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SPRING provides $6 million worth of grants to 15 technology start-ups

Scheme provides funding to bridge the gap between an innovative technology idea and the market. -ST
Sue-ann Tan

Thu, Apr 11, 2013
The Straits Times

The 15 selected projects cover a wide range of technology areas such as medical devices, electronics, engineering, water and environment and infocomm. SPRING has supported more than 150 projects totalling more than $50 million since the scheme was launched in 2008.

Get the full story from The Straits Times.

Here is the full statement from SPRING Singapore:

Fifteen start-ups have been awarded Proof-of-Concept (POC) and Proof-of-Value (POV) grants totalling $6 million under SPRING Singapore's Technology Enterprise Commercialisation Scheme (TECS), which aims to bring potentially disruptive technologies closer to the market.

The 15 projects cover a wide spectrum of technology areas including medical devices, electronics, engineering, water and environment, as well as infocomm.

Among the projects supported are three which could make a notable impact on the healthcare sector when commercialised. One of them, Neurostyle, is developing a new way to teach the brain to 'rewire' itself - through virtual reality games - that can help stroke patients recover the movement in their affected limbs. Another start-up, Hexalotus Technology, is coming up with a 3D model that will improve the planning and treatment of liver cancer. Its web-based platform has the added advantage of facilitating consultation and assistance among doctors. T.Ware is developing a therapy system to calm autism patients who can go into uncontrollable fits. Using its T.Jacket which simulates deep pressure massage, a therapist can customise the rhythm and pressure of the 'hug' of the jacket according to the patient's needs. A single therapist can thus attend to many patients at the same time.

Mr James Teh, Founder and Executive Director of T.Ware, said, "While we are still in the early stages of starting up, we believe our idea is very promising and we have a strong team to see the project through. The grant supports our R&D process to build and test the prototype with actual patients, in particular children with autism. When commercialised, the T.Jacket will be the first in the world to give autism patients comforting 'hugs' at the touch of a smart phone. It is convenient for both the wearer and the care giver to use and contributes to the patient's overall well-being."

The TECS grant was also awarded to start-ups which are developing technologies for the water and environmental sectors. For instance, Envichem has found an environmentally-friendly way to recover valuable metals such as nickel and tin from waste metal parts. The recovery is now done using large amounts of hazardous chemicals, which incur high chemical and waste treatment costs. The new technology allows the 'bath' which the metal parts are soaked in to continuously regenerate. This reduces the amount of chemicals needed while not compromising on the efficacy of the process.

Worldwide demand for clean and safe water is driving the development of monitoring systems for water quality. This increasingly lucrative market is what Water Optics Technology hopes to have a share in. Its 'parasitometer', which offers real-time monitoring of water quality, can potentially set a new benchmark by reducing the time needed to detect germs and bacteria from several days to just 24 hours. Dr Liu Ai Qun, founder of Water Optics Technology, said, "We have spent several years developing the technology for our water quality monitoring system. With the grant, we are able to further the research needed towards being a leader in water quality monitoring to improve the lives of people around the world. We are much encouraged by the interest of potential customers like PUB, who has helped validate our technology and build up our credibility. Once our technology is commercialised, we will be targeting the global water monitoring market, which is estimated to be worth more than $7 billion and growing at 8 per cent a year."

Members of SPRING's Evaluation Panel were impressed with the quality of the projects. Dr Sze Tiam Lin, Director at the Intellectual Property Intermediary (IPI) and an evaluation panel member, said, "Some of these projects promise to have a far-reaching impact. For example, Water Optics Technology's water quality monitoring system will provide a much-needed solution to address the increasing demand for real-time rapid detection of waterborne pathogens. It has the potential to set the gold standard for water quality monitoring. With sizeable demand, especially in the developing countries, the start-up will do well to seize the opportunities there."

Another start-up that promises to have a huge impact is Zimplistic, which is developing the world's first fully-automatic flatbread maker. The Rotimatic, which can make a range of soft hot flatbread or roti such as chapati, could well find its way into the homes of the millions who eat flatbread as a staple and now make them by hand - a labour-intensive process which also requires skills. Zimplistic's CEO, Mr Rishi Kumar, is excited about bringing the Rotimatic to these markets. He said, "Key to the project is the development of a sensing system that can adapt to various flour types, which have different water absorption characteristics and capacities. Fine-tuning this technology requires high risks and R&D costs, but the grant has helped us to manage these and improve our chances of success."

Another evaluation panel member, Dr Tan Guan Hong, who is a Programme Director at A*Star's Institute for Infocomm Research, said, "We are impressed with Zimplistic's prototype of the Rotimatic. It demonstrates high commercial value and has the potential to not just meet, but even create a market need. It is likely to appeal to expats of South Asian origins, who will find it a convenient and hassle-free way to make rotis which taste as good as those made by hand."

Ms Chew Mok Lee, Assistant Chief Executive of SPRING, said, "The TECS provides funding during the critical, pre-market stages to bridge the gap between an innovative technology idea and the market. Technology start-ups face particular difficulties in commercialising their products or services due to the risks involved in the R&D of new and potentially market-changing technologies. Hence, SPRING launched the TECS in 2008 to help these start-ups undertake further development to bring their ideas closer to the market."

SPRING has supported more than 150 projects totalling more than $50 million since TECS was launched. Recent start-ups which were supported include Sofshell, Clearbridge Biomedics, and Endomaster, which have gone on to win international awards and ventured into overseas markets with their market-changing technologies.

Start-ups which are interested to apply for SPRING's TECS can submit their applications at POC proposals are accepted throughout the year while invitations for POV proposals are made on a quarterly basis. The current quarterly grant call for TECS POV will close on 30 June 2013.

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