SingularityU Singapore Chapter: A Bridge Between Worlds

Singapore is a small country with a big reputation. The small English-speaking island nation has been known as a multi-cultural international business, financial, and trading center for decades. Yet in more recent times, the country has been growing into a global innovation center uniquely positioned as a bridge between the Eastern and Western worlds.

Led by a team of international and cross-disciplinary professionals, the SingularityU Singapore Chapter comprises five co-leads: Charlie Ang, Dave Lim, Dr. Steven Tucker, Lee Chon Cheng, and Jack Sim. The team reflects multiple nationalities, diverse expertise, and a mix of international and local experience.

SingularityU Singapore team members

“You need to know what is going on in Silicon Valley, but you need to know what is going on in Singapore too,” shares Dave Lim, one of the SingularityU Singapore Chapter Leaders. “Singapore is fast becoming one of the top AI talent recruiters in the world. IBM has set up the world’s first R&D center for blockchain technologies and IBM Watson regional headquarters here. Technological innovation is growing exponentially here.”

“What is unique about Singapore is that we have great talent, global populations, and access to the first and third world at the same time,” says Dr. Steven Tucker, an oncologist who also co-leads the SingularityU Singapore Chapter. “In Singapore, we have the opportunity to use technology, not just as intended, but as whatever works.”

“Singapore has all the key ingredients to be the next global innovation hub. The last missing piece is a healthy dose of exponential and moonshot thinking; the belief and vision that a small nation state can solve some of the biggest challenges the world faces. Hence, we are working hard to introduce the exponential mindset to everyone, from entrepreneurs, policymakers, employees to even students,” explains Charlie Ang, a Business Futurist and Innovation Strategist.

The SingularityU Singapore Chapter was officially launched in April 2017 by the Chapter leaders, senior representatives from Singularity University and the founding CEO of SGInnovate, the lead government agency in promoting deep technology innovation. This flagship event features the finals of the inaugural Global Impact Challenge (GIC) and recognizes four Singapore-based moonshot makers, who are using exponential technologies to positively impact the lives of millions of people. They are BoP Hub (Poverty Alleviation), Temasek Rice (Sustainable Food), AstroScale (Space Debris Cleaning), and Nutonomy (Autonomous Driving). The 200-strong audience was wowed by a hi-tech music-synchronized drone swarming performance, courtesy of Singapore-based Infinium Robotics, a leading indoor unmanned drones technology provider.

“Our first GIC focused on using exponential technologies to deliver better healthcare solutions and services to people in Asia,” says Lee Chon Cheng, another co-lead of the SingularityU Singapore Chapter.

The healthcare-focused Global Impact Challenge received more than 50 applications from all across Asia. After much deliberation, six finalists from six different countries—Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea, Australia, and Romania—were selected.

A distinguished panel of judges—including representatives from SU and leaders from the business and entrepreneurial communities in Singapore—evaluated finalists on their presentations, expertise, and experience, as well as the sustainability, scalability, and potential impact of their proposed solutions.

The judges selected Victor Pomponiu, a computer vision scientist working with Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A-STAR), as the winner of the Challenge. His project was an AI-powered software platform that alleviates diabetes risk by imposing subtle lifestyle changes to users. The idea focused on combining big data with AI to solve healthcare problems, particularly diabetes. Victor’s system uses data from mobility behavior to medical exams to create and monitor a user’s profile.

“He was incredibly knowledgeable and had a deep understanding of the technologies and their impact on the global grand challenges,” says Lee Chon Cheng, co-leader of SingularityU Singapore Chapter. “We are excited to have Victor represent our Singapore Chapter and are looking forward to seeing how his idea develops further during the GSP experience.”

A network of networks catalyzed at Singularity University

The intention behind the SingularityU Chapters program is to build a rich “network of networks” via local cities and countries. Similarly to the way technology itself developed, SU doesn’t rely on a top-down approach and instead leverages a network to drive the development of its own communities and partnerships. Chapter leaders build on the aspirations and authentic needs of the region, resulting in more engaged communities and a faster path to local impact.

When asked what led him to participate in leading the SingularityU Singapore Chapter, Dr. Steven Tucker shares:

“Before I went to Singularity University, I had never been in a room where there were so many other people who were having the same thoughts that I was having. I had thought that I was the only one who is thinking of computer-powered AI genomics and shopping at the same time. Or 3D printing and stem cells. And to be in the room with others gave me such a sense of confidence, and even more, a sense of community. Part of being in a community is that you have a responsibility to communicate to others. My field, medicine, is being radically disrupted by new technologies and I believe doctors are going to get fail if they don’t wake up to this. That’s certainly part of why I’m involved in SingularityU Singapore.”

To hear more about how Dr. Steven Tucker uses exponential technologies to support health, check out his TEDxSingapore talk (which was co-organized by David Lim) below:

While global health is certainly a powerful motivating factor, it’s only one of the reasons people are attracted to Singapore’s unique environment.

Dave Lim explains, “Singapore is an important entry point to the Asian global ecosystem. This is true for both startups and big companies. This has been gaining momentum in the last couple of years especially, which has been reflected in the growth of the SU community as well. We started with a small group of SU alumni, and now there are a few hundred people in the public community which we just officially launched this year!”

One of the many advantages that Singapore has is its actively supportive government. The Singaporean government has been actively supporting large multi-nationals, enterprises, and startups in taking advantage of exponential technologies. That’s why the SingularityU Singapore Chapter has prioritized in efforts to educate the general population who would otherwise fall behind as they are not exposed to exponential thinking, trends, and technologies. Hence, the team is reaching out to and working with professional, industry, governmental, educational, and social communities to bring exponential understanding to a larger audience.

In the short time that the SingularityU Singapore Chapter has been active, it has already begun to have an important impact.

Are you interested in engaging members of your local community in thoughtful conversations about exponential technologies? If so, learn more about our growing global network of Singularity UChapters. Explore the current Chapter locations, and if you don’t see your city or country represented, apply to lead one!

In the Spotlight: Singularity University Chapters

SU launched the SingularityU Chapters program in 2015, and the SingularityU Global network has grown rapidly ever since. In this “SingularityU: Chapter in the Spotlight” blog series, we interview Chapter leaders to learn what led them to establish their SingularityU Chapters, what their Chapter experiences entail, and what makes their cities an important part of a global ecosystem.