NUS partners Unicorns For Good and Social Innovation Park in championing impact leadership for start-ups and innovators

NUS inked an agreement with social impact organisation Unicorns For Good (UFG) and the non-profit organisation Social Innovation Park (SIP) on 18 May 2023 to champion impact leadership for start-ups and innovators by harnessing the power of technology for the greater good.

The Memorandum of Understanding marks the beginning of a significant partnership between the three parties in the fields of ‘Tech For Good’ and ‘Mindful Leadership’. Demonstrating their shared commitment, they will work with stakeholders to leverage technologies, tap into global networks and mobilise financial resources to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. They will also catalyse the transition towards a regenerative economy that supports sustainable growth, environmentally friendly practices and social well-being. Some potential areas of collaboration include:

  1. Experimentation: UFG, NUS and SIP will explore the feasibility of a sandbox initiative to provide an experimental environment for start-ups and innovators to test-bed and validate solutions with societal impact objectives.
  2. Community-building: Events and activities will be held to facilitate networking, knowledge transfer and collaboration among like-minded start-ups, innovators, and experts.
  3. Thought leadership: The three parties will work on documenting case studies and best practices to help start-ups and companies use technology as an enabler for positive social impact.
  4. Mentorship: UFG, NUS and SIP will pool their resources to create a mentorship initiative focused on ‘Tech For Good’ for start-ups and innovators.

Witnessed by Ms Gan Siow Huang, Minister of State for Education and Manpower, the MOU was signed by Ms Penny Low, Founder and President of UFG and SIP, and former Member of Parliament; Professor Chen Tsuhan, Deputy President (Innovation and Enterprise) of NUS; and Mr Khong Kwok Wai, Director of SIP. Senior leaders from the signing parties comprising Associate Professor Benjamin Tee, Associate Vice President (Enterprise), Office of the Deputy President (Innovation and Enterprise); Mr Brian Koh, Director of Ecosystem (Business Development), NUS Enterprise; Mr Ricky Kok, Founder and CEO of Chang Cheng Group; Mr Pang Lim, Founder and CEO of Koufu; and Mr Lim Chin Boon, Founder and CEO of Clean Solutions, were also invited to observe the ceremony.

Prof Chen said: “Through this partnership, we strive to bridge the gap between academia, industry, and society in creating a seamless transition from theory to practice, and from lab to market. By co-creating new opportunities in the areas of experimentation, community-building, research, training, and mentorship with UFG and SIP, it opens avenues for entrepreneurship, knowledge transfer, and partnerships. It also empowers innovators to use technology as an enabler for positive social impact, so that they can make a difference in society with their inventions.”

Ms Low said, "As more and more artificial intelligence enters our lives, more and more (the) mindfulness quotient needs to be awakened, especially in leaders”. Technology, she noted, should be applied to foster a regenerative society for the benefit of humanity. “NUS, the Social Innovation Park and Unicorns for Good will join hands to leverage the University’s excellent academia capital, SIP's rich social innovation experience, and UFG's deep global network, to forge meaningful collaborations,” she added.

Inaugural forum on “Mindful Leadership in an Age of Disruptive AI”

To mark the collaboration, UFG, NUS and SIP co-organised an inaugural forum on “Mindful Leadership in an Age of Disruptive AI” in conjunction with the MOU signing. Speakers from the private, public, and people sectors discussed the importance and role of mindful leadership in navigating the challenges and opportunities presented by disruptive AI technologies. They also shared their views on how business leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs can be stewards for the responsible application of AI and other technologies to create positive transformations for society and the world.

“Innovation is everyone’s responsibility, (whether you are) developers of technology or governors of ethics,” said Prof Chen. When it comes to designing, developing, and deploying emerging technologies like AI, both businesses and individuals have an enormous responsibility to adopt a balanced and mindful approach — one that maximises their potential for good while minimising potentially adverse social, ethical and environment concerns, he added.

Ms Low emphasised that in an age of technological disruption, a more equitable and ethical society can only be built only through collective commitments and actions. “It is not just the engineers who need to come together. In fact, the sociologists, the psychologists all hands must be on deck not just in terms of coming up with guidelines, but also taking personal responsibility in using and navigating some of these (new technologies),” she said.

The event also featured a ‘Tech for Good’ showcase of five start-ups, all supported by NUS Enterprise, which have championed impact innovations that create positive transformations for the environment and community. Among them were food-tech start-ups Aurora Food, a wellness-inspired company founded by three food scientists from NUS, and EzCompostr, a Composting as a Service (CaaS) multi-award-winning social enterprise started by a group of NUS students passionate about sustainability and solving the problem of food wastage. The other enterprises were GO!MAMA, an alumni start-up of BLOCK71 Singapore that designed Singapore’s first lactation pod system — by mums and for mums; Moonbeam, a circular economy start-up founded by a team of NUS Overseas Colleges alumni; and I’m Friendly Co, a digital application where users can access in-built personal journaling features and live chats with their trained listeners.

By NUS Enterprise