The Singapore Budget 2020 puts a great emphasis on cross-sectoral collaboration
On Tuesday, the Singapore government announced the budget allocation for the year 2020.
It is committed to set aside S$8.3 billion (US$5.9 billion) over the next three years to help companies, including startups, to transform and grow. There is a great emphasis on collaboration between different players as a means to achieve that, through initiatives such as the GoBusiness platform, the expansion of the SMEs Go Digital programme, and the enhancement of the Market Readiness Assistance.
In this article, we are looking at the elements within the budget that will directly or indirectly impact the local startup ecosystem –and what industry players have to say about it.
Deeper into deep tech
One of the highlights of the budget was the S$300 million (US$215 million) additional funds set aside to support startups in the deep tech sector.
The government noted the larger investment and longer gestation period required by deep tech investments as the reason why the sector was given special attention in this budget.
In a written statement to e27, Steve Leonard, Founding CEO at SGInnovate, said that the additional funds “attest to the increasingly vital role of deep tech in delivering social and economic outcomes in the future.”
“Based on a scientific core, deep tech has the potential to improve lives for humanity and offer solutions even in clean energy and rising sea levels – both long-term focus areas highlighted in this year’s budget,” he states.
“To create scale and impact, our deep tech startups need to look beyond Singapore, and the government’s commitment to supporting deep tech startups is expected to draw in further private funding and international collaboration opportunities. With Startup SG Equity co-investment as one of our tools, we are continuing our work in growing the deep tech ecosystem and contributing to Singapore’s future,” Leonard elaborates.
Greater collaboration –at home and abroad
The budget also sets up a “70-70” target where it aims to have 70 per cent of local graduates of institutes of higher learning to have overseas exposure, with 70 per cent of the countries to be either Southeast Asian countries, India, or China.
Turochas “T” Fuad, Managing Director, Southeast Asia and Korea at WeWork, dubs this initiative as “heartening.”
“While tools and technology are important, it is the exchange of ideas and cooperation that will rejuvenate the industry,” he wrote in a statement.
“It is also great to see that more Singaporean students will have the opportunity to go abroad and gain overseas exposure. As collaboration increases, developing a broader and more nuanced understanding of different cultures will emerge a key theme,” he stresses, adding collaboration across different functions, industries and countries as the key to success for an innovation-led economy.
Stepping into automation
The budget also highlighted the importance of greater integration of technology in the workplace, with a focus on automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
“The emphasis on advancing AI and automation capabilities is key to the success of these enterprise schemes. In fact, our benchmark data shows Singaporeans (62.4 per cent) are significantly ahead of other Southeast Asian nations (48.6 per cent) when it comes to adopting AI-enabled customer support channels. This has more than halved wait times, while improving customer satisfaction over the past year, suggesting that customer expectations also continue to rise exponentially,” writes Abhishek Deshmukh, VP of Engineering & MD Singapore at Zendesk.
Deshmukh expresses the company’s hope that these new initiatives will make AI and automation adoption to become more prevalent.
So, what is next?
Looking at the focus areas that are being mentioned in the budget, we can start predicting the trends that are going to emerge in 2020.
First of all, there is going to be greater collaboration between the government, startups, and the corporations, particularly in initiatives that aim to transform “the way we work.” Since automation and AI are the main focus here, we can even expect more investments in the sector.
We are also going to see more deep tech startups expanding their business into new markets.
Entering the new year, Singapore –and the rest of the world– are facing a fresh challenge in the form of COVID-19 outbreak. We believe that this will also change the face of the tech industry, with some services experiencing an increase in popularity.
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