The Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), the research enterprise at MIT in Singapore, announced a five-year grant to the SMART Innovation Center (SMART IC) by the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF) as part of its Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 plan. The SMART IC plays a key role in accelerating innovation and entrepreneurship in Singapore and will channel the grant towards refinement and commercialization of developments in the field of deep technologies through financial support and training.
Singapore has recently broadened its innovation ecosystem to perfect deep technologies to solve complex problems in areas of critical importance. Although there has been increased support for deep tech here, with investments in deep tech startups from $324 million in 2020 to $861 million in 2021, startups of this nature tend to take longer to scale, acquire, or go public due to the increased time, labor, and capital required. By providing researchers with financial and strategic support from the earliest stages of their research and development, SMART IC hopes to accelerate this process and help bring new and disruptive technologies to market.
“SMART’s Innovation Center prides itself on being a leading engine of research and innovation, identifying and nurturing emerging technologies and accelerating them to commercialization,” said Howard Califano, Director from SMART IC. “With support from the NRF, we look forward to another five years of further ecosystem growth by ensuring an environment in which research – and research funds – are properly directed to market and societal needs. This is how we can solve problems faster and more efficiently, and ensure that value is generated from scientific research.
Created in 2009 by MIT and funded by the NRF, the SMART IC pursues the objectives of SMART by developing promising and innovative technologies on which teams of professors and research in Singapore are working. Some emerging technologies include, but are not limited to, biotechnology, biomedical devices, information technology, new materials, nanotechnology, and energy innovations.
Having trained more than 300 postdocs since its creation, the SMART IC has supported the launch of 55 companies that have created more than 3,300 jobs. Some of these ventures were led by SMART’s interdisciplinary research groups, including biotech companies Theonys and Thrixen, autonomous vehicle software company nuTonomy and integrated circuit company New Silicon. During the 2020 RIE period, 66 Ignition Grants and 69 Innovation Grants were awarded to SMART researchers, as well as faculty from other universities and research institutes in Singapore.
The following four programs are open to scholars from education and research institutions, as well as institutes of higher education, in Singapore:
Innovation 2.0 grant: The Enhanced SMART Innovation Center’s flagship program, the Innovation Grant 2.0, is a closed three-phase program aimed at enabling scientist-entrepreneurs to launch a successful business, with intensive training and follow-up throughout all phases. This grant program can provide up to S$800,000 and is open to all areas of deep technology (engineering, artificial intelligence, biomedical, new materials, etc.). The first call for grants for the Innovation Grant 2.0 is open until October 15. Researchers, scientists and engineers from public tertiary institutions, research centres, public hospitals and medical research centers in Singapore – especially those working on disruptive technologies with commercial potential – are invited to apply for the Innovation Grant 2.0.
I2START grant: In collaboration with SMART, the National Health Innovation Center Singapore and Enterprise Singapore, this new integrated program will develop masterclasses on business creation, with a focus on medical devices, diagnostics and medical technologies. The grant amount can be up to S$1,350,000. Applications are accepted throughout the year.
STDR stream 2: The Singapore Therapeutics Development Review (STDR) program is jointly managed by SMART, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and the Experimental Drug Development Center. The grant is available in two phases, a pre-pilot phase of S$100,000 and a pilot phase of S$830,000, with a potential combined total of up to S$930,000. The next call for STDR Pre-Pilot grants will open on September 15.
Central Reserve Fund: The SMART IC is an office of innovation and enterprise under the Central Gap Fund of the NRF. This program supports projects that have previously received an Innovation 2.0, STDR Stream 2, or I2START grant, but need additional funding to transition to Seed or Series A funding, with possible funding of up to $5 million. Singapore dollars. Applications are accepted throughout the year.
The SMART IC will also continue to develop strong entrepreneurship mentorship programs and regular industry events to encourage closer collaboration between faculty innovators and the business community.
“SMART, through the Innovation Center, is honored to be able to help researchers bring these game-changing technologies to market, where they can contribute to the economy and society. The projects we fund are commercialized in Singapore, ensuring the local economy is the first to benefit,” says Eugene Fitzgerald, CEO and Director of SMART, and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT.
SMART was established by MIT and NRF in 2007 and serves as an intellectual and innovation center for cutting-edge research of interest to both parties. SMART is the first entity of the Campus of Excellence in Research and Technology Enterprise. SMART currently comprises an innovation center and five interdisciplinary research groups: antimicrobial resistance, critical analysis for the manufacture of personalized medicines, disruptive and sustainable technologies for agricultural precision, future urban mobility and low-energy electronic systems.
The SMART IC was created by MIT and NRF in 2009. It identifies and nurtures a wide range of emerging technologies, including but not limited to biotechnology, biomedical devices, information technology, new materials, nanotechnology and energy innovations, and accelerates them to commercialization. The SMART IC operates a rigorous grant system that identifies and funds promising projects to help them de-risk their technologies, conduct proof-of-concept experiments, and determine go-to-market strategies. It also prides itself on its strong entrepreneurship boot camps and mentorships, as well as frequent industry events to encourage closer collaboration between faculty innovators and the business community. The SMART Innovation Fellowship Scheme is the only scheme open to all higher education and research institutes in Singapore.