Philip Yeo Initiative celebrates 10th year anniversary with new Discoverer Programme for societal impact

An entrepreneur who has created an Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things solution to make industrial workplaces safer; a youth sustainability advocate who has championed environmental projects; and a food sustainability ambassador who develops and curates sustainability and well-being activities for corporate clients—these are some of the MAD COW (Make A Difference, Change Our World) individuals who have emerged from the Philip Yeo Initiative, a ground-up movement to empower Singapore’s most promising changemakers.

NUS Enterprise celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Philip Yeo Initiative (PYI) on 28 September 2023, marking a decade of its significant role in nurturing a diverse group of impact-driven changemakers.

Professor Chen Tsuhan, NUS Deputy President (Innovation and Enterprise), said, “We are delighted to see the passion and dedication of our PYI Fellows and Associates who have made remarkable strides in their respective fields. PYI has become an integral part of our mission to empower and inspire individuals who can make a difference and change our world.

Moving forward, we aim to raise more funds, and fundraising is one of the objectives of the PYI 10th anniversary dinner. Part of these funds will be used to support the Discoverer Programme, which is the third programme to come under PYI and will be launched in 2024, to nurture leaders who are looking to create positive societal impact.”

New Discoverer Programme to nurture future leaders for societal impact

Under the Discoverer Programme, undergraduate and postgraduate students from local Institutes of Higher Learning will intern for six months to a year at impact-driven enterprises that focus on issues of an urgent and critical nature to humanity. They will work closely with key stakeholders at these organisations to better understand the intricacies of providing solutions for public good and address the world’s most urgent and critical problems. They will also benefit from the coaching and guidance of mentors who have distinguished themselves through impact in their own fields.

“For the pilot run of the Discoverer Programme, we have successfully onboarded Red Cross and World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore, who have agreed to take on our students. We hope to bring in more NGOs and impact-driven enterprises, so more students can participate in the inaugural Discoverer Programme in 2024. Selected NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) students who have an interest can undertake their internship in these enterprises and benefit from the mentorship provided by the Programme,” said Professor Chee Yeow Meng, NUS Vice President (Innovation and Enterprise), and PYI Steering Committee member.  

Making a difference from the ground up

A maverick known for constantly pushing the envelope, Mr Philip Yeo is credited as one of the key forces behind Singapore’s rise to the top—from the country’s success in fields like biomedical science to the strategic development of local talent.

His work continues through the Philip Yeo Initiative (PYI), a ground-up movement hosted by NUS Enterprise. PYI was established in 2013 by his protégés with the goal of inspiring new generations through his unique brand of leadership, fondly known as MAD COW (Make a Difference, Change Our World). It currently comprises the Philip Yeo Innovation Fellows Programme and the Philip Yeo Grant.

Reflecting on his PYI journey, Mr Yeo shared, “I’m very proud of our Associates and Fellows who have all grown in their own ways. The PYI serves as a guiding force, pushing them to think deeper, fostering valuable connections and instilling confidence in them. It is good to see our young people fly higher and contribute to the community.”

Changing our world for the better

The Philip Yeo Innovation Fellows Programme has supported a total of 37 individuals to date, while more than 150 students have benefited from the Philip Yeo Grant.

Among them is Ms Samantha Thian, founder of Seastainable. In 2017, she took time off from her studies at the NUS Business School to participate in a whale shark research programme in the Philippines. While conducting this research, she was both shocked and saddened by the amount of plastic pollution in the sea. Upon returning to Singapore, she realised how much single-use plastic Singaporeans consume and went on to set up Seastainable in 2017 with the initial goal of reducing Singapore’s consumption of plastic straws and other single-use plastic products.

“Riding upon my campaign to reduce single-use plastic straws, Seastainable first set up an online retail platform selling zero-waste products. When the pandemic hit in 2020, I knew we had to pivot away from retail, as our objective was always to drive behavioural change and there were many alternatives in the market. Getting into the Philip Yeo Innovation Fellows Programme was timely. With guidance from my mentors, I decided to focus on providing environmental education and consultancy services to organisations looking to become more sustainable,” said Samantha.

Celebrating talent and ties within the PYI community

In addition to commemorating the achievements of PYI, the evening also showcased the incredible talent within the PYI community, through performances including taiko drumming and singing, all brought to life by members of the PYI community. Beyond the festivities, PYI Fellows and Associates shared their hopes and dreams for the future of Singapore and expressed their appreciation for PYI through an exhibition.

With over $800,000 raised to date, the proceeds, combined with contributions to the PYI endowment fund, will collectively support new programmes and initiatives to carry forward Mr Yeo's legacy.

Mr Hsieh Fu Hua, Chairman of the NUS Board, said, “Mr Philip Yeo is special to the nation and is considered a national treasure. He is a groundbreaker who breaks frontiers, and this evening’s event is another remarkable initiative that reflects his deep love and passion towards people.”


By NUS Enterprise