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How Singapore is solving public sector challenges with innovative solutions from research institutes and the private sector

How Singapore is solving public sector challenges with innovative solutions from research institutes and the private sector

Public sector innovation is a key aspect of Singapore’s
Smart Nation journey. As government agencies seek to deliver better services
and to improve the lives of citizens, they face a variety of challenges. These challenges
could be addressed through technologies being developed by Research Institutes
(RIs), Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), and commercial entities. But how
can the two be connected?
The Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech)’s Innoleap
Programme and Translational Research and Development for Application to Smart
Nation (TRANS)
Grant aim to bridge this gap and bring government agencies and the RIs,
IHLs, and commercial entities together to tackle these problems.
At last week’s Supercomputing
Asia Conference
, OpenGov attended a presentation by Ms Vivien Chow,
Director, Applied Innovation and Partnership, GovTech, providing an introduction
to the Innoleap Programme and the TRANS grant.
Ms Chow summarised the overarching objective of her team, “We
facilitate agencies’ innovation journey to transform public service delivery
for the benefit of Singapore and Singaporeans.”
To do so, GovTech reaches out to the government agencies,
their CIOs (chief information officers), CTOs, quality service managers and
user groups, and sources problem statements. The problem statements can be
agency problems (a longer term issue, or immediate operational issue), related
to the Strategic National Projects (SNPs).
Then it conducts a market scan looking at the RIs, IHLs, the
startup ecosystem as well as association partners, such as SGTech, SCS (Singapore Computer Society)
Centres of Excellence (CentEx) are
also included in the market scan, which refer to the in-house capability
centres within GovTech. GovTech is building six Centres of Excellence: Cybersecurity
(jointly with Cybersecurity Agency of Singapore), Data Science, Sensors &
Internet-of-Things (IoT), Geospatial (jointly with Singapore Land Authority),
Infrastructure and Application Development.
After touching base with all the ecosystem suppliers,
GovTech looks for commercially available solutions. If solutions are available
in the market, the agencies are linked to the providers and they go through the
usual procurement process.
Ms Chow explained that by starting with government as the
lead demand and aggregating demand across various agencies enables them to
reach a critical mass.
There are several engagement platforms which are used for
connecting the RIs, IHLs and commercial vendors with government demand.
Innoleap engagement

Innoleap platforms include Thematic Workshops, Sharing Days
and Clinics. Thematic workshops are
conducted every two to three months based on themes identified from agencies’
demand. In these workshops, participants from the agencies meet companies with
innovative products or solutions. Each participant must bring along problem
statements relating to their area of work for in-depth discussion with the
technology companies and to explore potential collaboration & pilots.
Sharing Days are
organised to raise the level of awareness of emerging technologies amongst
officers in Government agencies. Companies are invited to share their solutions
and technologies related to a specific theme. Each company is given a specific
time period for presentation and demonstration of their solutions. At the end
of the session, time will be allocated for consultation with the companies.
Sharing days can be organised for different groups, ranging from a particular
agency, to a group of agencies for a specific domain.
One-to-one consultation
are conducted with agencies where GovTech works together with the
agencies to understand the problem statements and facilitates the link up with
companies to explore potential collaboration and pilots.
Then there is Innoleap-Accreditation
where GovTech works with the Infocomm Media Development Authority
IMDA’s Accreditation@SG
 Programme seeks to help promising Singapore-based tech product
companies to win projects, grow and compete in the global market. Being
accredited opens up more opportunities for their products and solutions to be
showcased and commercialised. For buyers from the Government and large
enterprises, the accreditation process provides an independent third-party
evaluation of the companies’ claimed product core functionalities and ability
to deliver.
These accredited companies showcase their capabilities
during Innoleap-Accreditation sharing sessions and GovTech helps match their
solutions to the agencies’ requirements.
During industry briefings, GovTech shares the roadmaps for the
strategic national projects and the tenders that are coming up with the next
financial year, so that industry can prepare to bid for those projects.
GovTech also organises ‘Blue-Sky
Senior Leaders CXO Breakfast
’ to discuss emerging technologies with leaders
in the ICT space.
Finally, here is a crowdsourcing portal, called eCitizen Ideas! which was launched
last year. GovTech publishes problem statement obtained from government
agencies seeking to crowdsource use cases, solutions and commercialisation partners.
In March this year, GovTech posted
a list of seven problem statements from government agencies on the portal. Solutions
sought ranged from an AI and robotics solution to patrol an outdoor compound to
a mixed-reality training simulation and a smart auscultation system to support
telehealth initiatives. The submission of solutions closed on 15 March.
TRANS grant
If solutions are not present or the existing solutions do
not meet the specific requirements of the government agencies, GovTech helps
fill in the capability gap.
The TRANS grant funds translational R&D and technology
or process innovations in areas that are aligned to the emerging and focused
tech areas. This funding initiative is jointly run by GovTech, National
Research Foundation (NRF) and Smart Nation and Digital Government Office
(SNDGO) under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
S$25 million of TRANS Grant funding has been awarded to
three TRANS Labs for a duration of three years, with effect from 1 September
The Labs are:

  1. Smart Platform Infrastructure Research on Integrative
    Technology (SPIRIT) from Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
  2. Smart Nation Applied R&D Lab (SNAL) from Agency for
    Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
  3. Centre for Applied Socio-Physical Analytics (CASA) from
    Singapore Management University (SMU).

These TRANS Labs have significant capabilities in the fields
of wireless communication, data science, artificial intelligence, cyber
security and social analytics.
The grant helps offset costs arising from the projects
undertaken under each approved proposal. This includes costs associated with
manpower, training, equipment investment, professional services and overheads.
In addition, TRANS Grant also provides support for operational activities and
developments arising from the administration of this funding initiative. Only
Singapore-based activities are supported through the grant.
Commercial entities can participate in co-creating solutions
with the TRANS Labs and relevant government agencies for deployment and
commercialisation of the solutions.  They can approach SPRING (now Enterprise Singapore, following a merger
with IE Singapore) for potential Gov-PACT
support. This S$80 million Government Lead Demand initiative aims to catalyse
innovation and business opportunities for SMEs and develop solutions to address
national needs, improve productivity, and public service delivery.
If the proof-of-concept (POC) or trial meets well-defined
criteria for success, then the agency is committed to deploy. This is another
stage where the commercial entities can come in to take the solution to market.
The background IP and research IP reside with the TRANS
Labs. Public sector agencies have non-exclusive, non-transferrable, perpetual,
irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free right and license to use, modify,
reproduce, and distribute the research IP for non-commercial, R&D and
educational purposes. Companies interested in commercialisation have to discuss
co-ownership of IP or fee with the TRANS Labs.
Examples of Trans Lab projects include use of Machine
Translation Technology to produce a more accurate and contextualised
translation engine using past translations as inputs for the Ministry of
Communications and Information (MCI), Privacy Preserved Data Collector (PDC)
& Privacy Preserved Data Analyser (PDA) for the Monetary Authority of
Singapore (MAS) and mobile crowd-sourcing of mini-tasks to citizens in the
vicinity via the Ministry of National Development (MND)’s OneService app.
The full list of projects that have been selected for
proof-of-concepts since the inception of the TRANS Grant funding initiative can
be seen below:

Ms Chow concluded her presentation listing four desired
outcomes of the TRANS funding initiative: accelerated adoption of advanced
technology by public sector agencies; build local technical capabilities; delivering
citizen-centric services for a smart nation; and developing a vibrant
technology ecosystem

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