An AI-based system that accurately administers epidural; a soil supplement that helps plants survive in drought conditions; a novel way of storing natural gas safely and longer; a software that reads and analyses text better than a human; a highly versatile autonomous underwater vehicle for maritime applications; and a software that promises high-quality video streaming – these are some novel inventions by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) that will receive an initial S$50,000 boost to their start-up journey. 

The University will be investing up to S$1.5 million in 15 deep-tech teams that have completed the NUS Graduate Research Innovation Programme (GRIP). The programme, managed by the NUS Industry Liaison Office, seeks to tap into the University’s talented graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and research staff to establish and run high potential start-ups based on deep technologies from NUS. 

In September last year, NUS announced that the university has committed S$25 million to co-create up to 250 deep-tech start-ups over a five-year period through NUS GRIP. 

The first run of NUS GRIP has recently been completed and a total of 15 deep-tech teams were recommended to receive the first tranche of seed funding when they form their companies. These teams offer a broad range of solutions in three key tracks – engineering, biomedical, as well as ICT and lifestyle. Each start-up will receive up to S$100,000 in funding from NUS. The first tranche of funding of S$50,000 will be awarded over the next two months, and the second tranche of S$50,000 will be invested when these start-ups secure external investment or grants of at least S$50,000.

Professor Freddy Boey, NUS Senior Vice President (Graduate Education & Research Translation), said, “NUS GRIP aims to leverage the deep technological capabilities within NUS, and turn innovations into viable and scalable commercial solutions quickly and effectively. The 15 start-ups selected for this inaugural funding have all shown strong market and business potential. We are pleased to give them a big push in their start-up journey and, in turn, accelerate the transfer of these innovations to the market, both locally and globally. There will be more rounds of funding to come, as we aim to invest up to 50 GRIP start-ups each year, over the next 5 years. In the long run, we hope that many of these NUS GRIP start-ups could become successful deep-tech companies and create innovation-based jobs in Singapore, as well as produce a sizable number of entrepreneurs for the Singapore economy.”    

Photo: BeeX, a highly versatile autonomous underwater and surface vehicle for maritime applications, is among the 15 deep-tech teams that will receive funding from NUS to form start-ups. (credit: National University of Singapore)

Translating deep-tech capabilities into commercial solutions

NUS GRIP launched its first call for proposal in August 2018. More than 90 applications were received and 20 start-ups were selected to participate in the Venture Hothouse, an intensive three-month business validation and venture creation programme. Under the programme, participants worked alongside seasoned tech company veterans to develop an operational business model, IP strategy and development plan, and go-to-market strategies. Master Engineers also worked hand-in-glove with the teams to develop working prototypes. 

This early funding seeks to enable these deep-tech start-ups to continue to fine-tune their prototypes further, while they seek further external investments before the second tranche of funding of S$50,000 by NUS. The University will continue to provide project management advice, access to prototyping services and lab facilities, and support these start-ups in raising additional funding. 

Source: National University of Singapore

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