Singapore’s parliament has provided an update on how the agency for science, technology and research (A*STAR) has helped local SMEs commercialise technology.
In regards to intellectual property (IP), SMEs that have licensed IP from A*STAR grew from 129 licences in FY2016 to 178 licences in FY2017.
“This builds on A*STAR efforts under RIE2015, where A*STAR issued 627 licences to SMEs from FY11 to FY15,” said Chee Hong Tat, senior minister of state for trade and industry in Parliament.
Furthermore, the technology transfer from A*STAR to SMEs has largely occurred through a scheme called the technology for enterprise capability upgrading (T-Up) scheme, where researchers from A*STAR are seconded to SMEs to help build in-house R&D and technical capabilities.
“Since the launch of the scheme in 2003, A*STAR has seconded 769 researchers to 678 SMEs,” said Chee.
It is also possible for SMEs to leverage A*STAR’s capabilities and facilities without owning or licensing the technologies.
“Under A*STAR’s Tech Access programme, SMEs can make use of A*STAR equipment and technological know-how to prototype new products, qualify new processes and test out new applications,” said Chee.
In all 30 companies have benefited from this scheme since its launch in 2017.
Chee highlighted two key challenges SMEs face in applying and commercialising technologies. The first challenges according to Chee was that SMEs generally lack the resources to make full use of technology in their existing business strategies.
“To address this, A*STAR provides assistance to our SMEs to help them develop their technology strategies through the Operation & Technology Roadmapping (OTR) programme,” said Chee.
“This helps companies make better-informed decisions in their firm-level innovation strategies, including decisions related to R&D and IP."
The OTR programme also identifies potential R&D partners within and outside of A*STAR who can work with the SMEs.
“A*STAR aims to achieve 400 OTRs from FY2017 to FY2020,” said Chee. “Since April 1, 2017, to July 31, 2018, a total of 178 companies have joined the programme.”
The second challenge SMEs face in applying and commercialising technologies are that many SMEs are not familiar with managing and commercialising IP.
“The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore has put in place several initiatives to help our SMEs grow their enterprise through intangible assets, including IP from A*STAR and other sources,” Chee said.
Some of these initiatives include complimentary legal and business clinics. This means SMEs can benefit from expert advice from IP consultants and lawyers.
“Around 600 companies have benefited from the programme since its launch in 2015,” added Chee.
Furthermore, in April 2017, Singapore’s national IP protocol for publicly funded R&D was updated to help expedite the commercialisation of IP.
“The enhanced IP framework will facilitate collaborations between industry and public sector researchers, including research spin-outs, joint labs with industry and industry-academia consortia,” said Chee.