SMEs are our future
By Amin Hosni & Azaraimy HH

His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, officially launched Brunei's first Info-Communications Incubator, iCentre, at Anggerek Desa, yesterday.

Speaking at the launch, HRH Prince Mohamed remarked, "... I see nothing small or medium about SMEs. They are an important part of our country's future and I very much admire their determination and hard work."

Speaking about the iCentre, the Prince said, "Basically, it is all about helping our people: helping them look for opportunities; helping them set things up; helping them get more knowledge; improve their skills and talents; and above all, helping them to make sure their businesses and companies work well.

"In other words, giving them the chance to take on the modern world with confidence.

"It's a very special project and it's for a very special group of people - our own men and women with great ideas and lots of courage who want to prove themselves in the business world," said His Royal Highness.

"I know that they can't be left to work alone. They must be helped in the best possible way. They don't need government protection and they don't need words and speeches.

"They need facilities. They need knowledge. They need research and they need world class advice, both from within our country, and from high-level professionals overseas.

"It may be a small beginning but it sends out important messages. They are the ones I am sure all our businessmen and women want to hear.

"The best kind of action is one that hands responsibility to those who will light up our commercial future, the bright young business stars of Brunei, the men and women who want to introduce exciting, high class products to the world," His Royal Highness added.

The launching ceremony was also attended by YAM Pg Anak Mansurah Izzul Bolkiah.

Also present were cabinet ministers, deputy ministers, permanent secretaries, diplomats as well as leading members of the business community. The CEO of NUS (National University of Singapore) Enterprise, Dr Lily Chan, and Mr Gong Wee Lik, Deputy Managing Director of Singapore Economic Development Board, were also present.

The iCentre is equipped with fully wired plug and play work spaces which can accommodate up to 16 full-time and five virtual small companies at one time. It also provides common office facilities including meeting rooms, a boardroom, an auditorium, as well as a cafeteria run by CoffeeZone.

In addition to physical facilities, the centre also provides entrepreneurship training, mentoring and marketing support. Projects being developed in the iCentre at present include mobile communications content and software, barcode and RFID applications, software development and public portal development.

The iCentre is managed by KR Consulting, a business unit of NUS Enterprise. It is modelled after the incubators in Singapore managed by the NUS Enterprise Incubator (NEI). KR Consulting was appointed by the BEDB following a tender process to manage the centre and help bring Brunei companies to the next level.

The iCentre also has a technology collaboration agreement with SKALI Group, a Malaysian e-business specialist company, to provide technical expertise including giving the incubatees free access to their open source technology platform and an MoU with TelBru.

Meanwhile, BEDB Acting Chairman Dato Paduka Timothy Ong acknowledged the support given to the iCentre from the various ministries of His Majesty's government, especially the Ministry of Communications, the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources and the Ministry of Defence.

He also acknowledged the professionalism and commitment of KR Consulting and Skali and many from the Brunei private and corporate sector - HSBC Brunei, the Infocomm Federation Brunei, TelBru, BAG Networks and many others for their contribution of ideas and resources to the iCentre, as well as his colleagues in the Brunei Economic Development Board for their energy, passion and commitment towards making a difference.

He also thanked the Brunei entrepreneurs and companies in the iCentre for their ambition and drive.

"In an interview with the Oxford Business Group at the end of last year, Your Royal Highness (HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah) said that it is not enough for our country to be rich in resources, we must also be rich in ideas."

Dato Paduka Timothy Ong also quoted His Royal Highness as saying in the same interview that diversifying the economy is a lot more than making announcements. Our country must have a new generation of business people who are knowledgeable and competitive.

He said the iCentre is about helping to develop a new generation of Brunei business people who are ambitious and rich in ideas. - Borneo Bulletin (27th Mar 2008)