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In Singapore, Open Innovation Comes of Age

IPI to facilitate open innovation for businesses in Singapore

· TechInnovation

Enterprises that partner with problem solvers with cross-industry expertise are fast-tracking innovation and creating new pathways to growth. Open innovation – a trend that has seen businesses adopting a more inclusive and collaborative approach - will undoubtedly help to ease the global economic dislocation experienced this year.

For small businesses intending on keeping operations lean, especially in tough times, open innovation makes financial sense. Without having to hire more expertise, drawing on external specialists can minimise costs, improve time-to-market and create new revenue streams. IPI, the newly rebranded subsidiary of Enterprise Singapore (ESG) that creates Innovation for Impact, can facilitate open innovation for businesses in Singapore.

IPI acts as a marketplace to broker valuable partnerships for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore, now taking on a greater role to help businesses transform, develop commercialisation capabilities and strengthen go-to-market strategies. IPI’s core activities are premised on the recognition that all companies, regardless of size, can benefit from open innovation. Even 183 year-old Proctor & Gamble (P&G) recognises the need to link with experts in other disciplines. “There has to be acceptance that not all the best ideas will come from within your own company,” says Dr David Jakubovic, Senior Director R&D, Connect + Development (Open Innovation) Asia, P&G speaking at TechInnovation 2020, a premier technology brokerage event organised by IPI in Singapore.

Pulling on external expertise throws a lifeline to smaller enterprises navigating today’s troubled waters. Companies searching for mutually beneficial collaborations is at an unprecedented scale as they look to overcome this year’s uncertainty. In Singapore, there have been over 60 calls by organisations looking for proactive solutions from the global community to address an array of challenges from sustainability to combating COVID-19 since November 2019.

Par Investments Pte Ltd, a local food commodities and ingredients supplier, is successfully leaning on its partners to improve its business. “Par as an SME lacks in many resources such as human capital and R&D capabilities,” says David Tan, Par’s Managing Director. Recognising this, Par has tapped on IPI’s Innovation Advisors Programme to seek guidance in its innovation journey to convert food waste and by-products into higher value commodities. The initial trials have shown promising results and the innovation is projected to double the company’s revenue over the next three years.

With the pandemic presenting exceptional challenges for large and small businesses alike, there is now significant pressure to be agile, noted several company representatives at TechInnovation. Businesses, especially SMEs, “must adopt an innovation-led growth strategy to thrive and succeed,” says Dr Tan See Leng, Singapore’s Second Minister for Trade and Industry.

Some companies have used Singapore’s innovation ecosystem as a springboard to propel their open innovation efforts. The Bright Science Hub, anchored by Royal DSM - a purpose-led global science-based company in Nutrition, Health and Sustainable Living, provides start-ups a unique opportunity to gain access to the company’s wide ecosystem networks and expertise. Start-ups can also gain unique access to DSM laboratories for the prototyping and development of nutritional products.

SMEs that can leverage partnerships with companies like P&G and DSM, to pivot into new markets or develop differentiated products and services will stand out in a competitive marketplace in which there is an unprecedented variability of demand and preferences. “These SMEs,” says Dr Tan, “will be in a much better position to command higher margins as well as create new pathways to grow their businesses.”

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