Upbeat on Innovation? Take The Enterprise Challenge!

Have you ever tossed away an innovative idea just because you thought you couldn't afford to carry it through? Don't let it happen again. The next time you experience a burst of creativity, don't zap it! Give your bright ideas a chance to shine! Take The Enterprise Challenge!

Launched in 1999, The Enterprise Challenge (TEC) is a pioneering approach by the Singapore government to "instill in the Public Service, the power and capacity to innovate, to bring about a different attitude to thinking, as well as the self-confidence to explore what must be--by definition--uncharted territory."

"Although TEC primarily focuses on public service innovation, anyone including private corporations, individuals, and interested groups may submit innovative proposals to us with a view to bringing substantial improvement in the delivery of public service," said Wesley Wong, Manager of TEC Unit.

With a $10 million seed funding from the National Science and Technology Board (now renamed A*STAR, and a sponsor of Next Wave Singapore), TEC provides a platform that can support such innovative proposals, as well as funds to evaluate their feasibility. According to Wong, the time frame for each idea to be tested "varies from case to case," but ranges between 6 and 12 months. TEC also provides the expertise to help develop and fine tune business proposals. To date, TEC has attracted many innovative proposals from the public as well as the private sector and has enabled a number of ideas to be tested. "As of 1 December 2001, we had received a total of 326 innovative trial plans, 23 of which have been approved for TEC funding," said Wong. "Among the 23 approved proposals, 13 originated from public officers," he added. Testing of five proposals has been completed successfully, and these, said Wong, "are being developed one way or another for further implementation."

A peek into the achievements shows that the scheme has indeed attracted some outstanding innovations that not only improve existing systems but also promise significant savings. Notable among the winning proposals approved for test trials are the following:

  • A compact bioreactor that uses genetically improved strains of microorganisms to efficiently degrade organic wastewater from food industries. Proposed by the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Nanyang Technological University, the system enables high organic loading and removal efficiency and is capable of treating a broad range of industrial food processing effluents. Estimated to benefit more than 300 food-processing companies in the country, the project received SG$879,000 in funding from TEC.

  • A virtual environment in which complex neurological operations can be practiced. Based on a three-dimensional Dextroscope developed by local start-up company, Volume Interactions, this technology offers an easy way to directly access the hidden inside of any three-dimensional object. This innovation allows precise and intuitive manipulation as well as visualization of volumetric data. It also provides optimized integration of the three-dimensional workspace and the application control allowing precision interaction, planning, and analysis. The proposal received SG$406,700 in funding from TEC.

  • A fingerprint-detection device proposed by the School of Mechanical and Production Engineering, National Technological University. The laser-technology-based device is able to reveal faint fingerprints that current technology can't read. This advance is expected to help in criminal investigations. The National Technological University will jointly test trial the product with the Criminal Investigation Department of Singapore. This proposal received SG$278,000 in funding from TEC.

  • A new generation wireless, vision-based traffic light system that provides a major improvement over existing systems because it does not require embedded-loop sensors. As this innovation has the potential to save operating costs, Optasia System Pte Ltd and the Singapore Police Force will jointly test it with funding of about SG$492,620 from TEC.

  • Besides the funding, test trials also come with the full support of a team of TEC managers who will nurture and facilitate the fruition of the ideas.

    TEC encourages and hopes that more high-quality proposals will be submitted and eventually approved for trial testing. Opened to all--Singaporeans and noncitizens alike--there is "no strict criterion for proposals but emphasis is placed on originality, feasibility, and the benefits that the innovation would result for the public service and the country, " says TEC on its Web site.

    Essentially, all you need to get started is a feasible idea. So, if you are upbeat on innovation, why not let TEC take your ideas to uncharted possibilities? If you are up to the challenge, here--paraphrasing TEC manager Wong--is what it will take to succeed: Dare to dream, have the boldness to try, and be courageous in handling setbacks.

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