Snippets from the Singapore Deep Tech Summit: Part 1/2

The term “deep tech” was defined in 2014 by Swati Chaturvedi, co-founder and CEO of investment firm Propel(x) as “companies that are founded on a scientific discovery or true technological innovation”.

Posted by Jun on October 05, 2018

Singapore was buzzing with tech and blockchain events from 17 to 21 September 2018, hosting two large tech events at the Marina Bay Sands – the Singapore Week of Innovation & Technology (SWITCH 2018) and TechXLR8 Asia.

The inaugural Deep Tech Summit, presented by SGInnovate (a private company owned by the Singapore Government), was held on the 18 September 2018 as part of SWITCH 2018. The Summit, which began with an opening address from Steve Leonard (Founding CEO, SGInnovate), featured Don Tapscott via holographic telepresence as well as Joseph Lubin on a panel discussion.


We sieve out the best bits from the Summit in two parts: the first part highlights the impact of technology on societies, while the second part focuses on blockchain.

Before we start, what is Deep Tech?

The term “deep tech” was defined in 2014 by Swati Chaturvedi, co-founder and CEO of investment firm Propel(x) as “companies that are founded on a scientific discovery or true technological innovation”. Deep tech companies focus on technologies that advance humanity and impact the world meaningfully.

Opening Address

Steve Leonard, Founding CEO of SGInnovate

  1. While deep tech is hard to build, deep tech is vital to tackle urgent needs of humanity. This is the focus of SGInnovate. Deep tech focuses on using technology to tackle problems affecting humanity - healthcare, transportation, energy – not building the next restaurant-booking app.

  2. SGInnovate wants to help deep tech companies build their products and businesses. It aims to convert Singapore’s ongoing scientific research into deep tech startups, which will in turn create economic value.

  3. SGInnovate is partnering with Ngee Ann Polytechnic to design and launch Singapore’s first certified blockchain developer programme. The deep tech ecosystem can only grow if there is sufficient talent pool.

On 18 September 2018, SGInnovate announced completion of its investments into three deep tech companies: Tricog Health, ThinCI Inc and Quantiply. More information on these companies are available in the press release.

Keynote 1- Transforming Society through Research and Innovation

Prof Subra Suresh, President of Nanyang Technological University

Prof Subra Suresh shared his perspectives on how technology transform societies as well as the challenges for Industry 4.0. For those of you unfamiliar with Prof Subra, you should definitely check out his credentials. He was previously Dean of MIT’s School of Engineering, Director of the National Science Foundation, President of Carnegie Mellon University and has been awarded 15 honorary doctorate degrees!

  1. The R&D expenditure of China will soon grow beyond that of the US. Singapore is also doing very well on a global level. In terms of the global R&D expenditure, Asia is slightly more than 1/3, Europe is slightly less than 1/3, while US is 1/3.

  1. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will see convergence of the physical, digital and biological worlds. Examples of these include robotics, AI- Data science, Internet of Things and autonomous systems. What makes this Fourth Industrial Revolution difference is the element of human interaction with technology that caters to the individual needs of the user.

  1. There is a risk that human characteristics and values (such as compassion, dignity, kindness and ethics) will be altered by Industry 4.0. For instance, dignity means different things to people depending on their life experiences and background – it is extremely individualized and unique. It will be challenging for machines to understand these nuances.

  1. There are six broad issues relating to Industry 4.0.

  • Job creation vs. Job destruction: While new technology create jobs, they also destroy jobs. There can be a lot of chaos in societies if the pace of job destruction is faster than that of job creation.

  • Definition of the “educated person”: As technology continues to disrupt the world, academic institutions will need to rethink what is the minimum body of knowledge to impart to students to prepare them for the future. In the Nanyang Technological University, all undergraduates will have to take new core modules to develop their digital literacy.

  • Definition of “being human”: If policies are created by machines, there is a risk that societies or people may gradually lose their values.

  • Singularity vs. Machine decisions reversible by human: Are machine decisions reversible by humans? Who authenticates the veracity of the raw data? Who can verify the validity, authenticity and source of the raw data?

  • Intended benefits & unintended consequences: Some of the 14 grand challenges for engineering in the 21st Century (such as preventing nuclear terror and dealing with excess carbon dioxide) were created by the greatest engineering achievements of the 20th Century (such as air conditioning and nuclear technologies). How can we ensure that Industry 4.0 is not creating grand challenges for the 22nd Century?

  • Truth & beauty of the imperfect world: Will machines force us to be more precise and perfect? How does this drive for “perfection” fit in with fields such as art and music that are characterized by “imperfection”?


That rounds up the first part of our coverage. These two speeches really got me thinking about the value and impact of technology, and I trust they have the same effect on you. The second part of our coverage focuses on blockchain and decentralization – look out for it!