The fifth and final of Australia’s much-ballyhooed international ‘Landing Pads’ is now operational in Singapore. It joins those in San Francisco, Berlin, Shanghai and Tel Aviv.
The Landing Pads are a key $11 million initiative in the National Innovation and Science Agenda. The idea is that by establishing incubators for Australian startups in these dynamic tech hubs, they will get access to local markets, skills and perhaps capital.
The Singapore Landing Pad is located at BASH in Ayer Rajah industrial park, about 5km west of the Singapore CBD.
BASH, which stands for ‘Build Amazing Startups Here’, describes itself as the city state’s ‘largest integrated startup space.’ It is in a building called Block 79, adjacent to the well-known Block 71 incubator.
This puts the Australian Landing Pad right in the middle of Singapore startup scene.
There are other incubators nearby in the Biopolis (centred around biomedical technology) and the impressive Fusionopolis, a 30 hectare cluster established by the Singapore Government to foster innovation across industries.
Also in the neighbourhood are Nanyang Technology University and the National University of Singapore.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop opened the Landing Pad with Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran.
“Singapore was an obvious choice,” said Ms Bishop at the launch. “As well as being such close friends and neighbours and having a very similar view on commercial and economic issues, it is also a gateway into Asia.”
Minister Iswaran also spoke at length about the strong bilateral ties between Australia and Singapore, and in particular the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) agreement established on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 2015.
In May of 2016 the two countries also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance technology collaboration and agency-to-agency innovation and science engagement between them. Under the MoU, each country agrees to invest $25 million over five years in joint technology initiatives. The Landing Pad is one of the first tangible signs of this.
“Through the Landing Pad, Australian entrepreneurs will have access to a network of contacts in Singapore and ASEAN, as well as in-market business development, investment, and mentorship opportunities,” he said.
Ms Bishop said four Australian startups will be in the Landing Pad from its inception:
- Perth-based Hipflask, which has developed an app to show ‘the easiest way to discover gigs around town’
- Ebilities, based on NSW’s Central Coast, which has developed mental ability tests for employment suitability testing and other application
- Quitch: out of Sydney, which has developed ‘gamified apps that make learning fun’
- Zed, also based in Sydney which has also been part of Telstra’s Muru-D incubator. It has developed My Film Bag, ‘a digital platform that allows patients to view, share and store their X-rays and scans with anyone, anytime. (Muru-D also has a Singaporean arm)
“For Australians this is a place where they can meet investors, meet people with similar or contrasting ideas, be part of an ecosystem that generates creative innovative thought,” said Ms Bishop.
“The Landing Pad initiative will strengthen Australia’s already close bilateral ties with Singapore, and deliver meaningful outcomes for business in both countries.”
But this official government-sanctioned facility is not the first Singapore based initiative for Australian startups. In September 2015 Sydney-based Gemstar opened an ‘Innovation Centre of Excellence’ in Singapore.
Gemstar is itself a startup, founded by Gemma Manning in 2013 to help promote Australian entrepreneurs in Asia. It says it has already helped ten Australian startups establish themselves in Singapore and South-East Asia ,including ParentPaperwork, Phoria, Progressclaim.com, and FuturePeople.
“Australia boasts a highly educated workforce. We have many techpreneurs conducting research and development, and designing innovative technology,” says Ms Manning. “To commercialise their ideas however, techpreneurs need help.
“Gemstar’s mission is to play a leadership role, bridging the existing gap between tech firms, investors, technology funds and markets. We also aim to bridge the gap between Australia and the SE Asia region, through Singapore as a key gateway into SE Asia.”
She is not concerned that the Landing Pad is in any way competitive to Gemstar’s activities. “If anything we are complementary,” she told InnovationAus.com. “The 90 day residency limit for the Landing Pad is very short, particularly by Asian standards.
“It takes months or even years to establish relationships in this part of the world. These things don’t happen overnight. We take a much longer view – we may even work with the Landing Pad.”
She also made the point that while the location of the Landing Pad may sound attractive, most people want to work in central Singapore. “We made a conscious decision to be in the middle of town, on South Bridge Road. Even SGInnovate has located itself in Clarke Quay.”
SGInnovate was launched last year by the Singaporean Government to promote local entrepreneurship and innovation to the world.
Ms Manning is in the process of relocating from Sydney to Singapore. The world looks like a very different place from there.