Professor Shih Choon Fong from the National University of Singapore has proposed that Singapore government should look at the creation of “launchpads” outside of Singapore to allow Singaporean entrepreneurs to reach out to the global market.
Prof Shih at his public lecture on Wednesday evening, “Taking Singapore to the World: Growing Global Brands” shared that there are mega opportunities around the world for local entrepreneurs to tap on, given the growing physical and digital connection of the world’s population. He said that entrepreneurs cannot look to grow in Singapore’s limited market of its five million population but instead should look at bringing the city to the world.
“While the Singapore market is 5 million, think of the world’s market. At this time, you know what they want? 50% more food, 30% more water, and 45% energy, that is a lot of opportunities for new companies, start-ups, green companies, all of these.” said Prof Shih.
Launchpads could provide co-working space, incubators and accelerators for entrepreneurs to reach out to markets outside of Singapore. Especially if located in countries such as America and China, with their population of 320 million and 1.4 billion respectively.
“The other thing about launchpads is networking; you would be surprised how important is networking.”, said Prof Shih to the media about the plus point of what launchpads could provide for entrepreneurs, adding that relationship matters everywhere, not just in China, even in America.
Innovation and commercialisation are the key
Citing the example of Detroit and Silicon Valley in the United States, Prof Shih explained how former economy powerhouses like Detroit could lose out through lack of innovation of its industries, while cities like Silicon Valley grew with companies that innovate, bringing it to where it stands now from a barren piece of land over the last few decades.
“Singapore’s continuing growth depends on innovations.”, Said Prof Shih. He added, “Research papers, inventions and IP are bright ideas but are not innovations. Innovations transform bright ideas into commercial products and services.”.
While heavy investments are placed into R&D in Singapore, not much effort has been put in the commercialisation of the innovations brought about from the R&D efforts which happens to be the most important part of entrepreneurship where the profit is.
Using China as an example destination, Prof Shin proposed that students could be allowed to spend two years at NUS and two years in China to spur young people to get associated with the local culture and innovation trend and become entrepreneurs at the China market. He had shared in his earlier presentation that China’s market is set to exceed America’s market in the years to come.
When asked by media on the likely impact of huge numbers of unsuccessful attempts if entrepreneurship is successfully promoted, “I would not say it failed or passed, but I can say its a learning process.” said Prof Shih. He shared that if entrepreneurs are too concerned about failure, then they would bound to stick to the tested and proven ways of solutions, and this runs counter-intuitive to the development of individuals to “think out of the box”.
Prof Shih also said that for those people who failed in their attempts, they can value add to companies as employees through their personal experience of entrepreneurship. However, a fertile ground has to be created for the Singaporean entrepreneurs to nurture and grow, along with the change in the education system.
Prof Shih Choon Fong, NUS President (2000 – 2008), has been serving as University Professor at NUS since 2013 and was the first Singaporean to be elected as a Foreign Associate to the United States National Academy of Engineering.
Professor Shih Choon Fong was President of NUS from 2000 to 2008 and Founding President of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia from 2008 to 2013. He was appointed University Professor by NUS in 2013 and was conferred Honorary Membership by NUSS in 2001.
Professor Shih was instrumental in advancing research and entrepreneurship at NUS in the 2000s.