Speech by Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at the Launch of the BCG Digital Ventures Campus on 22 January 2021.
Mr Jaime Ruiz-Cabrero, Head of BCG, South East Asia
Mr Jeffrey Chua, Chairman of BCG Singapore
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by congratulating BCG on the launch of your Digital Ventures campus in Singapore. Over the years, BCG has grown your presence in Singapore to support the growth of companies based here and in the region. From a small office with less than 10 employees twenty-six years ago, you have grown to more than 350 employees today. In particular, BCG has helped many companies in their digital transformation journey, and you have grown new capabilities here to do so – in AI and data science, and in IT architecture and digital solutions.
Digital Ventures is the latest capability that BCG is bringing to Singapore. Through the Digital Ventures campus, you have brought together a multi-disciplinary team of entrepreneurial, investment, engineering and design talent under one roof. With this broad range of expertise, the Digital Ventures team can add to the corporate venturing eco-system in Singapore and in South-east Asia, by working with large corporates to incubate, launch and scale new products and ventures.
Globally, corporate venturing activity has risen steadily over the years. There are opportunities for large corporates to create globally competitive new ventures, especially in an increasingly complex world. Many large corporates have advantages that start-ups do not – access to customers, established supply chains and distribution channels, and a strong base of intellectual property and know-how. The challenge is to find creative ways to find synergies and capabilities of these large corporates with the fresh and creative ideas of start-ups to create successful new ventures.
These new ventures can provide value to societies by tackling a variety of challenges. One example is the urgent need to transform healthcare systems in ageing societies. Ping An leveraged its core business in insurance, to build the “Ping An Good Doctor” mobile app that provides round-the-clock tele-health services. Toyota tapped their car making know-how in robotics and automation to develop mobility rehabilitation robots to support the elderly and their care-givers. Tech companies have also ventured into health, such as Google’s Verily and Apple Health.
In Singapore, EDB partners large corporates to create new ventures, and hopefully new unicorns. We do so by deploying experienced EDB officers to co-develop new ventures with corporates, tapping on our networks to support customer discovery and product validation, and providing risk sharing capital. We are also building up an eco-system of venture studios to help corporates that are new to the venturing process. This is where BCG Digital Ventures can make a significant impact, together with other venture studios. You can build on the momentum of corporate venturing in Singapore. Over the past two years, more than 40 corporate ventures have been created. One example is Singapore Airline’s KrisShop. KrisShop started as an in-flight sales channel, but has since evolved into a full-fledged omnichannel e-Commerce platform. This expansion has allowed SIA to diversify its revenue and allowed it to continue to engage its customers during this period when most flights are grounded. BCG can also use Singapore as a base to partner large corporates in the region, where the digital economy is fast growing.
Innovation as a Driver of Recovery and Growth
Corporate venturing is one of a few ways to drive innovation in the economy. The pursuit of innovation will become even more indispensable as we navigate this crisis and venture into the post-COVID world. Investment in innovation has and will always be a cornerstone of Singapore’s economic policy, and a focus in our Budgets. Last month, I announced that we will be investing S$25 billion over the next five years in research, innovation and enterprise. We are committed to investing in basic research to grow the base of scientific knowledge which companies can tap on. We are investing in growth areas, such as the digital economy. We are giving extra focus on translating research discovery into practical solutions and products. We are redoubling efforts to strengthen our start-up eco-system. Our efforts have met with some success. Singapore has produced several unicorns. Our latest unicorn is Nanofilm, an advanced materials tech spin-off from NTU that was listed on Singapore Exchange in October last year. For budding entrepreneurs, we have Startup SG, which provides mentorship, funding, and a whole range of support. Last August, I announced an additional S$150 million to help start-ups get their innovative ideas off the ground.
At the same time, we are helping the broad majority of companies and workers adopt digital solutions through SMEs Go Digital. I allocated an additional S$500million at the Fortitude Budget last year to further support businesses in their digital transformation. And we have seen increased adoption during COVID-19, as more activities shifted online. This systems approach to innovation will give Singapore a competitive edge in the post-COVID world, and I am glad that BCG is contributing to our growth as a Global-Asia innovation node.
Innovating through New Ways of Collaboration
Innovation knows no bounds, because innovation knows no boundaries. While investments in R&D and capabilities are important building blocks, our efforts are greatly amplified if we collaborate across domains, capabilities and entities. Digital Ventures is an example of how we can bring new approaches to corporate innovation, through a multi-disciplinary approach. At the national level, we have also embarked on Alliances for Action. This industry-led approach brings together multiple stakeholders to prototype new ideas in growth areas, and to scale successful ones. Eight Alliances have been convened by the Emerging Stronger Taskforce thus far. I am glad that BCG has been actively involved in facilitating the ideation workshops for two of the Alliances – on Edutech and Sustainability – in the early stages of the process. As part of the Alliance on Sustainability, BCG has also worked with DBS and Singapore Exchange on a joint 3-month sprint to develop a voluntary carbon credit marketplace for Asia. Such a marketplace could facilitate price discovery and access to liquidity, and verify the integrity and source of carbon credits. I thank BCG for stepping forward to support our Alliances for Action. And I look forward to your greater contributions as we seek to emerge stronger from this crisis.
In conclusion, COVID-19 has severely disrupted the global economy. While the fight is far from over, we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. Innovation will be critical to fuelling our economic recovery and in enabling us to harness opportunities in the post-COVID world. I am glad that BCG has decided to locate your latest Digital Ventures campus in Singapore, and that you have gone ahead with the launch despite the ongoing pandemic. This latest addition will add to the dynamism and vibrancy of our innovation landscape. The new campus will create exciting new jobs for our people, both within BCG and in the new ventures that you are helping to incubate. You have on this lovely campus a dynamic team with great ideas. I look forward to meeting you and knowing your projects during the campus tour that comes after the launch.
Thank you very much.
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