Could you imagine a tiny country like Singapore aiming to lead the acceleration of Open Innovation in Asia? Its population of under six million belies its economic strength and vitality, and Enterprise Singapore is doing just that – working with a number of public and private partners in a coordinated effort to accelerate the state’s open innovation and startup ecosystem.

Understanding the Power of the Crowd: Singapore Aims to be Asia’s Centre of Open Innovation

Enterprise Singapore’s assistant CEO for Innovation and Enterprise, Edwin Chow

In dealing with problems stemming from the pandemic, Enterprise Singapore’s assistant CEO for Innovation and Enterprise, Edwin Chow, said companies that had been struggling to cope with the Covid-19 fallout had found that digital crowdsourcing through open innovation became a “natural option” to find new, workable solutions in a shorter time frame. 

Many enterprises finally overcame their security concerns about privileged information, and began to work with external parties to develop new products and solutions. Through this process, companies in Singapore increasingly realised that open innovation could speed up the overall innovation process. This will enable them to solve operational challenges or bring new products or services to market more quickly – a critical advantage in an increasingly competitive business world.

A good example of the transformative power of open innovation is the collection of dozens of Covid-19 related prize challenges hosted by the HeroX platform. They each seek speedy and effective solutions to many forms of severe threat to individuals, companies, governments, and institutions such as hospitals. 

Response to the pandemic has definitely accelerated the take up of open innovation, and in Singapore the key partners being brought together by the Enterprise Singapore initiative include:

The Open Innovation Network, which is the country’s national gateway to aggregate all open innovation challenges run out of Singapore. Since the Open Innovation Network (OIN) was launched last year by Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister, it has listed over 60 innovation challenges. Success stories include developing drone technology to conduct building surveys, a decentralised wastewater treatment solution to reduce the load on centralised systems, and a tamper-proof lamppost that houses a host of technology consistent with smart city traffic and built environment management.

The StartupSG Network, which provides local startups and their ecosystem partners with a range of benefits. They include business incubator and accelerator facilities, with loan schemes and introductions to potential investors, and access to resources and infrastructure that would normally be beyond a startup’s grasp.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry’s Intellectual Property Intermediary (IPI). They work with other government agencies to identify new businesses that have challenge statements that could require innovative solutions, and support all SMEs and startups with IP matters from ideation through to pilot trials.

These three elements bring together open innovation expertise, the latest generation of Singapore’s entrepreneurs, and positive government input and support from the very top in the interest of the long-term national economy. 

The accelerator and incubator elements provide international corporations including Danone, Haier and Sumitomo with access to next-generation entrepreneurs and innovators. Enterprise Singapore also collaborates cross-border with foreign partners on international co-innovation programmes.

Mr Chow hopes that the initiative helps create sustained demand for innovation, which will persuade more SMEs to build innovation capacity. Ultimately, Singapore wants more of its businesses to compete more effectively through new products and solutions, instead of relying on providing me-too products and services at lower cost.

The overall aim is to position Singapore, through developing a larger open innovation ecosystem, as an attractive partner for international firms looking to scale innovation into Asia.