Singapore Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat visited NUS Enterprise’s start-up space The Hangar on 1 April, interacting with student entrepreneurs and viewing prototypes of emerging technologies.
Led by NUS Enterprise CEO Dr Lily Chan, Mr Heng spoke to founders of several innovative start-ups including WateROAM, which provides a portable water filtration device for developing countries and disaster relief sites; Medad Technologies, an energy-efficient and cost-effective means of desalination; Subnero, solutions to enhance underwater networks and communications; and Bronxculture, which promotes a type of cellulose aerogel from waste paper with great oil absorption properties. He noted many ideas offered solutions to Singapore’s challenges and that start-ups do not always have to be high-tech to be innovative.
The Hangar, located within I3 Building, houses start-ups and entrepreneurs as they nurture their business ideas, with access given to NUS technologies, support services and knowledge experts to facilitate commercialisation. It is an extension of the NUS Start-Up Runway, which provides a suite of incubator cum accelerator programmes to support entrepreneurs on their journey.
Students of the NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) programme also shared their experiences abroad in entrepreneurial hubs such as Silicon Valley and New York. NOC has placed more than 2,000 students in such hubs across the world since 2002 and its alumni have formed more than 250 companies.
Mr Heng said he was very impressed by The Hangar’s energy. “You see the students coming together to try out new ideas, brainstorming with one another, looking at critical problems in Singapore and in the world that are worth solving," he said.
The education system, said Minister Heng, needs to produce students who do not just engage in passive learning but really think about how they can use the knowledge gained to make a difference.
"I think it is a very good interaction between the students, the professors, and with the private sector. So [we] must encourage more of this...our universities should be centres of wealth creation."
Mr Heng also dropped by Plug-In@Blk71 at the old Ayer Rajah Industrial Estate, another start-up space managed by NUS Enterprise, in partnership with Singtel Innov8 and Media Development Authority.
The Minister later visited BASH at Block 79, managed by Infocomm Investments Private Limited, which also showcased various accelerators and start-ups. While there, he touched on the launch of SG-Innovate, a company designed to catalyse innovation and growth in Singapore. “Transforming our economy through innovation and entrepreneurship is going to be very critical for us going forward,” said Mr Heng.
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