Singapore’s NRF awards US$30mil to four local enterprises
By Benjamin Cher May 17, 2016
- CapitaLand, DeClout, Wilmar and YCH to use grant to set up own VC funds
- Each has a different focus area, and is at a different stage of readiness
SINGAPORE’S National Research Foundation (NRF) has awarded four local enterprises with venture capital funds worth a total of S$40 million (about US$30 million) from its Early Stage Venture Fund Scheme (ESVF).
The four are CapitaLand Limited, DeClout Ltd, Wilmar International Ltd, and YCH Group Pte Ltd, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Dr Vivian Balakrishnan announced in his speech at the Innovfest Unbound event on May 17.
The grants were awarded to the four companies for them each to set up a venture capital (VC) fund.
This is the third instalment of the ESVF. The NRF has committed S$10 milllion (US$7.32 million) per fund on a matching basis to invest into startups based in Singapore.
The Foundation is committed to helping Singapore enterprises nurture their R&D (research and development) capabilities, according to NRF chief executive officer Professor Low Teck Seng (pic above).
It is also committed to helping Singapore enterprises “deepen their innovation efforts through technology adoption and development, to meet our national needs.”
“ESVF III seeks to do this by linking large local enterprises with technology startups so that both can benefit from each other’s capabilities,” he said in an official statement.
“We are confident that the strengthening of such linkages will create value for our economy, and more good jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans,” he added.
Four different objectives
The four companies will focus each of their funds on a different area, ranging from design and construction to logistics.
For example, real estate company CapitaLand’s fund will focus on design and construction; operations and maintenance; sales and leasing; customer engagement, workplace productivity; and smart living solutions.
Agribusiness group Wilmar International will focus on agricultural genetics; plantation management tools including software, drones, satellite and big data technology; and future foods, flavourings and flavour ingredients.
It will also focus on technology to improve route-to-market including supply chain management and e-commerce; consumer trend analytics; nutrition; novel manufacturing processes for food and oleochemicals; as well as diagnostic and monitoring tools and sensors.
Technology company DeClout will focus on big data analytics; smart logistics; cybersecurity; and fintech (financial technology).
Logistics company YCH Group will focus on the ‘Uberisation’ of logistics; the Internet of Things (IoT); 3D printing; big data; robotics; and fintech.
The four are at different stages of setting up their respective funds. For example, YCH Group has already launched its corporate venture arm, Supply Chains Angels (SCA), investing S$10 million in it.
“Ideally, we will try to roll out the funds as soon as possible,” said SCA investment committee member James Ong.
“In the last three to four months, we have spoken to about 30 companies and have shortlisted about five.
“They are in several spaces – in drones, in the IoT and the ‘Uberisation’ of warehouses,” he said on the sidelines of Innovfest Unbound.
DeClout itself is still shortlisting companies to invest in, according to Kelvin Tay, chief executive officer of DeClout subsidiary Corous360.
“We have been talking to several candidates and we are still on the lookout for more candidates involved in the four key areas we are looking at,” he said.
“We won’t shy away from making bigger investments than what is already planned, if we see an opportunity there.
“We believe that innovation is well and alive in Singapore, and are prepared to make the necessary investments,” he added.
DeClout is in close talks with some of its candidates and “there is a high chance we will be disbursing within the next six to 12 months,” according to Tay.
CapitaLand will be adopting a pragmatic approach, according to its chief development officer Ng Kok Siong.
The idea is not just to invest in a startup but to work with them to validate their idea and “if needs be, we can be both a customer and shareholder,” he said.
CapitaLand intends to take a step back and examine startups to ensure that they are on the cutting edge, according to Ng.
“The challenge with startups is that you don’t really know who is at the forefront, so there is some getting up to speed and to validate how it applies to us,” he said.
“In the next one to two years, you’ll see us deploying the funds, but we are always happy to hear from startups, because there is a pilot phase and a prototype phase – if you just knock on our door for money, that’s not the idea here, and not what we are trying to achieve,” he added.
Wilmar International has identified three companies so far, according to its head of investor relations and communications Lim Li Chuen.
“One is in food safety related technologies, one in food genomic testing, and one in food and agricultural biotesting solutions,” she said.
“It is still very early stage – we still have to set up the actual fund and all that, but I say we will be disbursing funds within 12 months as we have our own targets to keep track of,” she added.
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