The FinLab, a joint venture between United Overseas Bank Limited (UOB) and SGInnovate1, today announced the launch of the third cycle of its acceleration programme. The programme is the first-designed by a local accelerator for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore that have aspirations to grow and to digitalise.
The four-month programme will guide participating SMEs to identify problem statements in their business, and equip them with the tools and know-how to self-innovate. SMEs will then be matched with curated technology solution providers and pilot the implementation of their products to address the problem statements. Throughout the process, they will be guided by experts at The FinLab and partners such as ESSEC Business School.
The launch of the SME accelerator programme comes as a recent ASEAN SME Transformation Study2 found that while SMEs were struggling with how to transform their business through technology, they planned to invest more in it in order to build their business. The FinLab’s SME accelerator programme will focus on helping SMEs to increase revenues, to raise productivity and to reach new markets by tapping the right technology solutions.
Mr. Felix Tan, Managing Director of The FinLab, said, “Over the past two years, we have gained deep insights from our interactions with more than 700 financial technology start-ups. As these start-ups become more advanced in their business models, there is a need to help them commercialise by connecting them with potential customers who require technology solutions. We’ve also seen that SMEs want to innovate but may not know where and how to start. As such, for our Cycle 3 programme, we will be bringing acceleration not only to tech solution providers, but also to SMEs that want to transform their business, and matching this demand and supply concurrently.”
Ms. Janet Young, Head of Group Channels and Digitalisation, UOB, said, “Today, more than ever, SMEs realise the importance of using technology to ensure their relevance in a digital economy. However, we have seen many SMEs challenged by the vast array of options and the lack of talent and know-how to harness the potential of technology and translate it into benefits for their businesses. The FinLab’s introduction of an accelerator programme for SMEs will support companies looking to transform and to digitalise, by equipping them with tools to continually self-innovate and stay ahead in the digital age.”
Eight SMEs will be chosen from the food and beverage, retail, wholesale trade and logistics industries. The accelerator programme will start in end March this year.
Tech firms will pitch their solutions to SMEs
Given The FinLab’s track record of attracting innovative tech startups from across the world in its past two cycles, it will continue to tap into this network and offer SMEs access to the best-in-class solutions. It will also bring together solutions from platforms like UOB’s BizSmart suite, Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) Accreditation@SG Digital and SME Go Digital’s portfolio, to form its pool of solutions.
Mr. Philip Heah, Senior Director (Sectoral Transformation Group), IMDA, said, “SMEs play a crucial role in driving Singapore’s Digital Economy, and our partnership with key ecosystem players such as banks and telcos has effectively helped SMEs to adopt the right solutions. We are pleased to continue our relationship with UOB and SGInnovate through The FinLab, and we are looking to forge relationships with more such crossvertical partners to help SMEs build their digital capabilities”.
Mr. Felix Tan, said, “I strongly believe that once these challenges are overcome, many of our more openminded and forward-thinking SME owners will become the next generation of ‘SME Champions’ as their businesses capitalise on a digital economy that is set to grow by USD 1 trillion in GDP by 2025 here in ASEAN alone. Stronger SMEs will make our economy more resilient to cyclical downturns.”
Mr. Pang Heng Soon, Head of Investments, SGInnovate, also added, “Opportunities in the Southeast Asia region continue to be driven by new and better ways to address gaps, not just in terms of technology adoption, but also in terms of business models. The FinLab's next programme - with the help of UOB - enables relevant technology start-ups to access clearly-defined SME use cases, and these can be repeatable and scalable across the region.”