Investments in Singapore-based startups reached S$14.7 billion ($10.3 billion) in 2021 with funding growing at 45% per annum between 2017 and 2021, according to data from Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG).
Amid a bleak global economic environment, venture funding in Singapore startups touched S$8.18 billion ($5.74 billion) within the first half of 2022 alone, up 54% compared to the same period last year.
The city-state’s startup ecosystem remained vibrant and resilient amid the pandemic, noted the government agency tasked to boost enterprise development.
Enterprise Singapore, which looks at innovation and internationalisation opportunities for startups, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and even traditional businesses, is working to ensure that the city-state remains a vibrant startup and innovation hub.
“Driving innovation and nurturing startups is and will continue to be one of our key priorities over the next decade,” says Edwin Chow, Assistant CEO (Innovation and Enterprise) at EnterpriseSG.
This goal stems from how the pandemic spotlighted the vital role that startups played in developing solutions to disrupt and rejuvenate industries despite trying circumstances, he explained.
In line with this, EnterpriseSG – which is an agency under Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry – has supported over 780 startups and SMEs from Singapore and abroad through its Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) programmes. Such initiatives involved connecting the companies with international business and tech communities to drive two-way collaboration.
For instance, companies can jointly develop and test-bed new solutions with in-market partners before scaling into a market or region as part of the Co-Innovation Programmes (CIPs).
Regions that EnterpriseSG’s GIA programmes extend to include Stockholm in Sweden and Cape Town, South Africa. It is also working with industry players such as the Japan-headquartered science and technology research player Leave a Nest and Chinese venture capital and accelerator Brinc to launch sector-specific programmes and targeted assistance in areas like advanced manufacturing and foodtech, respectively.
Data from EnterpriseSG shows that some 600 enterprises had undertaken innovation projects to develop new products and solutions last year.
Platforms and networks
In a bid to further nurture Singapore’s startup ecosystem, EnterpriseSG launched the Open Innovation Network in 2019 to encourage innovation by both public and private stakeholders.
So far, the trade agency has seen nearly 150 open innovation challenges (OIC) taken up by the Land Transport Authority’s Xcite Innovation Call, the Building Construction Authority’s (BCA) Built Environment Accelerate to Market Programme (BEAMP) and a Healthcare OIC involving National Healthcare Group (NHG), National University Health System (NUHS), SingHealth, HMI Group and St Luke’s Eldercare.
OICs have also been taken up by corporates such as ExxonMobil, SATs and L’Oreal which have partnered with startups to co-develop demand-led solutions in industries like energy and transport & logistics.
EnterpriseSG’s OICs have extended across Singapore’s borders to Southeast Asia and Abu Dhabi so that startups have access to demand in these emerging markets.
The trade agency is now looking to work with new partners to facilitate demand-led innovation and test-bedding opportunities to address challenges in sectors such as energy, healthcare and agritech.
Beyond aiding startups to extend their global reach, ESG has been facilitating their access to funding, mentorship, and partnership networks locally and abroad through its Startup SG initiative.
Launched in 2017, the programme served to unify the various support schemes disbursed to startups by the different government partners.
As part of the Startup SG Equity initiative, over S$51 million was co-invested across 58 startups through the government investment arms of SEEDS Capital and SGInnovate in 2021, which in turn catalysed over S$400 million in private investments.
Meanwhile, a separate initiative – Startup SG Founder – saw the number of innovative startups growing by 47% per annum to reach nearly 480 as of June.
Of these, 104 startups have raised publicly disclosed rounds amounting to over S$350 million. On average, they secured pre-seed funding more than 1.5x faster than their Southeast Asian counterparts between 2017 and 2022.