The Singapore government is keen on expanding the local startup landscape by focusing on three key areas, namely, branding, funding and talent attraction. Early this year, as a first step towards generating a strong brand identity for Singapore-based startups, the government unified all startup-relevant government schemes under an umbrella brand called Startup SG. The idea is to create a distinct identity as well as to make it easier for startups to find all relevant information and help under a single portal. There are presently six schemes available under the Startup SG brand; among them is Startup SG Tech, a grant scheme to accelerate the development of deep-tech innovations.
About the Scheme:
The objective of the scheme is to drive the growth of startups based on proprietary technology and to foster the spirit of deep-tech innovation among startups. The grant offered to startups is to speed-up both development and commercialisation of proprietary technology and promote the growth of innovative and scalable startup models. Under the scheme, qualifying companies may receive early stage funding to help them develop and commercialise their innovations.
The scheme offers grants to support two stages of innovation projects – Proof of Concept (POC) and Proof of Value (POV). Depending on the stage of development, startups can apply for grants under the scheme.
The grant is capped at S$250,000 and S$500,000 for POC and POV respectively. In order to anchor the applicant’s commitment in the project, the scheme requires successful recipient companies to increase the paid up capital by 10% and 20% of the grant for POC and POV respectively.
The grant amount is divided and disbursed in tranches upon achievement of specific pre-agreed milestones in the project. To begin with, upon reaching the pre-requisite milestones, 20% of the grant amount is disbursed to ease the cash flow of the company thereby enabling it to kick-start the project.
The scheme also includes an equity component whereby SPRING or its appointed nominee has the rights to exercise a share subscription of 50% of the awarded grant; this is capped at 49% of the total shareholding of the company. The share subscription rights will be exercised when a qualifying equity financing round occurs. SPRING or its appointed nominee will seek to divest at the subsequent equity financing round.
Proof of Concept
This phase of a project involves the development of viable technological ideas/concepts. While the POC demonstrates technical and commercial viability of the innovation, substantial development work is needed to prove that the innovation would work. However, it does not include the preliminary experimental phase of research such as market or basic research, augmentation of technical or scientific knowledge or the development of ideas/hypothesis or research design.
Proof of Value
This phase of a project involves further development on an idea or innovation that has been proven to work. This is subsequent to the POC stage and may build on a working prototype, leading the startup to seek commercial validation by seeking investors and reference clients. The applicant must demonstrate business/ entrepreneurial commitment and acumen to undertake the execution and commercialisation of the project.
The scheme supports research and innovation in deep technology sectors; therefore in order to qualify, the project must fall under one of the following areas:
|Advanced Manufacturing / Robotics||Biomedical Sciences and Healthcare|
|Intelligent digital industrial technologies
Fleet management systems
Intelligent control systems
Kinematic and dynamics (manipulation and movement)
Navigation, machine vision and positioning (sensing)
|Life Science Tools
Diagnostic and Implantable Systems
Medical Device Technology
|Clean Technology||Information & Communications Technologies|
Waste management systems
Urban and sustainability solutions
Renewable energy generation and management
Infocomm Infrastructure and Architecture
Analytics and Artificial Intelligence (e.g. Machine Learning)
Augmented Reality/ Virtual Reality technologies
Distributed Ledger Technologies (e.g. Blockchain)
Urban and Autonomous mobility
Sustainable energy generation and management enablers
|Precision Engineering||Transport Engineering / Engineering Services|
Sensors and Actuators
Optics and lasers
|Subsea technologies e.g. subsea production and monitoring, materials development for high temperature/ high pressure applications
Process technologies e.g. solutions for improved oil recovery
Note: Innovation projects that fall outside the above sectors can still seek the consultation of SPRING to determine the eligibility for the grant.
Eligibility for Startup SG Tech
In order to qualify for application, the applicant’s innovation/solution must fulfil the following criteria
Your solution must:
- Clearly demonstrate how science/technology is applied;
- Be of a breakthrough level of innovation (i.e. distinctly different or new technology which either (i) has the potential to disrupt an existing market; or (ii) to replace, or create, a new market/purpose/niche.);
- Lead to or build on proprietary know-how/IP;
- Be commercially viable
As for the company, the following criteria must be fulfilled:
- Startup must be incorporated in Singapore as a private limited entity and must have physical presence and operations in Singapore.
- It must be an SME that fulfils the following criteria
- At least 30% local shareholding
- Company/Group turnover of not more than S$100 million
- Company/Group employment headcount of not more than 200 employees
- The company should not have been incorporated more than five years back at the time of applying for the grant.
Application Process for Startup SG Tech:
The application process involves three stages:
Stage 1 (Registration of Interest)
Interested applicants must express interest by submitting a short summary of their project and its scope along with the completed Startup SG Tech Registration of Interest Form by emailing it to SPRING Singapore. After evaluation, SPRING will notify you of your project’s eligibility for the grant.
Stage 2 (Application and Evaluation)
Eligible projects will be invited to submit a formal application comprising detailed project proposal with cost breakdown. SPRING will evaluate the projects for their technical and commercial viability and the degree of novelty. The application will be evaluated by SPRING’s partner agencies such as Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA), PUB – Singapore’s national water agency, and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).
Stage 3 (Final Panel Evaluation)
Shortlisted applicants will make a final presentation to a panel of industry experts for evaluation. The panel consists of executives from MNCs, representatives from government agencies, venture capitalists, professors and researchers from institutes of higher learning. The panel’s decision is final. A SPRING officer will work with the applicant company that has cleared Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the evaluation, to prepare for the presentation.
Note: The evaluators generally sign a non-disclosure agreement with SPRING but they do not sign separate NDA with applicant companies.
Processing Time for Startup SG Tech:
The applicants are notified of the outcome at the end of each stage of evaluation. After registering the interest, it takes approximately three months, for all three stages of evaluation, before the letter of offer of the grant is received.
- Principal Investigators (PI), as well as Research Scientists and Engineers (RSEs) from public sector research organisations are also considered for funding under POC Phase of the scheme. The applicants must demonstrate entrepreneurial commitment to commercialise the innovation upon completion of the project.
- Startups or entrepreneurs with foreign registered patents will be considered for the grant if they meet the eligibility criteria.
- Likewise, foreign startups that are registered overseas but wish to conduct their research and development activities by incorporating a subsidiary in Singapore would also be considered for the grant, provided they meet the eligibility criteria and they are able to demonstrate economic value to Singapore and the innovation’s IP rights is assigned to Singapore entity.
- Eligible applicants may directly apply for the POV stage funding provided their project meets the commercial scope of the POV.
- If the applicant is in doubt of whether to apply for POC or POV he can consult SPRING to know which is more relevant for his case.
- Irrespective of whether you apply for POC or POV, it is important for you to highlight the commercial value of the innovation.
- The project must not have commenced at the time of application; however, if the applicant wishes to commence work, the applicant may do so after submitting the application. The applicants who choose to commence work prior to the confirmation of grant, are strongly advised to have other resources or financial sources as back up to pursue their project without interruptions, should their application get rejected.
Startup SG Tech Closing Note
The scheme is specifically designed to catalyse and democratise innovation as a growth strategy for small startups and young SMEs. The companies in this segment have a need to tap into disruptive technologies in order to gain competitive advantage and differentiation but have financial constraints. The scheme especially targets such companies and helps to enhance their innovation capabilities. It is important to note that SPRING is also open to innovations that have potential qualitative value that cannot expressly be quantified. The primary objective of the scheme is to groom technopreneurship to build a strong IP portfolio in Singapore. The scheme is testimony to Singapore’s receptivity to foreign startups that are committed to creating IP assets in Singapore.
Grab the Startup SG Tech opportunity and start a business today
Singapore Company Incorporation is the leading force in company registration in Singapore. With a gamut of services including Work Visas & Relocation, Accounting & Taxation, Business Licenses, Company Secretary and Trademark Registration, we are well-positioned to support your business.