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Celebrating Howard Califano's Impact as Director of SMART Innovation Centre



Howard Califano, SMART Innovation Centre Senior Strategic Advisor and Director from 2009 - 2023, sharing about his tenure


As Howard Califano, who was the founding Director of SMART Innovation Centre (IC) and served as its Director from 2009-2023, takes a step away from this role, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on his remarkable journey and the profound impact he has had on SMART and MIT, and the broader scientific start-up community in Singapore.


The SMART Innovation Centre, initiated in 2009, operates under SMART and is funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF). Howard joined SMART with a wealth of experience and an unwavering commitment to innovation, firmly believing that scientific research doesn’t stop at publishing papers but can create untold value and contribute further to society by bringing impactful innovations to market. Throughout his tenure, he has consistently demonstrated a unique ability to foster creativity and drive innovation within our organisation.


Under Howard's leadership, the SMART Innovation Centre has flourished. He has spearheaded numerous projects, initiating and leading programmes and funds for SMART such as the Innovation grant, STDR, I2START and Central Gap Funding that have not only pushed the boundaries of research and deep tech but have also yielded practical solutions to real-world problems. Howard's vision and dedication have played a pivotal role in positioning SMART as a leader in innovation.


One of Howard's most notable achievements lies in his relentless advocacy for inclusivity and diversity. He staunchly believes that innovation flourishes in an environment where diverse perspectives are acknowledged and celebrated. His initiatives have fostered a more inclusive community where ideas from all backgrounds are embraced and nurtured.


The SMART Innovation Centre, aligned with SMART's objectives, has played a pivotal role in identifying, nurturing, and advancing innovative technologies. They’ve collaborated with faculties and researchers through boot camps and mentoring programs, equipping them with the skills to transition their technologies from the lab to where they have meaningful societal impact.


Furthermore, Howard's impact extends far beyond the walls of our organisation. He has actively engaged with the community, sharing his knowledge and expertise to inspire the next generation of innovators. Through mentoring programs and outreach initiatives, he has helped create a culture of learning and growth within SMART and the broader community.


Professor Eugene Fitzgerald, CEO and Director of SMART, emphasised, "Under Howard's leadership, the SMART Innovation Centre has accelerated innovation and research towards commercialisation. Since its inception, the Centre has trained over 300 postdoctoral researchers and scientists. Moreover, it has played a crucial role in supporting the launch of 56 companies, generating over 3,000 new jobs. Several of these companies were spearheaded by SMART's interdisciplinary research groups, including biotech firms like Theonys and Thrixen, autonomous vehicle software developer nuTonomy, and integrated circuit company nsc."


Dr. John Desforge, Executive Director at SMART, added, "Howard’s unwavering support and generous contributions have been instrumental in nurturing the growth and development of numerous researchers and start-ups, turning impactful innovations into meaningful and thriving enterprises. His dedication and commitment to innovation have significantly impacted the research community."


Howard Califano receiving a gift from Jocelyn, Executive Officer of SMART, during the celebration marking Howard's transition within SMART Innovation Centre


We are thankful for Howard's pivotal role in shaping SMART through leadership, innovation, and dedication. Even as he steps down from the Director position at SMART Innovation Centre, we're pleased that he will continue as a Senior Strategic Advisor for the centre, aiding Brian Yen, SMART Innovation Centre’s new director.


Thank you, Howard, for your incredible journey with SMART and your contributions to Singapore’s start-up community!


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