BLOCK71 Suzhou, a new initiative by NUS (Suzhou) Research Institute (NUSRI) and NUS Enterprise, was launched on 23 November by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Finance in Suzhou, China. The new initiative will enable the University to expand its presence in China and ramp up efforts to help Singapore companies explore business opportunities in the country. This is the latest addition to the expanding BLOCK71 global network, which already has its footprints in Singapore, San Francisco in the US, and Jakarta, Indonesia.
Mr Heng, who is also Singapore-Jiangsu Cooperation Council (SJCC) Chairman, announced the initiative at the 11th SJCC meeting in Suzhou, China. Following the meeting, Mr Heng launched BLOCK71 Suzhou at Ascendas iHub where he met with several Singapore and China technology start-ups based there.
“BLOCK71 Suzhou builds upon the strong ties between Singapore’s and Jiangsu’s companies and institutions,” Mr Heng said. “I hope BLOCK71 Suzhou will catalyse many breakthroughs and new partnerships that will benefit our people.”
Speaking on the new initiative, Professor Tan Eng Chye, NUS Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost, said, “Today, we are pleased to expand and deepen NUS’ engagements and activities in Suzhou through the establishment of BLOCK71 Suzhou, which will spur business opportunities between companies in Singapore and China. BLOCK71 Suzhou will help to drive active interactions between research and start-up communities in both Singapore and Suzhou, enabling them to reach international markets and scale more efficiently.”
NUSRI is the University’s first overseas research institute. Over the last seven years, NUSRI has served as gateway for NUS to partner institutions in China to boost the research, education and entrepreneurship activities that the University has been actively spearheading.
Noting how NUSRI demonstrates a win-win partnership between Singapore and China, Prof Tan added, “The intellectual property, expertise and experience gained through the work and activities at NUSRI have enabled NUS to create value and impact for Singapore, for instance, in the form of technology innovation, incubation and commercialisation. At the same time, we help contribute towards China’s innovation and economic growth.”
Dr Lily Chan, CEO of NUS Enterprise, shared that they are excited to bring the BLOCK71 concept to the incubation space with NUSRI. Over the past four years, some 50 companies had been incubated there, with several NUS technology spin-off companies commercialising NUS innovations. These companies include patent search start-up PatSnap; MXR, which integrates augmented reality technology and education; and biotechnology company Kosmode.
“BLOCK71 Suzhou is unique as it enables companies to tap on the research and technology expertise at NUSRI. Together with our partners, we hope to accelerate the growth of the start-up community in Suzhou and in China, and open doors for Singapore start-ups and companies to tap into China’s fast-growing economy,” she added.
Managed by NUS Enterprise, BLOCK71 Suzhou consists of two facilities located within the Suzhou Industrial Park.
The first site — BLOCK71 Suzhou 壹 (pronounced “yī”) — developed in partnership with NUSRI, will support deep-tech start-ups. It will additionally encourage innovation and commercialisation efforts in areas such as artificial intelligence, biomedical sciences, cloud computing, robotics and smart devices.
The second facility — BLOCK71 Suzhou 贰 (pronounced “èr”) — is a partnership between NUSRI and Ascendas-Singbridge and aims to provide the start-up community with additional space. Located at Ascendas iHub Suzhou, the site is scheduled to be ready in the second quarter of 2018.
To enhance the benefits of the ecosystem, NUS Enterprise, NUSRI and Ascendas-Singbridge will join forces to organise activities and events, providing platforms for relevant partners such as investors, government agencies, corporates and industry to meet with start-ups. Companies housed at BLOCK71 Suzhou can also look forward to access to innovative technologies and research from NUSRI and partnering Chinese research institutes, incubation and technology commercialisation support, as well as introduction to global networks and resources.