Going Deep with Hardware

Hardware startups are hard. But the potential rewards make them worth the risk. That was the key takeaway from the AMAT Ventures Day event.

Opportunities in Hardware Panel Discussion

The event, organised by Applied Materials’ (AMAT) venture capital arm, was held in Singapore for the first time this past week. The goal was to uncover and engage with hardware startups in South-East Asia that are developing technologies and applications that could complement AMAT’s core expertise in semiconductor manufacturing.

Ten early-stage startups were selected to pitch at the event. These pitches were interspaced with panel discussions and presentations by various industry representatives as well as government agencies including the National Research Foundation, the Singapore Economic Development Board and SPRING Singapore.

Singapore’s economic planners are clearly intent on moving local startup activity further up the value chain. Having steadily boosted support for basic R&D over the past couple of decades, there is a strong desire to see new technology-driven companies take root and thrive here. Startup grants and support schemes are being tweaked to favour so-called “deeper tech” innovation. Efforts are also being made to encourage MNCs located here to move beyond operational activities into technology development and commercialisation.

Singapore has certainly been successful in seeding a vibrant software-based startup ecosystem. It remains to be seen whether it can do the same for hardware-focused innovation which generally requires deeper pockets, longer gestation periods and a wider range of STEM talent.