I was proud to be included with the SRI team in Singapore this month working with Singaporean institutes of higher education (IHEs), and the National Research Foundation (NRF) to improve their tech transfer impact. Singapore is one of the world’s most successful economies, sustaining 7.8% average annual GDP growth from 1961 through 2014.[1] As a result, the GDP per capita enjoyed by Singapore’s citizens (US$56,700) is the third highest in the world when adjusted by purchasing power parity (US$88,000).[2] By comparison, the U.S. ranks seventh.

Despite its impressive historic economic growth, Singapore is thinking ahead to driving growth for the next 20 to 30 years. Deputy Prime Minister Shanmugaratnam, speaking recently at the National University of Singapore, stated, “Going forward, Singapore’s future growth lies in being an innovation economy.”3 The government is investing deeply in research and innovation to the tune of US$13.4 billion over the next five years.[3]

Singapore engaged SRI’s Center for Innovation Strategy and Policy (CISP) to deliver tech transfer best practices and experiences via an interactive workshop to IHE tech transfer stakeholders. CISP helps clients apply the same market-driven principles gleaned from SRI’s own technology commercialization experience (e.g., Siri for the Apple iPhone and GrabIt for Nike) to their innovation challenges.

The SRI team for this assignment includes current and former tech transfer office talent from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Utah. We also brought the perspective of external actors including team members who are serial entrepreneurs, angel investors, and venture capitalists. One of the keys to building successful regional innovation ecosystems is developing stronger connections both within and outside IHEs.

Based on our first days, it is difficult not to be envious of the research and commercialization activity already occurring at Singapore’s universities and polytechnics. These institutions are closely aligned with industry and less encumbered by the traditional “ivory tower” mindset found in a number of western academic cultures. As a result, the willingness of Singapore’s institutions of higher education to engage with industry to develop innovative technologies provides an enormous opportunity for companies, entrepreneurs and investors both in Singapore and beyond.

I’d like to acknowledge my colleagues on the Singapore Workshop Team; Jennifer Ozawa (SRI Team Leader), Beth Drees, Keith Marmer, David C Robinson, and Daniel Querejazu for their support and participation in the workshops and the preparation of this article.

[1] http://www.theglobaleconomy.com/Singapore/Economic_growth/

[2] Forbes (2012). “The World’s Richest Countries,” 22 Feb. 2012,

http://www.forbes.com/sites/bethgreenfield/2012/02/22/the-worlds-richest-countries/#2fe14689697b

David C Robinson

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