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22 Jul 2020 Updated 03 Aug 2020

ESG, IMDA and NRF commit $40 million to helping firms develop solutions for post-Covid-19 world

The Straits Times Choo Yun Ting
SINGAPORE - Some $40 million has been set aside for National Innovation Challenges (NICs) or initiatives meant to accelerate innovation efforts and help enterprises develop solutions for the challenges of a post-Covid-19 world.

Seven NICs were launched by Enterprise Singapore (ESG), the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF) on Wednesday (July 22).

The NICs seek to catalyse partnerships across the economy and foster innovation opportunities, and cover five sectors: transport and logistics; built environment; meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice); tourism; and the maritime industry.

Three challenges address the need for higher accuracy of shipping container inspections, tackle the issue of more productive tracking and tracing of cargo, and seek to increase productivity through artificial intelligence.

The other four aim to position Singapore as a safe place to conduct business both locally and internationally, while helping to revive the events and construction sectors after the coronavirus outbreak.

The next round of challenges is expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2020, with up to $2 million in funding allocated for each one.

The cross-industry collaborations will not only tackle the immediate need for safe reopening after the pandemic, but also address mid- and long-term sectoral challenges to help firms emerge stronger after the crisis, the agencies said.

ESG, IMDA and NRF will gather industry challenge statements from both the private and public sectors.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who announced the series of challenges during the Fortitude Budget in May, said in a Facebook post on Thursday: "Through these efforts, we also hope to build a stronger culture of innovation here in Singapore - among individuals, companies, trade associations, research and academic institutions and the Government.

"In an increasingly complex and uncertain world, our ability to work together and innovate will give us an edge in seeking opportunities at home and abroad. Our strengths at home will enable us to contribute to the global community."

NRF chief executive Low Teck Seng said the series of NICs creates synergies among industry, academia and government agencies that facilitate the exchange of fresh ideas from a diverse range of capabilities.

"It is now more important than ever to pool our resources to develop innovative solutions that help strengthen communities, support job creation, enhance industry processes and build a stronger Singapore," he added.

All challenges under the NICs will be hosted on the Open Innovation Network at its website.

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.