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Digital Penang, a government-linked company owned by the Penang State Government, has launched a Hardtech Inculerator Programme 2024 (HIP24).

According to a February 20 press release, HIP24 aims to bridge the gap between hardware-based technology and deeptech development and commercialisation with the goal of enhancing the digital economy in Penang.

Deeptech and hardtech are terms used interchangeably to refer to technologies created based on scientific breakthroughs and engineering innovations. You can learn more about deeptech in our explainer article.

Lim Chong Seng, Digital Penang’s director of ecosystem development, shared that this programme underscores Digital Penang’s efforts to nurture a higher value chain ecosystem that leverage the existing mature manufacturing ecosystem and its supply chain in Penang.

CEO of Digital Penang, Ts. Ng Kwang Ming / Image Credit: Digital Penang

“This mature manufacturing ecosystem provides a good foundation for hardtech and deeptech companies to outsource production, obtain accessible materials, and export logistics,” he said.

This way, these hardtech and deeptech companies can continue to work on developing their intellectual properties and find profitable means to commercialise their solutions without investing in high capex and building manufacturing capabilities from scratch.

Incubate, then accelerate

HIP24 is based on the successful pilot of Digital Penang’s Hardtech Accelerator programme in 2023.

A major difference, though, is the fact that HIP24 uses an “inculerator” programme, referring to a hybrid model that seamlessly integrates the strengths of both an incubator and accelerator.

“The incubation phase in the early part of the programme is a key phase because it prepares the companies to be market-ready,” Chong Seng said.

Meanwhile, the accelerator phase will see the deployment of strategic plans and action items for the company to achieve market traction. This puts them in a better position to secure investment interest for further market development.

A past participant showcasing his prototype / Image Credit: Digital Penang

Throughout this process, HIP24 will offer curated one-on-one venture mentoring with experts and market validation.

Chong Seng said, “This developmental mentoring needs to include not only product readiness but also market validation, business model, solution services delivery model, and other aspects of building the management team to be more business-oriented.”

Compared to the 2023 programme, HIP24 also hopes to build a stronger link to post-programme funding and access to industry commercialisation via partnerships. 

Nine months of development

Unlike digital-based technology startups such as mobile or web-based applications, hardtech and deeptech companies tend to require a longer period of developmental mentoring.

As such, HIP24 is set to be a comprehensive nine-month programme designed to provide a structured path for hardtech and deeptech startups in commercialising their prototypes.

Phases of the programme (some of which are overlapping) include:

PhaseDuration (2024)
Phase 1: Selection CommitteeMarch 18 to March 29
Phase 2: Market ReadinessApril 1 to May 31
Phase 3: Venture MentoringJune 1 to August 31
Phase 4: TRL 7 DevelopmentAugust 1 to October 31
Phase 5: Market ValidationAugust 1 to October 31
Phase 6: Market TractionNovember 1 to November 31

Now welcoming applicants

“Digital Penang’s ecosystem development goals are focused on quality instead of quantity,” Chong Seng said.

As such, HIP24 aims to take in 10 companies with the most potential and market-driven prototypes that are ready to be commercialised.

“Digital Penang’s hardtech programme focuses on developing sustainable ventures that can derive real revenue,” Chong Seng said about the goal of HIP24.

Other goals include the successful deployment of participating startups’ solutions at a technology readiness level (TRL) of 7, as well as subsequent market traction metrics of securing technology collaboration, initial customer adoption, and if possible, technology licensing.

TRL 7 refers to the point where a startup has a system model or prototype demonstration that’s verified in an operational environment.

Participants will have the opportunity to pitch their startups to investors, further amplifying their potential for growth and success.

Interested parties can refer to Digital Penang’s HIP24 website. The application window for HIP24 is open now until March 15, 2024.

Open to Penang-based companies, the programme is only for hardtech entrepreneurs who are serious about establishing a real venture in the market or expanding it outside the country.

“Your commitment to go through the entire nine-months of programme activities is not negotiable,” the website states. “You will be required to enter into a commitment agreement with Digital Penang.”

The full list of criteria can be found on the HIP24 page.  

HIP24 is a collaborative effort and the result of Digital Penang’s partnership with Malaysian Business Angel Network (MBAN) Penang Chapter, Project Technology, Collaborative Microelectronic Design Excellence Center (CEDEC), and MYStartup.

The inculerator also aligns with the MyDigital initiative led by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) as it contributes to developing industry clusters and driving entrepreneurial activity.

Furthermore, HIP24 is in line with the National Entrepreneurship Policy (NEP) 2030 in accelerating economic growth through innovation-driven enterprises.

While hardtech and deeptech startups might not sound as exciting as consumer-facing solutions or software advancements, they are pivotal in advancing not just our society, but the world.

  • Learn more about Digital Penang’s Hardtech Inculerator Programme 2024 here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Digital Penang

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)