AGILE launched to drive innovation, learning and entrepreneurship

Photo by NP

Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) and UOB have jointly launched AGILE, a campus incubator to drive innovation, learning and entrepreneurship.

AGILE, which stands for Accelerating Growth in Innovation, Learning and Entrepreneurship, was launched by Minister for Transport Mr Ong Ye Kung, who also sits on the board of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

Through AGILE, NP and UOB demonstrate their common goal of nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs and to bring greater collaboration opportunities – among start-ups, UOB and students – to life within a joint space. Start-ups will have access to mentorship through The Finlab, an innovation accelerator by UOB as well as opportunities to glean industry insights through The FinLab’s programmes.

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Students, in turn, will gain from AGILE-based internships with NP and UOB where they can learn about entrepreneurship and collaboration, as well as from the start-ups based in AGILE.

Occupying 10,000 sq ft on the NP campus, AGILE consists of Hangout@UOB, a community space that facilitates collaboration and hands-on experience for students to run their own café within the premises, an incubator for start-ups to help grow their businesses and student engagement spaces to encourage learning and discovery.

Hangout@UOB

Hangout@UOB is a community space designed by graduates from NP’s School of Design & Environment to encourage collaboration. As part of the design process, they participated in co-creation workshops with UOB to identify the specific needs of the AGILE community of start-ups and polytechnic students.

Together with UOB, they subsequently fashioned the features and fittings of the space, ensuring that creativity is combined with functionality for the enjoyment of all.

Hangout@UOB has discussion areas to facilitate collaboration and the sharing of ideas. The Bank plans to run events and seminars with NP to share insights on fintechs and innovation and financial literacy programmes.

With the understanding that it is also as important for students to play as hard as they work, Hangout@UOB also features common spaces where students can unwind. As part of upping the fun quotient, UOB, a pioneer in using AI for social engagement, partnered artificial intelligence (AI) firm SenseTime and Grid Synergy to design interactive AI games which students can play during their free time.

As part of NP and UOB’s aim to nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs, Hangout@UOB will be co-managed by student interns under the supervision and mentorship of UOB employees. These interns will complete a 24-week stint during which they will be trained in customer service and operational risk and compliance.

Ms Jacquelyn Tan, Head of Group Personal Financial Services, UOB, said Hangout@UOB at NP is part of the Bank’s series of concept spaces that aim to engage students and to prepare them for the future.

“Hangout@UOB is where the enterprising minds and ideas of students can come to life. Here, students will be able to apply what they learn in the classroom to the real world and for them to make a difference. For instance, the café run by students under the ‘Be Your Own Boss (BYOB)’ initiative highlights how UOB and NP are supporting budding entrepreneurs,” she explained.

“In co-managing Hangout@UOB, students will also learn how to anticipate customer needs, with the guidance from our UOB colleagues. These will be their real-life experiences that go beyond any textbook knowledge. We will also hold regular activities with NP such as fireside chats with UOB leaders and industry experts for students to gain a deeper understanding of how they can better manage their own personal finances.”

Supporting start-ups

Managed by The Sandbox, NP’s innovation and entrepreneurship office, the incubator at AGILE will provide start-ups with access to resources such as work spaces, mentoring, support services and training programmes, as well as opportunities for co-creation.

Ten start-ups from diverse sectors, such as events management, financial advisory and medical devices, have already come on board. They include peer-to-peer learning platform Kalpha,  product design and branding company Concept Smith, as well as FatFreq, an in-ear monitor manufacturer.

For example, The Sandbox has partnered Kalpha to develop an application to encourage fellow entrepreneurs to share the latest trends that are shaping Singapore’s entrepreneurial landscape.

AGILE complements NP’s existing entrepreneurship initiatives such as the Start-up Talent Factory, which links polytechnic graduates to job opportunities in start-ups, as well as the Global Entrepreneurial Internship Programme, which enables students to experience what it takes to work at the world’s leading innovation hubs.

Cultivating an enterprising mindset

To develop the spirit of enterprise and to equip students with the knowledge and experiences that will hold them in good stead as they pursue their entrepreneurial start-up aspirations, AGILE will also be used as a venue for programmes such as financial literacy workshops, talks with experts in innovation, entrepreneurship and career guidance, as well as hackathons and competitions.

For a start, the finals of the annual Polyfintech 100 API Hackathon organised by the five polytechnics with support from MAS, the Association of Banks in Singapore and industry partners were also held at the space today. The competition provided opportunities for polytechnic students to develop fintech prototypes to address real world problems in the financial services industry.