The University’s culture of enterprise and innovation was one of the many topics covered by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally on 21 August.
Addressing how Singaporeans can progress together, Mr Lee said that entrepreneurship was important in this aspect. He then highlighted in particular Blk71, the incubation space managed by NUS Enterprise; NUS start-up Zimplistic, which developed Rotimatic — the world’s first automatic chapati and roti maker; and the NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) programme, which aims to hone entrepreneurial skills in students.
Introducing Blk71 Ayer Rajah Crescent to the audience, Mr Lee said that it was renovated and launched as an incubation space for entrepreneurs some five years ago. He noted that Blk71 has “a lot of bright ideas inside”, adding that the incubation zone has expanded to Blocks 73 and 79. Blk71 evolved from Plug-In@Blk71, an initiative by NUS Enterprise with SingTel Innov8 and Media Development Authority in 2011, and has led to the development of Launchpad@one-north by JTC Corporation. There is also a Blk 71 San Francisco, which Mr Lee mentioned that he visited during a trip to the US.
Mr Lee also cited Zimplistic as a successful example of entrepreneurship. Zimplistic was founded by NUS alumni Ms Pranoti Nagarkar and Mr Rishi Israni, whose prototype of the Rotimatic had won the national Start-Up@Singapore competition in 2009. With her engineering background, Ms Nagarkar handled product design, while Mr Israni oversaw software development. Capable of churning out hot fresh chapati at the rate of one per minute, the Rotimatic was launched last year and proved to be very popular, with close to 8,500 units sold within a few days.
Speaking of the NOC programme, Mr Lee said, “Our schools are giving our students exposure to start-up hot spots all over the world. NUS has Overseas Colleges in lots of places, including in Silicon Valley. Students go there, they have a chance to attend classes at the universities there. They interact with start-up founders, angel investors.” Besides Silicon Valley and Singapore, NUS has established other NOCs in Beijing, Lausanne, Munich, New York, Shanghai, Stockholm and Tel Aviv.
Mr Lee felt that the NOC programme gives students the impetus to innovate and come up with their own start-up ideas and businesses. In fact, “the next Google or Facebook or Alibaba may come from Singapore”, he quipped.