NUS GRIP Lift-Off Day 2023: Next tech unicorns in the making

Fourteen deep tech start-ups presented their ground-breaking solutions to an enthusiastic audience comprising corporate partners, accelerators, venture capitalists and investors at the NUS Graduate Research Innovation Programme (GRIP)’s Lift-Off Day held on 28 June 2023.

Currently in its ninth run, GRIP is one of NUS Enterprise’s flagship innovation programmes. It provides comprehensive step-by-step guidance to the best and brightest NUS postgraduate students and researchers, cultivating these budding entrepreneurs to translate NUS’ world-class research in deep technology into their own start-ups.

Held in a hybrid format, the event marked a return to in-person engagement following the resumption of physical events after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inspiring the next generation of deep tech entrepreneurs

In his opening speech, NUS Associate Vice President (Enterprise) Associate Professor Benjamin Tee, emphasised the programme's core mission, "The ultimate goal of GRIP is to nurture university talents in their quest to become successful deep tech start-up entrepreneurs.”

At the event, Assoc Prof Tee also introduced a new programme, GRIP Prime, that offers early exposure for applicants to explore product-market fit and enable them to avoid the most common pitfalls at an early stage. The programme will also increase the scale and accessibility in deep tech entrepreneurial training across the University, said Assoc Prof Tee.

Unveiling revolutionary innovations

The pitching session took centrestage at the GRIP Lift-Off Day, where the start-ups showcased their innovative solutions in a bid to secure funding as well as partnership and collaboration opportunities.

Among the notable start-ups, Circrete stood out with its mission to decarbonise the construction industry and reduce its environmental impact. By revolutionising the carbon-intensive cement production process, Circrete produces durable green cement from upcycled local waste marine clay. This breakthrough technology reduces the carbon footprint by up to 70 per cent and transforms waste clay into a valuable resource, revolutionising traditional cement production methods.

Another remarkable start-up was the return of GRIP alumni, ArmasTec™, which specialises in fabric-based exoskeletons. Their flagship product, the AireLevate™, reduces the physical strain on workers who regularly lift heavy loads, without compromising comfort and flexibility.

ArmasTec's proprietary fabric technology reduces back muscle load by close to 50 per cent, providing an ergonomic and comfortable experience for users. The start-up launched their first paid deployments in June 2023. They are also finalising a partnership with a major healthcare provider to develop an AireLevate™ suit for nursing, followed by deployments in hospitals.

Fostering collaborations and connections

Through their captivating pitches, the start-ups demonstrated the remarkable progress and deep determination honed, in part, due to the nurturing and guidance provided by GRIP.

The participating start-ups also showcased their innovations at the event booths. Additionally, they had the opportunity to further engage and explore potential collaborations with fellow entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, incubators, industry players, and other stakeholders at a networking lunch and a one-on-one online networking session.

To aid the GRIP founders as they build the next tech unicorn, the teams will continue to receive incubation support for a further nine months through mentorship, co-working spaces and other forms of assistance after Lift-Off Day.

Ms Karen Wai, a seasoned industry veteran and commercial champion to the GRIP team Picopoint Genomics who has been involved in the programme’s previous editions, offered her observations of how teams have evolved over the years. "The teams have become savvier in terms of their expectations. They come into the programme with clear expectations, and these expectations are met as the programme provides a well-structured framework."

Reflecting on the success of the ninth run of GRIP Lift-Off Day, Mr Kevin Leung, Acting GRIP Director, shared that in the upcoming runs of GRIP Lift-Off Day, attendees can expect “a powerful convergence of deep tech innovation and sustainability-driven solutions that deliver societal impact”. “We are committed to empowering start-ups that are not only disrupting industries but also driving positive change for a sustainable and inclusive future.”


By NUS Enterprise