How MNCs can contribute to Singapore’s energy sector and beyond
Harnessing their extensive resources, MNCs in the energy sector can play a crucial role in nurturing local innovation, supporting nascent start-ups and contributing to the community at large.

As the world grapples with the devastating effects of climate change, the race to decarbonise the energy sector is rigorously underway. With more than a third of its carbon emissions stemming from energy generation, Singapore is actively transitioning to clean energy through various governmental and organisational initiatives.

From the large-scale deployment of solar panels on rooftops and reservoirs to the Zero Energy Building at the Building and Construction Authority Academy, which has not been consuming energy for nearly a decade, innovation lies at the heart of Singapore’s sustainable energy initiatives.

Interestingly, many of these initiatives that forge the path to a more sustainable and climate-resilient Singapore are underpinned by Multinational Corporations (MNCs), which offer a wealth of resources, experience and talent.

In particular, MNCs in the energy sector play a crucial role in enabling a highly sustainable Singapore by cultivating a vibrant local innovation scene, empowering promising start-ups and providing more opportunities to citizens. Read on to discover how programmes launched by MNCs are benefitting Singapore’s progressive energy space.

Nurturing the local innovation ecosystem

By capitalising on their extensive knowledge of market trends, MNCs can assist in driving the development of local innovation. Take the Haier Open Partnership Ecosystem (HOPE) by global electronics giant, Haier. The programme was established in 2008 with the goal of breaking down barriers of knowledge and fostering an ecosystem where shared global resources and the open participation of users promotes improvement of products and services.

After launching an innovation centre in Singapore, HOPE has collaborated with academic researchers and business entrepreneurs as well as joined innovation events like IPI’s TechInnovation and Startup SG’s SLINGSHOT. By introducing problem statements that encompass artificial intelligence (AI), sustainable packing, smart health monitoring and more, HOPE engages bright minds to seek solutions for their business needs.

Throughout the years, open innovation has enabled HOPE to help many innovators hit the ground running. For example, start-ups that initially found themselves facing roadblocks due to low technology readiness were provided with the necessary resources to improve and commercialise their products. HOPE also assisted start-ups in analysing customer trends and preferences, guiding them as they perfect their products and establish a niche.

Empowering aspiring local entrepreneurs and start-ups

As start-ups become an increasingly important piece of the clean energy puzzle, MNCs can also play a critical role in driving their success. Indeed, energy company Shell’s global innovation programme, Shell StartUp Engine (SSE), helps early- to mid-stage energy start-ups develop capabilities and power business growth in the smart and clean energy landscape. In the Singapore Chapter, entrepreneurs participate in curated workshops, knowledge sharing sessions, showcase opportunities and enjoy mentorship by Shell experts. Additionally, upon graduation from the programme, participants can get the chance to secure exclusive grants from SSE programme partner, Energy Market Authority (EMA), for their businesses.

“We believe start-ups bring new ideas and fresh ways of thinking—they are agile and have the capacity to trial and reinvent quickly, accelerating the pace of innovation required for transforming energy systems and reaching a net-zero world,” said Emily Tan, General Manager of City Solutions, Shell Renewables and Energy Solutions and Chairman of SSE Singapore. “The inventive and enterprising spirit of start-ups also inspires us to think out of the box and gain new perspectives.”

With the help of Shell mentors through the programme’s support, start-ups can develop new business models to efficiently commercialise their solutions. One such company is Quantified Energy Labs (QE-Labs), which uses drones and AI data analytics to inspect and detect faulty solar panels. In fact, through SSE, QE-Labs adopted a new business model and even secured a grant post programme to support their pilot with a local solar energy provider.

Giving back for a better future

On top of growing start-ups, MNCs can also contribute to the society with innovative technologies that enhance lives and create new job opportunities for local professionals. To generate such benefits, electronics giant Panasonic embraces the Gemba Process Innovation, solving challenges that customers face with the ultimate goal of creating “a better life, a better world.”

The “gemba” process involves operations that are essential to both business and daily life. Panasonic achieves “gemba” solutions by understanding customer pain points, co-creating proposals to solve issues and seeking feedback to improve circumstances.

Since its establishment in Singapore, Panasonic has set up research and development centres catered to addressing a panoply of research gaps in areas ranging from digital transformation and robotics to food security and next-generation electronics.

“As a responsible corporation, we strive to contribute to society at large,” said Atsushi Sugishima, Director of the Planning Department at Panasonic Asia Pacific. “We will therefore continue to align our innovative efforts to support the Singapore Smart Nation and Green Plan 2030 through talent development and co-creation.”

Drawing on a wealth of expertise and resources, experienced MNCs like Haier, Shell and Panasonic can offer Singapore’s start-ups, economy and society at large a better future in energy.