Singapore's Tech Scene 2018: AI
By Kylee McIntyre28-Jan-2019Views 3391

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This is part two of a series summarizing top stories and key events in Singapore's tech industries in 2018.

113 of all 3,635 startups headquartered in Singapore are artificial intelligence (AI) companies. Smart Nation is Singapore's initiative to have a digital economy, digital government, and digital society. Artificial intelligence is a core part of this initiative, and an fDi study ranked Singapore first in the world in 2018 for AI investment.

That gives the island-state a leg up in the midst of a global AI talent shortage, companies are competing for what little talent there is - and fighting to close the skills gap that does exist, because traditional schools are having trouble keeping up with the advances in the industry.

AI Support

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Photo credit: BagoGames.

While AI companies continue to seek investment and headquartering in Singapore, national and international initiatives have been trying to catalyze more research and development. At the end of February, Singapore's Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore and Alibaba Group launched a joint research institute for AI tech including machine learning, cloud computing, and natural language processing.

On August 30, 2018, the government unveiled AI for Everyone, a program targeting 10,000 participants that aims to teach them about AI and understand its uses in their daily lives. Its sister program AI for Industry will target 2,000 engineers, software developers, and other Python-using talent, and help them to build applications.

Both programs are run by AI Singapore, an education program supported by the National Research Foundation and hosted by the National University of Singapore. Launched in 2017, the S$150 million national program focuses on AI research, AI tech, and AI innovation. It works with organizations like SGInnovate, which funds deep tech startups in Singapore.

AI Singapore also runs an AI Apprenticeship Programme. AIAP helps local AI talent by enriching their existing skillsets and technical careers. Meanwhile, AI for Students partners with online learning platform Datacamp to teach technical skills to school-aged generations. Students who attend government and government-aided secondary and post-secondary schools in Singapore learn these skills free of additional cost.

Money where the AI is

But what does AI look like in practice? AI can be as simple as recommending different items to you on a shopping site based on your search history. It can also help pull out the most relevant data to use to solve a problem. On the other hand, since AI is based off of human knowledge, it's in danger of adapting the same biases that humans have.

You won't have a robot doctor operating on you anytime soon, but AI can help support individuals in service fields. In the medical field, that means helping doctors sift through research to treat their patients.

Several AI companies headquartered in Singapore raised significant funds in 2018. AI kitchen appliance company Zimplistic, most famous for automatic roti-maker Rotimatic, raised US$30 million series C in April 2018, for a total disclosed fundraise of . Zimplistic is the thirty-fourth most-funded company in Singapore.

Singapore-headquartered AI product startup Basis AI is currently ranked first of Singapore-based AI startups on Crunchbase, having raised US$8.2 million at the beginning of January 2019. has raised US$50 million and ranks twenty-third on Tech in Asia's list of most-funded startups in Singapore.

AnyMind Group provides AI technology that helps grow businesses. In 2018, it raised a US$13.4 million series B round, for a total fundraise of US$27.9 million.

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Kylee McIntyre
American tech, science, health, and environmental writer. Lover of scifi, fantasy, travel, and coffee. Find her on Twitter @ejkyleem.
Category: Company Stories
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