Nurturing Innovation Among Students – Launch of Agile at Ngee Ann Polytechnic

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AGILE launched by Minister Ong Ye Kung, Clarence Ti, Principal, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Janet Young, Managing Director and Head of Group Channels and Digitalisation, UOB

With the development of the internet, entrepreneurship has become more accessible. It is now much easier for people, especially among the younger generation, to start their own online gigs and businesses with minimal set-up costs by using platforms such as Instagram shops and YouTube channels. The popularity of gig jobs in the traditionally conservative Asian culture has also increased, with 5 of the top 10 frontrunners in the gig economy coming from Asia. 

To support this growing interest, institutes of higher learning have been placing more emphasis on advocating entrepreneurship among students. National University of Singapore (NUS) started NUS Overseas College to encourage students to broaden their horizons through overseas internship opportunities in start-up companies. With this evolving landscape, the culture of entrepreneurship is expected to further develop.

Driving innovation, learning and entrepreneurship

The FinLab has been a key player in assisting start-ups through our well-connected network with UOB, tech solution providers, and other partners in the region and has been a strong collaborator and participant in the start-up ecosystem since its founding. With a vibrant network of ecosystem partners in the ASEAN region, we support the growth of promising tech start-ups through various programmes, such as FinTech Startup Acceleration in Singapore and Business Transformation Programme in Thailand and Malaysia. As part of our efforts, The FinLab was honoured to be part of the launch of AGILE, the first campus incubator, with Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) and UOB to drive innovation, learning and entrepreneurship.

AGILE: Accelerating Growth in Innovation, Learning and Entrepreneurship

AGILE stands for Accelerating Growth in Innovation, Learning and Entrepreneurship. It is called 起航 in Chinese which connotes the start of a journey, the kick-off, often related to entrepreneurship. It was our pleasure to have the Minister for Transport Mr Ong Ye Kung, who sits on the board of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), join us in the opening ceremony. This joint space houses start-ups, Hangout@UOB, and students with the aim to advocate the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. With the support rendered by The Sandbox, NP’s innovation and entrepreneurship office, the incubator at AGILE will provide start-ups with the necessary support, such as mentorships and work spaces. We look forward to further participating in this space after the opening of AGILE.

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Sharing by Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung

Internship Opportunities and Hands-on experience

Due to the pandemic, it is getting more challenging for students and graduates to secure jobs in the largely disrupted market. To provide the younger generation with industry working experiences, the Singapore government has taken the initiative to set up the SGUnited Traineeship¹, which offers salary subsidies to employers who hire and train these apprentices on traineeships. At The FinLab, we offer internship programmes to polytechnics students for them to gain exposure through our regional SME acceleration programmes. An internship with The FinLab is a unique and special one because it allows students to understand business landscapes and challenges, especially the function of an innovation accelerator in assisting small businesses to digitalise in this tough period. Similar programmes are available in AGILE as well. Selected students will intern with AGILE under the supervision of UOB and The FinLab staff, where they can learn about entrepreneurship and collaboration through the start-ups based in AGILE.

According to a LinkedIn Skills Report in 2018, more than half of the respondents believed that soft skills are more important and relevant than technical skills. Skills such as communication, leadership, problem-solving, and teamwork can all be learnt through hands-on experiences. A cafe in AGILE run by the winning students of the ‘Be Your Own Boss (BYOB)’ initiative provides a platform for students to gain hands-on experiences and build their soft skills through real life business operations. Students can apply what they learn in the classroom to solve real world problems and thus, build their enterprising minds.

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‘Hangout@UOB’ with Canvas Yoghurt, Winner of the Be Your Own Boss competition

Start-up Accelerator

Apart from creating internship opportunities, AGILE is also a space for start-up companies. Some present in AGILE’s space includes peer-to-peer learning platform Kalpha, product design and branding company Concept Smith, and in-ear monitor manufacturer FatFreq. As start-ups are new to the market, they need affordable work spaces and mentorship to grow their businesses and network. While AGILE will offer the work spaces, The FinLab, as an innovation accelerator by UOB, will provide industry insights through accelerator programmes and mentorship. 

AGILE is also a new ground for programmes aiming to cultivate an enterprising mindset. Before its opening ceremony, the annual Polyfintech 100 API Hackathon was held in its space. The finalists presented their prototypes and solutions to industry problem statements in the FinTech industry. One of the solutions, “De-finite” by Singapore Polytechnic students, integrates a reward system, financial planning and gamification into one application. This leverages on decentralised blockchain technology and aims to boost the dampened economy after the pandemic. AGILE will continue to hold similar events to advocate the entrepreneurial spirit of aspiring polytechnic students. Together with AGILE, The FinLab will continue our efforts in seeding entrepreneurial ideas among aspiring entrepreneurs and students in AGILE and other programmes.

“Travelling ten thousand miles is better than reading ten thousand books”

In the current climate where job markets are disrupted by digitalisation and the pandemic, AGILE is a crucial space for students and start-ups to seize opportunities to gain as much hands-on experience as possible, in order to broaden their horizons and apply their lessons in school in real life situations. Entrepreneurial ideas have to react fast to the changes in society, catering to its new needs to motivate the further development of technology. Together with AGILE, The FinLab will continue our efforts in seeding entrepreneurial ideas among aspiring entrepreneurs and students in AGILE and other programmes. 

See you at AGILE at Block 58 in Ngee Ann Polytechnic!