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Innovation Without Bounds for a Brighter Tomorrow with Shirley Wong, Chairperson, Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition

Innovation is the process of replacing the outdated or less efficient or bettering them. It is a tool used by entrepreneurs to take advantage of developments to start new businesses or tweak existing ones. An innovative, successful entrepreneur can come up with new products, models or methods that meet the needs and or will serve trends in the market.

Innovation comes by observing and analysing trends and helps a business either cope with these or create new opportunities. Moreover, a brand’s nature, inventiveness and design-thinking processes are enhanced through innovation. By learning how to be creative and leverage innovative developments, a business can stay at the top of its field.

Shirley Wong: Innovating is a continuous process of evolving and improving and I think there’s no end to it

In an exclusive interview with Mohit Sagar, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of OpenGov Asia, Shirley Wong, Chairperson, Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition (LKYGBPC) explained why innovation is at the heart of entrepreneurship.

Innovative Solutions for a Sustainable & Resilient Future

Shirley feels that the concept of urban innovation is intrinsically linked to the highly trendy term “smart.” Smart encapsulates the provisions, solutions and methods used to resolve the issues of large cities. With significant deviations from the norm, the landscape is incredibly inventive in the urban sector.

The urban context is becoming progressively significant with the world slated to become predominantly cities in the near future. Moreover, in an increasingly VUCA environment, this transition is accompanied by a plethora of cyber and physical dangers.

“The goal of such innovation is to improve the lives and quality of all people by an ideal coming together of social and economic needs. As such, the sector gives birth to more meticulous and creative thoughts,” observes Shirley.

By enabling smarter social and economic convergence, participation and mobility solutions, these innovations can enhance the quality of life in urban areas. Newly designed innovations in these areas provide a sustainable future – and a secure, safer one.

In addition, innovation is not necessarily meant to create a new product – it might be an innovative service, a one-of-a-kind offering for customers or just a better, more efficient way of doing something.

At the end of the day, Shirley adds, that the most important thing about innovation is that it is driven by excellence and is always looking for ways to get better. “Innovating is a continuous process of evolving and improving and I think there’s no end to it.”

Strategy and innovation are much more likely to be successful when design principles are used – design thinking makes products and services more appealing to the people who use them. Thus, agility and progress are the paths that will lead to innovative thinking for the future.

Shirley expanded on the types of innovative business entrepreneurs. According to her, enterprise entrepreneurs may employ innovation to generate new concepts for long-established organisations. This might aid a business in being relevant and competitive in the market. “These are the innovations backed by corporations,” says Shirley.

Social entrepreneurship, on the other hand, seeks to tackle community issues along with its product or service. These items can encourage beneficial changes in community behaviour. Typically, social entrepreneurs evaluate their success by the extent to which they have improved their community, as opposed to their profitability.

Start-up entrepreneurs invent a singular, industry-unique product or service. To ensure the success of their start-up, entrepreneurs may employ creative customer retention techniques.

“All forms of entrepreneurship, including social, start-up and enterprise, ultimately have a bottom-line,” Shirley says. “The concept or measure of profitability is diverse and may not necessarily be counted in terms of money.”

A Glimpse of the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition (LKYGBPC) 11th Edition

Shirley encourages the support of the public and collaboration for the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition (LKYGBPC) – a biennial international university start-up competition held in Singapore. The programme is named after Singapore’s first Prime Minister, who developed the country’s foundational business strategy and brought Singapore to the global stage.

The Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Singapore Management University organises the competition, which focuses on urban concepts and solutions produced by student entrepreneurs and early-stage start-ups. It is positioned as a campus innovation movement with the goal of developing a worldwide start-up ecosystem that includes investors such as venture capitalists, corporations, and governments.

The competition sustains this spirit of entrepreneurship, innovation, and ambition by bringing together the world’s most inventive institutions to confront and imagine the concerns of the twenty-first century.

The 11th edition of LKYGBPC has the theme “Innovation Beyond Boundaries – Reimagining a Smart, Sustainable & Resilient Future,” and will culminate with the Finals Week (BLAZE) on 11 to 15 September 2023 in Singapore.

Urban Solutions and Sustainability, Manufacturing, Trade, and Connectivity, Human Health and Potential, Smart Nation and Digital Economy, and Media and Entertainment are the main areas of focus for the upcoming competition.

LKYGBPC has a target audience of

  1. Start-Ups: To present innovative solutions to international investors to win attractive prizes in cash and in-kind, meet corporate decision-makers and expand networks;
  2. Investors: Access a pool of start-ups from the world’s brightest, young minds to find the next unicorn;
  3. Corporates: Expose brand to a wide audience, stay on the pulse of the latest developments impacting the start-up eco-system and key industries, the source for innovative ideas and top talent; and
  4. Governments: To play a vital role in nurturing a digital future, by fostering fresh ideas and solutions that can generate social and enterprise values.

The competition will launch in late October 2022, and the deadline for application would be in March 2023. During the application period, roadshows will be held at various university campuses and incubators located across the globe, including Leuven and Helsinki in Europe, Cambridge in the United Kingdom, Shanghai, Mumbai and Nagoya in Asia, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta in Southeast Asia, and Melbourne in Oceania, are among the event’s highlights.

Online judging by an international panel of judges will happen between May and June 2023 to shortlist 150 teams for the next phase. Applications are judged on their inventiveness, commercial viability, idea impact, and execution capability.

The top finalist teams (RVLT50) will be named in June 2023, From June to August 2023, there will be mentoring sessions and workshops, such as Changemakers Conversations.

In September 2023, RVLT50 will go to Singapore for a week-long immersion programme called BLAZE. The programme will have VC Office Hours, networking sessions, facility visits, mentoring sessions, Category Finals (Semi-Finals), a Grand Finals Pitch, and an Awards Dinner.

There will also be thought-leadership panel discussions where well-known industry experts, tech start-ups, and academics will talk about hot issues and topics in the global start-up scene and share their knowledge and experiences.

Last but not least, BLAZE will play host to Southeast Asia’s largest gathering of senior venture capitalists offering free one-on-one advice to start-ups, especially those in their early stages.

Happiness Resulting from the Provision of a Solution

Shirley is proud to have been an entrepreneur for many years and that her interest is in creating and expanding enduring enterprises. With over 30 years of experience in the IT & Technology industry, her recent priorities have shifted to investing in and coaching technology-based businesses – though her enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and cutting-edge technology to boost productivity has not diminished in any way.

She actively supports entrepreneurs in the start-up industry in their pursuit of capital and market access. “Building a business not only for myself but also for everyone around me, particularly those who had the same passion and aspirations to be an entrepreneur.”

Shirley is thrilled to observe the difference in her customers’ lives before and after implementing the remedy she proposed, as well as how much businesses flourished. “That encourages me to persevere and strive to do better for them.”

From 2013 to 2016, she was the head of the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation, now renamed SGTECH. She has been involved in the start-up scene, helping start-ups get funding, access to resources, market connections and go to markets.

She sits on the judging panels for events like the President Science & Technology Awards, the Techblazer Awards, and the Asia Pacific ICT Awards, among others. Shirley described her experience as chairman of LKYGBPC as “exciting.”

“The amount of effort that we put into the programme and for those who come to support us gets better, bigger and more significant,” Shirley is delighted to share. “In five to 10 years, LKYGBPC will function at the forefront of entrepreneurial innovation and will go beyond the competition as we want start-up firms to experience the dynamic environment that Singapore provides for entrepreneurs.”

“Through our platform, start-up companies will have access to a network in Singapore, which I believe is unprecedented. We should be the best conduit for their regional connectivity,” Shirley declares.

Shirley serves on the board of Assurity Trusted Solutions, DSO National Laboratories, National Kidney Foundation and Yellow Ribbon Singapore. She is currently a member of CAAS authority committee member of the Cybersecurity and Data Governance committee, the PDPA Advisory and the SIA Engineering Technology Advisory board. She previously served on the board of Singapore Science Center, Infocomm Development Authority, Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore and Accel Systems & Technologies.

In the first Singapore 100 Women in Tech List, which came out in 2020, Shirley was named one of the 100 women who had done great things and made important contributions to tech.


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