Singaporean state-owned investor Temasek is planning to pour S$1 billion per year (US$740 million) into deep-tech innovation in Singapore, in addition to the government’s S$25 billion (US$18.5 billion) Enterprise 2025 plan for tech development, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced today. Investment will cover life sciences, foodtech and advanced manufacturing, Heng told the Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) Industry Day conference organized by Temasek.

The move is intended to position Singapore as a global hub for tech and innovation, in a similar way as it has reinvented itself in the past in shipping, oil refining, petrochemicals and manufacturing. In a typical Singaporean fashion, the island nation is seeking to punch above its weight through a focus on impact and agility.

The Singaporean investor is playing a significant strategic role in these developments. Also speaking at the RIE Day event, Chia Song Hwee, Deputy CEO of Temasek International, explained how the investor was responding to the accelerated pace of technology and innovation-led change in relation to climate change and energy transition: “The chances of bringing about the carbon emissions reduction we need, without massive innovation and new solutions, is practically zero.

“Temasek co-funded the Centre for Hydrogen Innovations, together with NUS and A*STAR, to further the R&D of hydrogen in Singapore. In partnership with BlackRock, Temasek established Decarbonization Partners to advance decarbonisation solutions.

“Temasek has also made direct investments into deep tech companies working on disruptive innovations in the areas such as energy, transport, food, water, waste, materials and urban development. These startups aim to solve massive emissions created by cement and steel, those materials which are essential to urbanisation.”

To meet the challenge faced by business investing in R&D while needing to secure short-term profits, Temasek’s focus is on collaboration to enhance the ecosystem via the RIE2025 Plan to capture opportunities and develop partnerships.

Temasek is establishing its own suite of in-house Singapore-focused startups, such as Aicadium, an AI tech and solutions operation which has recently acquired  BasisAI, the Singapore-based provider of end-to-end machine learning platform, Bedrock, which enables organisations to rapidly deploy responsible AI solutions. 

Other start-ups include Affinidi, a travel pass software developer, and Istari, a cybersecurity company. Affinidi’s services are used by another Temasek portfolio company, Singapore Airlines, which uses the pass to verify Covid-19 test results. Istari develops cryptography technology, provides incident response and monitors hacking activity and trends.

This year, Temasek has so far deployed more capital into the city-state’s tech sectors than in any previous full-year, although Singapore still represents just 13% of its total venture capital so far this year, excluding the in-house start-ups. Temasek’s drive to support domestic VC is accompanied by the government’s bid to support local startups via SG Equity, which supports startups involved in biopharmaceuticals, medtech, advanced manufacturing and agri-food tech.

The US$283 billion investor is always on the lookout for the next big thing emerging from Singapore’s entrepreneurial milieu, including: seed funding in Singaporean plant-based food startup NextGen; backing Big Ideas Ventures’ New Protein Fund 1 as it strives to develop alternatives to meat; and a joint venture deal with Nanofilm Technologies to create Sydrogen Energy, which will market parts used in the production of fuel cells and electrolyser systems in hydrogen production.

Photo by Kin Pastor from Pexels

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