Global connections for the future

The Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) has released its report recommending seven strategies for Singapore’s economic development in the coming decade. The Committee also underscored the importance of deepening and diversifying Singapore’s international connections, to seek opportunities in new markets, strengthen economic cooperation and harness new ideas and innovation. 

The Committee’s slew of recommendations included the setting up of a Global Innovation Alliance, where institutes of higher learning and companies in Singapore can link up with overseas partners in major innovation hubs and key markets.

An example cited was the NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC), which has links to nine entrepreneurial cities in Asia, the US and Europe. The Committee recommended building on such links and expanding the network in regional countries to provide students in Singapore with exposure and opportunities in Asia and beyond.

The Alliance could also set up innovation launch pads to facilitate market access and expertise sharing between Singaporean and foreign start-ups, universities and its partners. One example is Block 71 in San Francisco, a collaboration between NUS Enterprise, Singtel Innov8 and Infocomm Investments, which fosters ties between start-up ecosystems in Singapore and the US. The incubation space in San Francisco was set up following the success of Block 71 at Ayer Rajah Crescent, established in 2011.

“We welcome the ideas and strategies put forth in the CFE Report, and the proposed formation of a Global Innovation Alliance,” said Dr Lily Chan, CEO of NUS Enterprise. “The NOC programme today is widely regarded as the seed of the start-up community in Singapore — catalysing the start-up scene here, and making entrepreneurship a viable, and even desirable, career choice for Singaporeans.

“The University will continue to leverage on our international networks to strengthen the NOC programme, and our wider efforts at nurturing and enabling innovative talents and ideas that are of strategic importance to Singapore,” she added.


The NOC partners some of the top global universities, including Tsinghua University, Fudan University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and Stanford University

NUS pioneered the NOC programme in 2002 to provide an immersive entrepreneurial experience for NUS students. The NOC reimagines the study abroad idea by providing full-time internships with start-ups and entrepreneurship classes with top partner universities in some of the most entrepreneurial cities around the world. The NOC now has about 300 students each year. It counts over 2,100 among its alumni, who have founded more than 270 start-ups, such as Zopim, Carousell and online peer-to-peer payments start-up Xfers.

The NOC experience provides students with global entrepreneurial mindsets. Dr Chan explained, “They learn how to be creative with limited resources, how to adapt to ever-changing situations, how to be culturally effective, and how to seize opportunities. It encourages creativity and resourcefulness, but also equips students with the confidence and know-how to spot market gaps, as well as the courage to create their own companies and jobs. These skills will be useful in any future they choose — whether they go on to found their own companies, or to effect change within their existing organisations.”