Nordic Innovation House for Southeast Asia soft-launched

In connection to Slush Singapore (the Finnish global start-up event organiser) and Singapore Week of Innovation & TeCHnology (SWITCH) the much-anticipated Nordic Innovation House (NIH) was soft-launched in Singapore on 13 September. This took place at one of Singapore’s co-working spaces, WeWork, in the downtown business district in front of a sizeable business and start-up community, with representatives from the country missions involved. The ambassadors and Consuls representing Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden attended the occasion with Finland’s Ambassador to Singapore H.E. Paula Parviainen appointed to speak on behalf of the ambassadors.

The NIH will bring together the Nordic and Singaporean ecosystems for tech scale-up’s. It is co-funded by and established in cooperation with Nordic Innovation (NI). NI is a Nordic organization working to promote cross-border trade and innovation and is funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, which is the official inter-governmental body for cooperation in the Nordic region.

First launched in Silicon Valley in 2014 and in New York in 2017, the NIH in Singapore is a soft-landing, community and resource centre as well as a networking hub for Nordic tech scale-up’s seeking to speed up their market growth in South East Asia and expanding their network.

In her welcome remarks the ambassador Paula Parviainen said that the Nordic collaboration goes way back before the EU was created, and that the Nordic countries share their common values, with societies and economies built on the same model.

Finland’s Ambassador to Thailand H.E. Paula Parviainen

“We do find more and more ways to collaborate and Singapore is a great launch pad for start-ups and our companies and this event proves that there has been a need for something like this.”

“Singapore has a vibrant ecosystem to support enterprises and I congratulate Singapore government and agencies for doing so much to support the eco-system and to make things possible here,” she continued.

“The joint Nordic cooperation will bring together the Nordic and Singaporean ecosystem for start-ups and growth companies as well.”

“In Singapore the Nordic Innovation House is not first of all a physical place; it is to create a community, network and the way for working together and to find partner collaborators and investors here, and to look the Singapore markets in Asia. It is for Nordic tech start-ups who seek to speed up their market growth in Southeast Asia and expanding their networks,” the Finnish ambassador added.

The initial activities in 2018 include three Nordic delegations to Singapore. In October education companies will be coming for an edutech event. Also in October there will be a Nordic green and energy event followed by Nordic participation in the Singapore Fintech Festival in November with all countries under the Nordic umbrella.

Mr Svein Berg, Managing Director for Nordic Innovation also addressed the guests saying: “We were here a year ago and had a meeting with the Nordic business community. They told us: ‘If you are setting up a Nordic innovation house here in Singapore that will be of great value for us!’ Today we are doing it, following that advice we received.”

Mr Svein Berg, Managing Director for Nordic Innovation

“Nordic Innovation House is about bringing people, organisation and companies together and I think that the time now is important than ever. We are though this bringing the Nordic companies to Singapore and Asia but we also hope that the Nordic Innovation House can also bring Singapore and Asian companies to a larger extent to the Nordics,” he continued.

“Cooperation is also about cooperating with all the partners here in Singapore where Nordic Innovation House is an open concept ; we would like to cooperate with the chambers of commerce and with other initiatives from the Nordics like Antler, nHack etc. and this is part of the strength – we are smaller individually but together we are much stronger.”

Singapore’s representative, Mr Ted Tan, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Enterprise Singapore then showcased how NIH will be part of their initiative to establish cross-border collaborations. Enterprise Singapore is a merger of International Enterprise (IE) Singapore and Spring Singapore into a single agency where start-ups and SMEs looking for new growth markets and innovations can seek funding.

Mr Ted Tan, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Enterprise Singapore

Asia, Ted Tan said, serves as market for both Nordic and Singaporean companies in Asia. “And the world has shifted investment interest into the region – this is the century of the Asia Pacific.”

“Singapore is an ideal launch pad, for the Nordic start-up community to scale up in the region and recently the National University of Singapore’s entrepreneurship arm signed two MOUs with maritime companies Wärtsilä and Wilhelmsen at Pier 71.”

Pier 71 is an industry-wide acceleration programme that supports innovation and encourages the maritime industry to venture into new growth areas through collaboration with technology start-ups.

With the MOU, Wärtsilä supports with maritime expertise in areas like ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore connectivity solutions. Wärtsilä will also spearhead seminars, lead workshops, and provide mentorships to the curated start-ups as well as the start-up communities in Singapore and strengthen the development maritime communication related applications. Meanwhile, NUS Enterprise will support Wärtsilä in establishing their networks with the start-up communities in Singapore.

Wilhelmsen shares their knowledge of shipping and maritime services with the start-up ecosystem in Singapore.

And we have one announcement here today which is our Global Innovation Alliance, GIA, and this is a global network that will connect Singapore to make sure innovation hubs around the world can tap on the expertise and share innovation ecosystem programmes.

As part of a panel, ‘Closing the Gap between Southeast Asia and the Nordics’, Ms Marie-Claire Maxwell, Head of Technology and Start-Up Lead, Region Asia Pacific, Business Sweden shared her enthusiasm: “It’s a dream come true to see the Nordic Innovation House expanding globally because from an entrepreneurial point of view it’s so important that we support them. Whether they are in Silicon Valley, Singapore or Shenzhen they need their feet on the ground to connect with the networks – to the capital and to local entrepreneurs and to fantastic initiatives such as Antler and NHack.”

“So, I think this will give us a great opportunity to support, from a government perspective and a Nordic perspective and to really foster a lot of new initiatives going back and forth. We hope to see talent and the best Unicorns from here as well in the Nordics,” she added.

Ms Marie-Claire Maxwell, Head of Technology and Start-Up Lead, Region Asia Pacific, Business Sweden

NIH Singapore, to be fully operational in Q1 2019, is also part of a global network of innovation: “It is building on the huge success in Silicon Valley, spreading to New York and now with two houses out here; first out in Singapore covering Southeast-Asia, followed by the Greater Bay out of Hong Kong/Shenzhen later this year. I think it shows the importance of the area opening up two houses in the same region.

“I am looking forward to seeing an even stronger Nordic community here but also a stronger bridge with Southeast Asia, where we believe Singapore is the best place for Nordic scale-ups to scale for SEA.”

Mr Magnus Grimeland, Founder and CEO Antler (also in the panel) began by highlighting how Singapore is a really amazing gateway to Southeast Asia: “Most companies that come is here to serve the whole of Asia. It is the best way to do so for a number of reasons. It’s a tremendous place to attract talent. People who have literally spent their entire life in amazing institutions of learning, and who have learnt a lot through their jobs, want to come here because it’s an amazing place to live in.”

“Secondly in terms of the support from the government and in terms of regulations it is a place where it is very easy to do business and it’s very easy to come down here and establish but you are also very close to a lot of the biggest markets in the region that are growing incredibly fast,”

As a third point the Norwegian added that Southeast Asia is mix of stability vs. growth; there is literally no other place that has grown stably as fast as this has done as a region over the last decade.

“There are lot’s people attracted to coming here and taking the opportunity of that growth and Singapore is a great staging ground. If you look at most of the companies we are building they want set up a headquarters here and bring in a lot of amazing talents to Singapore but also a lot of operations to be in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thaland, Vietnam etc. Singapore really enables you to do that. And that’s why I think we have so much talent that wants to come and join our programme.”

The Nordic Innovation House Singapore is in collaboration between Business Sweden, the Swedish Embassy, Innovation Norway, the Finnish Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iceland. Initial activities in 2018 include Nordic delegations to and targeted outreach at EduTech Asia, Singapore International Energy Week and the Singapore FinTech Festival.

The soft launch took place in partnership with Antler and nHack Ventures. The formal operations of the Nordic Innovation House is planned to commence in Q1 2019.

About Joakim Persson

Freelance business and lifestyle photojournalist

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