Last updated: 26 August 2022

Published on: 26 August 2022

By Jill Arul

Typically, running the operations of a zoo may call to mind images of traditional and manual methods of work done in Steve Irwin-style khakis. With the help of the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) Open Innovation Platform (OIP), Singapore’s Mandai Wildlife Group has been harnessing innovative technology to support various stages of their operations—from staff meals to enhancing the care of some of the world’s most threatened species.

Now into its fifth year, with over 300 problem statements hosted and 12,000 solution providors involved, IMDA’s OIP is dedicated to matching technology companies with organisations that can benefit from new technologies. In a win-win situation, businesses receive game-changing solutions while passionate innovators gain experience working with dynamic organisations, like Mandai Wildlife Group which manages Singapore’s four wildlife parks—Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, River Wonders and Jurong Bird Park.

In its latest collaboration with Mandai Wildlife Group, IMDA OIP worked closely with them to launch the Mandai Co-Innovation Programme.  Find out more about how IMDA’s OIP supports Mandai Wildlife Group’s ongoing innovation efforts and outreach.

Open to innovation

Mandai Wildlife Group Mesh Image
Team members of Mandai Wildlife Group’s Animal Care Innovation work to test prototypes before implementation. They work closely with OIP partners to tweak solutions and go through multiple iterations to cater to the specific needs of the respective wildlife parks.

Mandai Wildlife Group believes in embracing the process of innovation—be it within the organisation or working with technology solution providers—to overcome challenges and enhance operations across various work aspects. The organisation went so far as to set up a dedicated open innovation team to develop meaningful solutions for its parks.

“The team was established to connect a community of like-minded innovators and advocates to explore game-changing solutions that address the unique sustainability and conservation challenges,” explained Mr Edmas Neo, vice-president of Group Transformation Office at Mandai Wildlife Group. “It acts as a bridge between the business units and the external innovation ecosystem in driving collaborative innovation with external solvers,” he added.

Previously, innovators would reach out to the transformation office through an e-procurement portal where Manda business opportunities were hosted. Now, one significant way the team connects with external solution providers is through IMDA’s OIP. Through the programme, Mandai Wildlife Group was able to connect with technology companies to develop new solutions and improve the parks’ operations. These solutions span an intelligent aviary mesh inspection system, environmental monitoring devices, animal monitoring devices and an autonomous food delivery system for staff.

Mandai Wildlife Group Monkey Image
On top of the sensor technology, the mesh is made of a sturdier material than the traditional nylon mesh covering which is also more durable.

While these new technologies are still in the initial proof-of-concept phase, they are expected to improve operational efficiencies of the park and employee productivity.

For example, the intelligent aviary mesh system was developed to support the work of the animal care team who currently have to manually inspect the integrity of the mesh coverings—a laborious task that could also be prone to human error.

A new smart mesh, developed with Taiwan-based technology providers, Delta Electronics through OIP, aims to help the team with this task.  The mesh, which is equipped with actuators that send out vibrations and sensors, maps and measures the intensity of vibrations, helping to detect detrimental tears or holes in a mesh covering. Should any tears or holes be detected, the system then alerts the animal care team to the exact location of the breach.

The zoo also looked into technology-enabled tools such as artificial intelligence-powered and real-time monitoring solutions to help increase productivity levels. Instead of allocating large amounts of time to manually test the conditions of aquatic exhibits for healthy water quality or relying on substantial manpower to monitor the animals for signs of irregular behaviour and illnesses, the team leveraged the tech tools to improve animal welfare and free up time for other tasks.

While these solutions are still in the early stages of testing, their impact can already be felt as the Mandai team gains a better understanding of working with problem solvers and co-innovating for a tailored solution.

“The flexibility and the close collaboration between the stakeholders, IMDA and solvers allows for more room to develop innovative solutions that address the problems.”

Mr Edmas Neo

Vice-President of Group Transformation Office at Mandai Wildlife Group

An opportunity for improvement

Keenly aware of the benefits that open innovation can bring, Mandai Wildlife Group has been keen to integrate technology-enabled tools in areas such as guest experience, sustainability and biodiversity. They hope that such new technologies can help provide robust data for better decision making to strengthen processes in animal care, safety and improve guest experience. 

Mandai Wildlife Group participated in IMDA OIP for the first time last year. The OIP team provided guidance to the Group, which helped them have a seamless and more robust innovation process. 

For their current ongoing trials, the Group has worked with all sizes of organisations, from startups to established tech companies. Mandai Wildlife Group recognises the value the different types of organisations bring to the table. While there are benefits to having large resources to support a project when working with large tech companies, startups may be more agile and dynamic in their processes. 

Having found substantial benefits of being on the OIP, Mandai Wildlife Group began work with IMDA to launch a branded open innovation programme this year. The “Mandai Co-Innovation Programme” would be specifically catered to looking for technology companies to provide solutions for the organisation with the intention of improving operations and efficiency as well as guest experience.

“Participation in OIP has provided us with a very good first step in connecting with the external community and developing internal readiness. With the branded programme, the grouping of a set of problem statements allows for greater synergy and optimisation of resources as well greater value to the participants like mentorship, networking opportunities and the chance to take part in other Mandai-related innovation events.”

Mr Edmas Neo

Vice-President of Group Transformation Office at Mandai Wildlife Group

With exciting digital transformation opportunities ahead, Mandai Wildlife Group is a shining example of the impact of open innovation—where both the organisation and innovators benefit from the creative sharing and development of solutions.


Are you a part of a corporation looking for the next great innovation? Click here to find out how to host a challenge on IMDA’s Open Innovation Platform.