New Robotics Centre launched at one-north to support robotics & automation startups in Singapore
The Centre has been established through a collaboration between the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE ), a national private sector-led organisation to help drive entrepreneurship in Singapore, and the Advanced New Technology Incubator (ANTI), the corporate venture arm of the PBA Group , an integrated provider of motion control, robotics and automation products.
The Centre was launched by Guest-of-Honour, Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade & Industry and National Development, who is also ACE’s Patron.
As part of the collaboration, ACE will provide business-related support and mentorship for the startups, while PBA will provide industry-specific expertise, resources and contacts in the sector.
The community at LaunchPad, where the Centre is located, houses about 800 startups and more than 50 incubators from a diverse range of industries. Majority of the companies based here are in the InfoComm and Media sector, and other industries include Engineering, Biomedical, Financial Technology and Urban Solutions.
The Centre will support robotics and automation startups, by providing access to shared services and prototyping facilities, mentorship, and co-working space. It is a ~1,600 sq foot facility and it includes a co-working space and a makerspace. Co-working and hot desking space is provided to hardware, robotics and automation startups.
At the makerspace, the Centre provides a selected range (due to space constraints) of onsite tools and equipment, including plastic 3D printers, hand tools, electronics components, and meters/scopes. In addition, the Centre can facilitate access to offsite equipment and services at PBA and a range of fabricators and prototyping houses, including 3D printing (plastic and metal), CNC machining, laser and water jet cutters, aluminium profiles, etc. The Centre is also able to connect startups with a wide range of robotics vendors including ABB, Kawasaki, Universal Robotics, etc.
In addition to the resources and support provided to startups, the Centre aims to generate greater awareness among companies and seed interest about robotics among individuals. It includes a display area that will showcase different robotics and automation solutions throughout the year. Showcased products are rotated on a periodic basis.
Individuals or companies that wish to explore how they might be able to collaborate with or tap on the support provided by the Centre are encouraged to register their interest with ACE.
As part of the tour during the event, Dr Koh was introduced to PBA Group’s Golden Retriever Automated Robot (AMR) systems. It is a patent-pending technology designed for transporting items within production, warehouse, fulfillment and distribution centres at a fraction of the cost of existing competitors.
Mr Derrick Yap, Chief Executive Officer of PBA Group, commented, “The LaunchPad Robotics Centre will be an integral part of our efforts to drive the development of the robotics and automation ecosystem in Singapore. The initial phase of being a robotics startup tends to be the most difficult, and we are excited to work with ACE in providing the support required to help these companies succeed. The display of innovative technologies and solutions will also help to encourage greater industry awareness and developments integral to driving greater overall adoption”.
Mr Edmas Neo, Executive Director of ACE, said, “As the national private sector-led organisation supporting the growth of Singapore’s startup community, ACE is delighted to be working closely with PBA Group, a company with a vast amount of experience in the robotics sector, to help spur the grow and development of more automation focused startups in the ecosystem. This comes at an opportune time as the expected acceleration in growth of the global robotics landscape will present many opportunities for many of our startups here to thrive and flourish.”
Government initiatives to drive robotics adoption in Singapore
Dr Koh said in his speech at the launch that the Government is committed to driving the adoption of robotics technologies in Singapore. In 2015, the National Robotics Programme (NRP) was launched to promote the adoption and development of robotics solutions in Singapore. Since then, sectors such as Healthcare, Environment and Built Environment have set forth to identify problem statements that can be addressed through the introduction of robotics.
The Government provides a variety of support for companies to scale up their deployment of automation solutions, such as the Automation Support Package (ASP) and Capability Development Grant (CDG).
As announced at Budget 2018, the CDG will be merged with the Global Company Partnership (GCP) Grant to form an integrated Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) in 4Q 2018. The new EDG, the streamlining of two grants together, will give companies more holistic support for their capability development and internationalisation needs, to increase their competitiveness locally and abroad.
In addition, the new Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) has also been introduced to support productivity solutions in line with Singapore's efforts for industry transformation.
To encourage the adoption of robotics in Singapore by companies which often have high-mix-low-volume production operations, the Economic Development Board (EDB) and SPRING have been working with the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), system integrators and IHLs to develop modular robotics applications catered to the needs of Singapore's SMEs in both the industrial and service sectors.
So far, companies such as Universal Robots, ABB, Omron, PBA and Kawasaki have developed various unique robotics applications such as pick-and-place solutions that are expected to help address the needs of the industry. Local service robotics solution providers such as Otsaw Digital and OneBerry Technologies have also developed robots to perform security and patrol functions.
Singapore has also launched all 23 of its Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) to address issues within each industry and deepen partnerships between the Government, firms, industries, trade associations and chambers.
"So with these grants and measures coming up, we hope that it will help to transform the various industry sectors. An example is the pre-qualification of the robot arms for use in material handling and transfer of metal and plastic parts in the Precision Engineering sector," Dr Koh said.
Dr Koh added that industry partnerships are necessary for sector transformation and expressed hope that many more of industry partners would come on board to work together and bring forth much more synergy and collaboration and turn Singapore into a real high tech, advanced manufacturing hub.
 Launched in 2003 by the Ministry of Trade & Industry and restructured as a private entity in 2014, ACE is supported by the government. ACE supports startups across all stages and focuses on three strategic areas: (i) driving co-innovation between startups and enterprises; (ii) helping startups to scale and internationalise; (iii) building an access hub of connected ecosystems across countries.
 The PBA Group is a Singapore-based global leader in robotics and automation solutions and is an end-to-end supplier for robotics and industrial 4.0 solutions. PBA Group engages in research and development, design, manufacturing, trading and marketing of products and services. This includes motion control technologies, manufacturing process technologies, robotics and automation solutions, platforms and subcomponents, special purpose machines, turnkey manufacturing and testing solutions, and system integration services through qualified partners. ANTI is the corporate venture arm of the PBA Group, and focuses on early-stage hardware, robotics and automation companies.