Opening Remarks by Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition on 19 March 2021.
Dear participants of the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition, we may be facing the worst global pandemic in a century, but we are also living in an age of unprecedented innovation.
COVID-19 has swept the world. This virus has taken more than 2.5 million lives, and disrupted many more lives and livelihoods.
But COVID-19 has also spurred tremendous innovation, as people around the world fight to contain its spread, and seek to adapt and restore some normalcy in our work and daily lives.
The path to economic recovery is fragile. Much depends on how well the world can contain the virus. Yet as computer scientist Alan Kay once said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it”. Indeed, our ability to adapt and innovate will be critical to enable us to overcome this virus, and emerge stronger in the post-COVID era.
Universities and research institutions around the world are promising crucibles of innovation. I am glad that this edition of the competition has attracted over 850 entries, from 650 universities, across 60 countries. COVID-19 has accelerated, the pace of digital change and put a premium on resilience, and sustainability for countries and cities around the world. So, it is fitting that the theme for this edition is to “Reimagine Smart, Sustainable and Resilient Cities”.
We are heartened that finalists in the previous edition of this competition have raised over 40 million US dollars to build their start-ups. Several finalists have gone on to participate in prestigious accelerators, such as Y-Combinator, which has funded companies with a combined valuation of over 300 billion US dollars. Take Cambridge Cancer Genomics, a category winner in 2017. It went on to participate in Y-Combinator and has since been inducted into the pharmaceutical company Merck’s accelerator. Cambridge Cancer Genomics builds software to pick the right cancer treatments based on blood samples. This will speed up treatment for patients, many of whom have faced delays due to COVID-19 over the past year. I hope this edition will similarly spur innovation and entrepreneurship in campuses around the world.
This Competition started two decades ago when the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, agreed to lend his name to the first university startup challenge in Singapore. Back then, Singapore’s economy was transiting from a capital-intensive model to a technology-intensive one. Innovation is critical to how Singapore, a city state with no natural resources, grows and develops our economy, and strengthens our social fabric. In the next phase of development, we will put in an even greater focus on innovation and partnership. We welcome you to partner our businesses and researchers, and to visit Singapore and explore opportunities when the situation permits.
The Grand Finals of this Competition will be held today. To all the eight finalists, I wish you every success. To the mentors and sponsors, a big thank you. To all participants, I encourage you to continue your journey of innovation and enterprise with even greater passion, for the world is yours to shape.
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