Inaugural iGnite Award 2023: Empowering the next generation of NUS-affiliated impact start-ups

A start-up catalysing waste reduction for positive sustainability impact. An innovative venture that manufactures body-assistive apparel using patented fabric-based air-spring technology to reduce muscle effort and potential injury when doing physical work. A research-based company that collects and transforms organic waste from farmers into an array of sustainable alternative materials.

These were the NUS-affiliated start-ups recognised for making significant environmental, social or sustainability-related impacts at the iGnite Award, organised by Alpha JWC Ventures in partnership with NUS Enterprise. The iGnite Award is the flagship start-up support programme of Alpha JWC Ventures, designed to nurture the next generation of impact-driven founders. Through their partnership with NUS, the award now extends its support to recognise and empower promising early-stage impact start-ups affiliated with NUS, enabling them to create a lasting positive impact on communities.

“At NUS Enterprise, we strive for our start-ups to be more than just doing something good; we also want them to excel and do what is right. With the iGnite Award, our NUS-affiliated start-ups will get the support to improve their solutions and extend their positive impact on the environment, communities and the world,” said Mr Brian Koh, Director of Ecosystem Development, NUS Enterprise.

When the call opened in May this year, the iGnite Award received many impact start-up applications from diverse industries, all with a focus on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Out of these, six start-ups advanced to the grand finals on 26 July 2023, where they presented their transformative solutions to a distinguished panel of judges representing pioneers in the start-up space: Mr Brian Koh, Director of Ecosystem Development, NUS Enterprise; Mr Jefrey Joe, Managing Partner, Alpha JWC Ventures; and Mr James Tan, Chairman, Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE).

ArmasTec, Bell Living Lab and Nanomatics were crowned winners of the iGnite Award, each receiving up to US$40,000 in prize money. They will also benefit from added support and mentorship from NUS Enterprise, gaining access to diverse resources, networking opportunities and the guidance of experienced mentors.

Learn more about how these three winning start-ups of the iGnite Award are making an impact from driving sustainability to revolutionising the way people move and work:

ArmasTec is a start-up founded by NUS alumni Rainier Natividad and Serene Wong. Hailing from the NUS Graduate Research Innovation Programme (GRIP), the company specialises in comfortable and efficient body-assistive apparel. Their flagship product, the AireLevate™ base suit, features a state-of-the-art fabric powered by air-regulated muscles designed to assist with manual handling activities in the logistics and healthcare industries. The innovative suit reduces the lower back effort required for lifting objects by up to 55 per cent.

Incubated at BLOCK71 Bandung, Bell Living Lab is dedicated to recycling agro-waste such as fruit waste and coconut fibre using microbe technology. What sets their process apart is its simplicity, efficiency and scalability, making it suitable for implementation in both laboratories and homes. Beyond being eco-friendly, the venture also embraces a social business approach. By partnering with local villagers in Cidaun, Cianjur, West Java, who have faced inconsistent earnings, the start-up provides them with essential training on material production. These eco-friendly materials then serve as substitutes in the textile industry, currently dominated by non-environmentally friendly products that often harm the environment during production.

Nanomatics, an alumnus of PIER71’s Smart Port Challenge, takes on the complex task of addressing the challenges in plastic recycling. With over 90 per cent of plastics being non-recyclable due to contamination and processing complexities, recycling has remained economically unviable. However, this start-up aims to make a positive sustainability impact through advanced thermal technologies. Unlike conventional chemical recycling, their innovative thermal process converts plastic waste into high-value products like oil, solid carbon and hydrogen, enabling more effective recycling and contributing to sustainability efforts.

Mr Andrei Veksha, Director of Nanomatics, said, “We would like to express our sincere gratitude to NUS Enterprise and Alpha JWC Ventures for organising this fantastic programme, offering start-ups like ours a platform to showcase our vision and efforts. These funds will play a pivotal role in advancing our research, and the development and implementation of innovative solutions to tackle the global issue of plastic waste.”

While the inaugural NUS Enterprise and Alpha JWC Ventures iGnite Award has concluded, the possibilities that lie ahead for future editions are boundless. The grand finals are just the beginning of the engagement with the start-ups. Discussions with the six finalists have already started, with the aim of exploring avenues for support and collaboration, including investment opportunities and market access to magnify their impact.


By NUS Enterprise