Grove in the Gardens by the Bay, one of the most iconic green city concepts of the past decade, Singapore is excelling in research, development and innovation. Each Supertree houses a diverse combination of plants and integrated cooling systems and solar panels that mean the structures have a surprisingly positive environmental impact. And just like the Supertrees, the small city state of Singapore is packed with a thriving R&D and innovation ecosystem of its own.

Singapore’s top innovation resume

In today’s age, innovation is the name of the game.

So, what drives Singapore’s vibrant innovation scene?

In the last 20 years, Singapore’s annual R&D business expenditure has grown from 1.5 to 5.6 billion Singaporean dollars, and R&D accounts for a massive 32.1 billion Singaporean dollars in annual revenue generated. That’s the equivalent of almost 20 billion euro every year. The Singaporean government also promotes open innovation, encouraging collaboration between corporates and SMEs, universities and research institutes to solve industry challenges.

Given Singapore’s superb public funding and support, global trade position and investment and networking opportunities, it is no surprise Singapore is considered one of the most innovative countries in the world, consistently ranking in the top 10 in many notable global innovation rankings (8th in the 2020 Global Innovation Index and 2nd in the 2021 Bloomberg Innovation Index).

In May 2021, we welcomed Enterprise Singapore, the government agency championing business development and R&D and innovation, to Eureka’s network. The Eureka team at Enterprise Singapore says, “Steady and sustained investment in R&D over the years has allowed Singapore to build up a rich and diverse research ecosystem”.

Thriving R&D sectors

Singapore is standing out in a number of R&D sectors, like digitalisation, healthcare and green technologies and advanced manufacturing. Some notable companies from these sectors include:

  • Articares, who have developed a portable medical robot that helps patients rehabilitate after a stroke,
  • Igloocompany, a leading developer of smart remote-controlled or PIN-secured locks and
  • the startup Third Wave Power, who are tackling climate change challenges by producing solar-powered chargers and lights for rural areas.

Singapore is also a strong manufacturing hub for hard disk drives, aerospace parts, semiconductors, complex components, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, medical devices and more.

With a highly skilled workforce and a leading manufacturing and global export infrastructure in place, Singapore is perfectly placed for companies to both commercialise their complex R&D products and access new markets.

Singapore trade

Poised for market expansion

Trade has always been Singapore’s lifeblood and the country’s global trading position today is similarly sound. Singapore is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and has a free trade agreement with the European Union (EUSFTA). These partnerships liberalise tariffs on goods and open up services, procurement regulations and investment possibilities, easing international collaboration.

Like its Merlion, Singapore always has a welcoming eye looking outwards. The Eureka team at Enterprise Singapore says, “By innovating with international partners, local companies can tap into complementary strengths to develop new and better products, processes or services that are scalable and can address relevant industry needs worldwide.”

A gateway to Southeast Asia: investment and corporate venturing

Singapore is well-located in fast-growing Southeast Asia; corporates use Singapore as a gateway for R&D and to gain more visibility and export to the region. The city state has a world-class technology and innovation network as diverse as Singapore is multicultural, making it a top destination for investors, with over 220 venture capitalists and 190 accelerators located there. In 2020 alone, over 450 venture capital deals were made worth over 5 billion Singaporean dollars.

Enterprise Singapore has many useful platforms to help companies obtain investment or venture capital. For example:

  • SEEDS Capital has a funding programme that co-invests in deep tech startups with private sector investors, encouraging them to make the deal, and so catalysing equity funding
  • Startup SG has a suite of programmes that provide mentoring from accelerators and industry experts and opportunities for entrepreneurs to connect with angel investors

Every year, Enterprise Singapore also organises the Singapore Week of Innovation and TeCHnology (SWITCH) held alongside the Singapore FinTech Festival. SWITCH connects thousands of startups, SMEs, accelerators, corporates, venture capitalists and investors from around the world. The event also features the pitching finals of the SLINGSHOT startup competition, and open innovation challenges with corporates from across Southeast Asia. 

SWITCH event Singapore

Intellectual property in Singapore

Singapore is known for its strong intellectual property (IP) regulations. It is cited (in the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Global Competitiveness Report) as having the best IP protection system in Asia and 2nd best in the world.

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore uses its IP expertise and networks to drive future growth. It offers advice and has an effective scheme for Singaporean innovators: the SG IP Fast Track, which speeds up receiving a patent. Singaporean companies can receive support after collaborating on international R&D projects too.

Singaporean company Patsnap have also developed a useful IP tool that simplifies companies’ patent search by gathering scattered information about innovations being developed around the world.

Public funding and R&D projects

The Singaporean government have begun their next research, innovation and enterprise budget phase for 2021-2025, where they have allocated 25 billion Singaporean dollars (the equivalent of 15.5 billion euro) to supporting the growth of companies and R&D activities. The budget plan will nurture tech startups that can develop disruptive and novel solutions in four targeted key domains:

  • manufacturing, trade and connectivity
  • human health and potential
  • urban solutions and sustainability
  • smart nation and digital economy

This government support can be accessed through many channels, including Eureka funding programmes for international R&D projects. 

“By working together through Eureka, companies can access a wider pool of knowledge, ideas and resources from their counterparts and respective funding bodies.” – Eureka team at Enterprise Singapore 

We sail tonight for Singapore

Singapore is continuing to nurture its dynamic innovation ecosystem and businesses with many support mechanisms for public funding, receiving patents, market expansion, accessing private investment and international collaboration. Whether your R&D is in photonics or biomedical solutions, there is a good chance you will find the perfect innovation partner in Singapore. 

“Companies need not develop solutions in isolation. International collaboration opens up new insights and opportunities for the exchange of ideas and knowledge across borders.” – Eureka team at Enterprise Singapore