The innovation ecosystem in Brunei Darussalam is still at an early stage compared to the rest of the region but has much potential. Hence, the Brunei Innovation Lab (BIL) that was launched in July is a move in the right direction, as the nucleus to mobilise and develop the digital technology ecosystem, to create the solutions to solve real-world problems not only for Brunei but for the global market.
The Sultanate ranked number 71 among 131 countries on the Global Innovation Index as listed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Global Innovation.
By interlinking the digital technology sector by ways of offering a platform for capacity building, market access and community programmes, the BIL, located at the Knowledge Hub in Kampong Anggerek Desa, aims to spur the development of the digital technology ecosystem in Brunei, especially local start-ups and scale-ups, to produce technology solutions in addressing real-world problems and capitalising market opportunities.
The lab, a joint collaboration between Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd (BSP), Shell LiveWIRE Brunei (LiveWIRE), Datastream Digital Sdn Bhd (DST) and Darussalam Enterprise (DARe), is an avenue for participants to conduct technopreneur programmes, training, pitching sessions and as a technology showcase gallery area for the public to learn the conceptual mechanisms and practical applications of new technologies.
Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah during the launch said current and future market players can utilise the BIL as the platform for holistic collaboration with key stakeholders in the industry.
To accelerate the development of innovation and nurture technopreneurship among locals, the BIL will provide the required support which extends to mentorship in specialised information technology (IT) skillsets, marketability of the products and services and funding, he added.
The Brunei government published the Digital Economy Masterplan in June 2020 to pursue digital transformation guided by the vision ‘Smart Nation through Digital Transformation’.
The minister said digitalisation and innovation are fundamentals to a vibrant, abundant and connected socioeconomy.
For Brunei, he noted that the BIL represents collaboration between the public and private sectors, to support the vision of the Digital Economy Masterplan and be a catalyst for the development of the ecosystem for digital technology and be the inspiration and centre of growth for the nation’s digital champions and technopreneurs.
General Manager of BIL Freddie Ting said that in the early stages of the launch, driving more awareness on the BIL is vital, in tandem with their efforts to get all potential collaborations from different partners such as industries, technology, education and regulators to see what kind of role or support that they can bring into the ecosystem.
Ting said that developing an innovation and tech ecosystem increases the pipeline of solutions and products that not only address local opportunities, but may also have the potential to be scaled beyond the Sultanate.
Another aspect they are working towards, Ting said, is also in improving digital literacy across all levels to spur more interest, as well as garner support from the industry itself and regulators to steer towards the ecosystem’s development as a whole.
He added that innovation culture and mindset should not just be infused in organisations but the nation as a whole, which is why they have flagship projects such as digital payments and fintech into play.
The BIL has three pillars – a flagship technopreneur development programme ‘Innovate Brunei’, a capability accelerator to build competency in specific tech areas, and an innovative showcase to raise awareness of new technologies and technopreneurship.
Curated showcases and events are organised to excite and inspire innovation and the BIL’s digital playroom provides the immersive experience with the augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) technology and artificial intelligence (AI) applications.
The Innovate Brunei Programme aims to support the development of start-up and scale technopreneurs to commercialise their products and services; and the Capability Accelerator Programme comprises dedicated tech masterclasses to develop awareness and competencies in digitalisation technologies such as AI, robotics and automation as well as blockchain.
Acting CEO of DARe Daniel Leong Nyuk Ming said the BIL is not just an avenue where entrepreneurs can connect with technology, but is also a place where established businesses can see what’s in store for them in terms of solutions for business problems and transformation.
A full-time team at the BIL is always ready to cover basic needs including networking to help businesses, the CEO added. He also cited a company in Singapore that engages in robotics and automation as an example.
“While doing this, the team will be working closely with them, but what we are also trying to do more is building the community. We need support from everyone in this country and beyond to play their part,” Leong said, adding that they want to generate pipelines of people to move on to the next stage.