Sea makes transformative $50 million gift to NUS Computing

The University has received its largest-ever gift from a corporate donor. The $50 million from homegrown global consumer internet company Sea Limited, announced on 29 March, will advance research and education at the NUS School of Computing (NUS Computing).

The transformative gift will allow the School to take the lead in research and education for high-growth areas like artificial intelligence and data science. It will also support talent development programmes such as scholarships, research fellowships and visiting professorships.

NUS Computing will also use the gift for outreach programmes and as seed grants for promising projects.

“We are always very heartened to see such close collaboration between our universities and companies, and so we are particularly glad to see this collaboration between NUS and Sea,” said Education Minister Mr Lawrence Wong at the signing of the gift agreement.

“The agreement that’s being inked today is significant, not just because of the monetary contribution, but because it reflects a further deepening and strengthening of the partnership to do more together.”

Mr Wong added, “The movement to digital life will be broad and will come quickly. So this contribution will certainly complement the government’s efforts and investments in our rapidly-emerging technological areas.”

In his speech, NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye noted the similarities between NUS and Sea.

“We are both homegrown and headquartered in Singapore. We see ourselves as talent-focused organisations. We also share similar ambitions: both NUS and Sea aim to shape the future in our respective ways, to change lives for the better,” said Prof Tan.

“Sea exemplifies the spirit that we hope to see in Singapore, and in all of NUS’ start-ups: that you pay it forward. By giving back to the community that nurtured and supported you in your path to success, you are enabling others. We applaud Sea for setting this exemplary example for the corporate sector, and we hope to see more companies coming forward to support NUS and the education sector in impactful and meaningful ways.”

A natural match

Sea and NUS Computing are a natural match, said Prof Tan. Sea has been a strong supporter of NUS Computing over the years. It has been serving on the School's Industry Advisory Committee since 2017, providing Computing students with valuable internship experiences through the School’s Work Study Programme. Sea also actively recruits NUS Computing graduates.

NUS Computing is widely recognised as among the best in Asia and internationally. In the recent 2021 QS World University Rankings by Subject, NUS Computing was ranked fourth globally for Computer Science, behind MIT, Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon University.

It also has a strong track record in innovation and enterprise, with some exceptional companies founded or co-founded by NUS Computing students, faculty members and alumni: Visenze, 6estates, tenCube, Zilliqa, and the newly-minted unicorn Patsnap, the first NUS-supported start-up to be valued at more than US$1 billion.

“We see this significant gift from Sea as an extension of the warm relationship between NUS and Sea. We hope to build on this synergy to jointly advance our common goals through new and exciting initiatives in the coming years, for the benefit of Singapore and the wider community,” said Prof Tan.

A technology conglomerate

New York-listed Sea provides digital entertainment, e-commerce, and digital payments services through its brands Shopee, Garena, and SeaMoney. The group was recently awarded a digital full bank licence by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, reinforcing the key role the company will play in Singapore’s digital future.

Sea has its corporate headquarters at Fusionopolis Place – just a stone’s throw from the University’s Kent Ridge Campus.

“More than just friendly neighbours in Kent Ridge, Sea and NUS are well aligned in our core values and vision for the future,” said Mr Forrest Li, Chairman and Group CEO of Sea.

He noted that education is important to Sea as it views people as its most valuable asset. The company employs close to 900 NUS alumni, both in Singapore and overseas. This includes Sea co-founder Mr David Chen, and Shopee CEO Mr Chris Feng who had graduated from NUS Computing.

“This gift is our way of giving back to NUS and the wider community, in thanks for all the support we received on our own journey, starting out as a small start-up just 12 years ago,” said Mr Li. When the company was ready to scale up, Singapore provided the talent, capital, and infrastructure that allowed it to grow from a local to a regional company, and then to a global one.

Partnerships between universities and industry

The gift has significance beyond NUS and Sea. Education Minister Mr Wong applauded it as a prime example of partnership between an educational institution and industry.

“Technological progress is never a simple one-way linear progression from science to application, or from researcher to industry,” he noted. “It’s often a two-way street. In fact, it’s an iterative dance amongst researchers, scientists, practical investors, and business leaders.”

Learning, similarly, cannot just happen in the lecture halls or classrooms.

“Projects outside the classroom are equally, if not more, important in imparting valuable skills and giving students exposure to tackling real world problems. And that’s why our universities recognise these benefits and they have been very proactive in bringing onboard more industry partners, both for teaching and research purposes.”

See press release.