NRF dishes out S$22m to turn Varsities into Entrepreneurial Hubs

I caught this a week late via a tweet by my pal Jeffrey.  The deep-pocketed National Research Foundation (NRF) has set aside S$50 million to create the University Innovation Fund (UIF), and has handed out the first S$22 million to NUS (S$9m), NTU (S$6.5m) and SMU(S$6.5m).  The funds for UIF came from the S$360 million National Framework for Innovation and Enterprise (NFIE) that was announced by the Prime Minister on 28 Mar 2008, to make innovation and academic entrepreneurship pervasive in Singapore.  Together with other intiatives under NFIE, i.e. the S$25 million Translational Research and Development (TRD) grant to polytechnics, NRF hopes to enable our varsities to build up a strong, vibrant and sustainable innovation ecosystem.

University Innovation Fund framework - elements of self-sustaining innovation ecosystem

Academic entrepreneurship is broadly defined as the involvement of academics, scientists and researchers in innovative activities with economic or societal impact.

– footnote 1 of press release for UIF dated 19 May 2009 –

Singapore has always aspired towards being a more entrepreneurial, IP-intensive, innovation-driven economy with a higher concentration of businesses that develops and commercialises intellectual property.  Such businesses typically post high gross margins and generate high value jobs.  After all, our Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) do provide about 60% of the jobs in Singapore – any increase in the value of their output should have tremendous impact!  Further, given our nation’s heavy investment into primary research (under the auspices of A*STAR), the presence of an entrepreneurial ecosystem is a must-have if we are to translate any of that primary research (however poorly or well-guided by market needs) into useful economic impact.  I imagine the (good) work of NRF is our government’s response to the above.

More money into the (eco)system is always good news – all that remains is for the following three high-powered Enterprise Boards of NUS, NTU and SMU to work with the ground to refine good ideas and spend the grant monies wisely – for the good of us all.  I personally thought it would have been good to have representation in these committees by some members of the younger generation to avoid group-think.  Oh well, guess one can’t always have the cake and eat it too eh?

NUS Entrepreneurship Committee

Ms. Olivia Lum (Chair), Group CEO & President of Hyflux Ltd
Prof Tan Chorh Chuan, President of NUS
Mr Lucas Chow, Group CEO of Mediacorp
Dr. Edison Liu Tak-Bun, Executive Director of Genome Institute of Singapore (Biomedical Science Institute)
Mr. Kenny Yap, Executive Chairman & MD of Qian Hu Corporation Ltd
Mr. Gay Chee Cheong, Chairman of Radcliffe Inverton Pte Ltd
Mr. Hans-Dieter Bott, Former MD of Siemens Pte Ltd & Immediate Past President of Singapore-German Chamber of Industry & Commerce
Mr. Michael Lien, Executive Director of Wan Hin & Co.
Mr. Sunny Verghese, Group MD & CEO of Olam International Ltd
Dr. Lily Chan, CEO of NUS Enterprise

NTU Enterprise Committee

Mr. Inderjit Singh (Chair), Founder & CEO of Infiniti Solutions Pte Ltd
Dr. Robert Herbold, MD of Herbold Group
Mr. Lim Chuan Poh, Chairman of A*STAR
Mr. Ron Sim, Executive Chairman of OSIM International Ltd
Dr. Su Guaning, President of NTU

SMU Enterprise Board

Mr. Anil Thadani (Chair), Chairman of Symphony Asia Holdings Pte Ltd
Mr. Ng Kai Wa, Co-founder of Creative Technologies & Founder, Chairman & CEO of Innomedia
Dr. Gary Kunis, Former Chief Scientist Officer of Cisco Systems Inc. & Former Chief Engineer of Boeing Company
Mr. Sanjiv Misra, Former Head of Asia Pacific Corporate Banking at Citi & CEO of CLSA Capital Partners
Prof Howard Hunter, President of SMU
Prof Tan Chin Tong, Dy President of SMU

About James Chan

James Chan is an entrepreneur, investor, geek, photographer and husband/father based out of Singapore. Apart from frequent travels to Vietnam, Myanmar and Indonesia for work, James can also be found online via his trusty 15" Retina MacBook Pro or iPhone 6+.