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Singapore Budget 2018: OIP will accelerate innovation and digital transformation

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The Open Innovation Programme (OIP) is a welcome initiative that will accelerate innovation and digital transformation among Singapore businesses, industry players told The Business Times. But for it to bear fruit, it must support iterative development and have business leaders properly identify their digital requirements and understand what "going digital" really means for them.

Singapore

THE Open Innovation Programme (OIP) is a welcome initiative that will accelerate innovation and digital transformation among Singapore businesses, industry players told The Business Times. But for it to bear fruit, it must support iterative development and have business leaders properly identify their digital requirements and understand what "going digital" really means for them.

The OIP, unveiled by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his delivery of Budget 2018 on Monday, is a new virtual crowdsourcing platform that will match the digital requirements of businesses to solutions created by infocommunications and technology (ICT) firms. It will be managed by the Info-communications Media Development Authority and launched in the second quarter this year.

Francis Thangasamy, a Singapore-based vice-president at telecommunications firm CenturyLink, said: "The OIP will encourage and accelerate innovation through co-development. With the rapid rate of change driven by digitisation, it is challenging for firms to operate alone. It will make more economic sense to partner up and harness the full potential of digital transformation."

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He added that a recent study by CenturyLink and 451 Research found that over half of companies in the Asia-Pacific want to work with an IT service provider to achieve digitisation goals. "Hence, the OIP is tapping an increasing momentum for co-creating digital solutions."

Matthew Johnston, area vice-president for Asean and Korea at data firm Commvault, added that the OIP is a timely initiative "in a landscape where the skills gap is wide and budgets are tight". He told BT: "Digital transformation is critical to any organisation that wants to conquer disruptive technologies and survive in the future economy. Thus, leveraging external skills can serve as an enabler for businesses going digital."

Mr Johnston noted that while the programme could be effective in pairing the digital requirements of companies with ICT solutions, the onus is still on business leaders to first identify their problems in order to address them.

"Business leaders must clarify their goals and understand what going digital means for them. Is the goal to increase customer satisfaction, drive productivity, or create new revenue streams? Once this has been outlined, businesses can easily identify what solutions they need and efficiently leverage the OIP to gain access to expertise, skills and solutions to accelerate digital transformation."

Gillian Tee, chief of Singapore-based caregiving service startup Homage, agreed that "outsourcing product development to external tech companies" can be a good way for a company to launch a new product if it rightly defines its initial requirements. "If a business has defined its requirements in line with its user needs, the OIP can definitely accelerate commercialisation and shorten the time it will take for new products to go-to-market."

Ms Tee, however, noted that it is rare that new tech-enabled products are launched as "perfect solutions with product-market-fit right off the bat"; such products often require many iterations to improve and achieve the desired adoption rate.

"It is thus important that the OIP can support iterative development processes and short iteration cycles, because the market moves quickly and the learning of market needs has to take place just as quickly. For that reason, companies with in-house engineering teams often have an edge and achieve a faster feedback loop from customer-to-product back to the customer and market."

On Monday, Mr Heng also unveiled the NRF-Temasek IP Commercialisation Vehicle, a new S$100-million vehicle by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and Temasek that will support the commercialisation of intellectual property (IP) generated from publicly funded research. Under the programme, NRF and Temasek will invest in, build and grow startups that leverage such IP.

"This new investment venture will bring together Temasek's global investment networks and NRF's connections with the Singapore R&D community, to grow companies that draw on IP from publicly funded research. At least S$100 million will go into this joint venture: S$50 million from the government and at least S$50 million from Temasek."

He also announced two new programmes aimed at strengthening Singapore's status as an air and sea hub. The Aviation Transformation Programme and Maritime Transformation Programme, which will receive up to S$500 million in funding, will focus on improving operational efficiencies, security and traffic management in the country's airport and seaport. "Through these programmes, our airport and seaport will become platforms for companies to develop, test and use new technologies. The solutions that emerge can be rapidly adopted in other parts of Singapore, or even exported overseas."

Finally, the National Robotics Programme (NRP) will be expanded to encourage a wider use of robotics in the built environment and construction sectors. The NRP, a S$450-million programme unveiled in Budget 2016, was launched to address labour force constraints in various sectors including healthcare and cleaning.


HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Open Innovation Programme, a new crowdfunding platform to match digital requirements of companies to external tech solutions, will be launched in Q2 2018
  • The NRF-Temasek IP Commercialisation Vehicle, a new S$100-million investment venture, will be launched to support commercialisation of IP from publicly funded research
  • Up to S$500 million will be committed to two new programmes aimed at transforming Singapore's aviation and maritime sectors

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SINGAPORE BUDGET 2018

For more stories, visit bt.sg/budget18