Connecting Dots Across Asia's Tech and Urban Landscape
Connecting Dots Across Asia's Tech and Urban Landscape

ESG, IMDA And NRF Commit S$40 Million To National Innovation Challenges To Help Companies Emerge Stronger Post-COVID

Enterprise Singapore (ESG), the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF) launched a series of seven National Innovation Challenges (NICs) today to accelerate innovation efforts and help enterprises develop solutions to overcome challenges in the post-COVID world. As announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in the Fortitude Budget, the NICs seek to catalyse partnerships across the economy by providing a platform for enterprises, government agencies, Research Institutions (RIs), Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), and Trade Associations & Chambers (TACs) to co-innovate and tackle immediate needs for safe reopening. Through open innovation calls, the cross-industry collaborations will also address mid- and long-term sectoral challenges to help companies emerge stronger in the new future.

S$40 million in funding has been dedicated to the NICs to ramp-up the development and adoption of solutions, where each challenge is allocated up to S$2 million. The round of open innovation calls extends seven challenge statements across five sectors – transport and logistics, built environment, MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions), tourism, and maritime. By jointly analysing industry problem statements, and crowdsourcing for solutions, the NICs aim to quicken the pace of innovation, commercialisation, and adoption of innovations across industry sectors.

NICs as a platform to encourage collaboration across private and public sectors

ESG, IMDA and NRF will gather industry challenge statements from both private and public sectors. Through this open innovation platform, companies and government agencies can gain access to a diverse pool of SMEs and startups with new solutions that can be applied across industries, while solution providers can innovate and create solutions that are catered to industry demands. Participation from the TACs and end-users (both companies and government agencies) also help ensure that solutions developed are practical and industry-relevant.

Mr Peter Ong, Chairman, Enterprise Singapore, said, “The pandemic is forcing entire economic sectors to adapt to a new operating environment. The NICs will help companies and government agencies adapt more quickly by tapping the innovation capabilities of Singapore-based inventors and enterprises. The NICs will also offer our innovative enterprises opportunities to work with potential customers to test novel solutions. This will help them build up their track record and scale their solutions to grow both in Singapore and overseas.”

Mr Lew Chuen Hong, Chief Executive, IMDA, said, “We recognise the urgent need to accelerate innovation adoption and digitalisation across the Singapore economy. Open innovation can be the channel for companies looking to solve problems with innovative solutions quickly. Through platforms such as IMDA’s Open Innovation Platform (OIP), enterprises, trade associations and chambers can co-create and deploy innovative solutions that improve organisational efficiency. With the NICs, the government is taking an additional step in committing resources and prioritising the deployment and adoption of successful pilots across industry sectors.”

Companies will also get opportunities to tap into the latest cutting-edge research from RIs and IHLs, which in turn, ensures academic ideas are grounded with industry relevance and experience. This way, companies will be able to enhance their processes and operations using advanced technologies that will enhance their resilience as the economy safely reopens.

Professor Low Teck Seng, Chief Executive Officer, NRF, said, “This series of National Innovation Challenges creates synergies between industry, academia and government agencies, which is a hallmark of translational research excellence. It will facilitate the exchange of fresh ideas from a diverse range of capabilities that we have built up across our research institutions with our past R&D investments. It is now more important than ever to pool our resources to develop innovative solutions that help strengthen communities, support job creation, enhance industry processes, and build a stronger Singapore.

NIC challenge statements

This series of NICs will host seven challenge statements. Three challenge statements involve addressing higher accuracy of shipping container inspections, more productive tracking and tracing of cargo and increasing productivity through AI. These will be launched in conjunction with the Trade and Connectivity Challenge1 (TCC) today, which returns for the second year.

Four challenge statements will be hosted on IMDA’s OIP. These statements seek to address challenges across different sectors from tourism, the MICE sector, to construction. These challenges aim to position Singapore as a safe place to conduct business among the local and international community, while helping to spark a revival of the events and construction sectors post-COVID.

All challenges under the NICs will be hosted on the Open Innovation Network (OIN), the national gateway to all open innovation challenges and activities in Singapore ( Through OIN, users will be able to find out more information about each innovation call and how they can participate. The next round of NICs is expected to launch in Q4.


[1]TCC is an open innovation call that connects corporates and startups to co-innovate solutions that can accelerate the development and adoption of technology across the transport and logistics supply chain. Please refer to ESG’s media release on the TCC for more details.


About Infocomm Media Development Authority

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) leads Singapore’s digital transformation with infocomm media. To do this, IMDA will develop a dynamic digital economy and a cohesive digital society, driven by an exceptional infocomm media (ICM) ecosystem – by developing talent, strengthening business capabilities, and enhancing Singapore’s ICM infrastructure. IMDA also regulates the telecommunications and media sectors to safeguard consumer interests while fostering a pro-business environment, and enhances Singapore’s data protection regime through the Personal Data Protection Commission.

For more news and information, visit or follow IMDA on Facebook IMDAsg and Twitter @IMDAsg.

About Enterprise Singapore

Enterprise Singapore (ESG) is the government agency championing enterprise development. We work with committed companies to build capabilities, innovate and internationalise.

We also support the growth of Singapore as a hub for global trading and startups, and build trust in Singapore’s products and services through quality and standards.

Visit for more information.

About National Research Foundation

The National Research Foundation (NRF) is a department within the Prime Minister’s Office. The NRF sets the national direction for research, innovation and enterprise (RIE) in Singapore. It seeks to invest in science, technology and engineering, build up the technological capacity of our companies, encourage innovation by industry to exploit new opportunities that drive economic growth, and facilitate public-private partnerships to address national challenges.

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