August 18, 2022

Why Singapore Is a Premier Destination for AI Startups

Written by German Accelerator

The future of artificial intelligence is being written by the startups of today. But what these AI startups build is just as important as where they build it.

As a vibrant nexus of global trade, technology, culture, and innovation, Singapore is a natural hub for any startup looking to scale internationally – but if your startup wants to develop and monetize AI solutions, then the Lion City is the premier destination.

Singapore aims to be a leading AI powerhouse by 2030, and they’re already well on their way. Working within an established digital economy, Singapore has already heavily invested into AI research and development (R&D) as well as pragmatic AI offerings in healthcare, banking, and education, among other sectors.

Let’s take a closer look at why Singapore is a top contender for German AI startups to grow and scale.


An Abundance of AI Investment & Funding

Since 2018, Singapore has consistently ranked as a top location for investments in artificial intelligence and robotics – beating out other innovation hubs like Dubai, Beijing, and Shanghai. The city-state also ranked as the world’s top smart city for its use of the Internet of Things (IoT) and other automation technologies, according to Juniper Research.

In the past two years, Singapore tech startups have experienced a two-fold increase in venture capital (VC) funding. Despite COVID-19 and supply chain crises rattling global markets, the Lion City tech sector raised nearly US$8.2 billion in the first nine months of 2021 alone – more than twice the US$4 billion raised in all of 2020.

And AI is a key focus of those investments, in addition to related sectors such as FinTech, MedTech, EdTech, and future of work, said Alex Ng, Managing Director of Spaze Ventures.

“Today, there are more Y Combinator-backed startups in Singapore and Southeast Asia than ever before”, said Jeffrey Liu, founder and CEO of Jenfi. “There is also an emergence of structured early-stage investment groups, such as Singapore-based XA Network formed by senior tech and ex-tech executives.”

CEO of Insignia Ventures Partners, Yinglan Tan, says Singapore has become the “Sand Hill Road” of East Asia, in reference to the famous road in Silicon Valley known for its concentration of VC firms.

“Singapore has been leading the region in attracting venture capitalists and angel investors for decades,” said Tan.

Indeed, Singapore is one of the most active investment hubs in Asia, and its investor community offers strong funding support for AI startups looking to relocate – or expand to – the Lion City.


Robust Government Support for AI Startups

In addition to private-sector investment, AI startups also receive generous backing from the Singaporean government. The country’s Smart Nation initiative has spent the past five years laying the groundwork for tech leadership by investing in physical infrastructure, info-comm technology, cabling networks, high-speed Wi-Fi, and IT security.

The National AI Strategy – part of the Smart Nation plan – articulates the goal for Singapore to be a leader in artificial intelligence by 2030. The strategy includes a number of initiatives to nurture a vibrant and sustainable AI ecosystem within the Garden City, such as the National AI Office and a separate, cross-agency government program called AI Singapore (more information below).

Furthermore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore offers grants and co-funding schemes within the financial services industry to encourage companies to adopt AI solutions that improve their operations.

Finally, the government leads by example when it comes to artificial intelligence. Whenever possible, government agencies are early adopters of various AI solutions, and Singapore has committed more than US$364 million to fund AI activities under the Research, Innovation, and Enterprise 2020 (RIE2020) plan.

German AI startups considering an expansion to Singapore shouldn’t overlook the many avenues to tap into government support within the Lion City.


A Deep & Growing Talent Pool of AI Professionals

Any AI entrepreneur knows that finding qualified talent is often the key resource constraint of running an AI startup. After all, AI is one of the fastest-growing sectors in Singapore and across the globe – and it’s hard to find professionals in such a new field.

Fortunately, Singapore has a growing talent pool of the professionals that AI startups need to grow and scale internationally. Thanks to a top-notch education system, and a tech sector with plenty of public-private partnerships, Singapore’s talent pool allows companies of any size – including AI startups and multinational enterprises – to find the skills they need to take their AI solution to market.

According to a report by Accenture, AI has the potential to create up to US$215 billion in gross value added (GVA) across 11 industries in Singapore by 2035. In response to this opportunity, the Singaporean government has launched several training and capacity-building programs to both widen and deepen the pool of talented AI professionals in the Garden City.

This growing core of Singaporean tech talent means AI startups will have no trouble sourcing and hiring the employees they need to build and scale their AI solution.


A Thriving Ecosystem of AI Partnerships

Another factor that makes Singapore a premier destination for AI startups is the number and diversity of public-private partnerships working on artificial intelligence solutions.

AI Singapore is the flagship national AI program launched by the National Research Foundation (NRF) to grow local tech talent, to develop the AI ecosystem, and to put Singapore on the world map of leadership in artificial intelligence. Located on the campus of the National University of Singapore (NUS), AI Singapore brings together research institutions with AI startups and companies developing AI solutions to share knowledge, create common tools, develop talent, and advance the industry. Lastly, AI Singapore provides co-funding opportunities for companies of all sizes to create and develop AI solutions.

The Singaporean government encourages other public-private AI partnerships between industry, academia, and public agencies through the National Research Foundation. The NRF plans to increase its data storage capacity by more than 25% to let public and private AI applications draw upon its huge reserve of open data.

To build public trust with AI products, Singapore has also developed a number of AI governance regulations that ensure user safety, data protection, and fair competition. The Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore worked with the private sector to nurture and launch an AI Ethics & Governance Body of Knowledge (BoK) in October 2020. And Singapore was the first country from Asia to introduce the Model AI Framework with the World Economic Forum’s Centre for Fourth Industrial Revolution – making the Lion City a leader in building and defining AI governance on a global scale.


It’s Time for German AI Startups to Look East

If your AI startup is looking for a launchpad to both develop your AI application and expand your business, look no further than Singapore. Here are just a few – though certainly not all – of the industries where AI applications are already growing and thriving in the Lion City:

  • Financial services: Singapore’s finance industry is already using machine learning and AI to speed up the lending process, improve customer service, reduce operational costs, and enhance fraud detection.
  • Healthcare: Artificial intelligence now helps Singaporean doctors detect skin cancers, analyze chest x-rays, and screen patients for diabetes using retinal scans.
  • Education: AI-powered teaching robots are already active in some Singaporean classrooms, giving young students a chance to construct and program the robot as part of a wider computer science curriculum.

These industry examples are only a slice of how Singapore is currently deploying AI products and services in their day-to-day economy. Your startup’s solution could be next.

With an abundance of private investment dollars, strong government backing, a deep AI talent pool, and plenty of public-private partnerships, Singapore has made itself into a premier destination for AI startups. What are you waiting for?


10 Reasons Singapore is a Premier Destination for AI

10 Reasons Singapore is the Premiere Destination for AI


Is your AI startup considering an international expansion to Singapore? Learn more and apply to the Singapore Market Discovery (AI) program this October (application deadline September 9, 2022).

Enter the AI Beyond Borders Awards 2022 now and stand to win prizes and benefits worth more than 300,000€! Application ends on 3 October 2022.