It is no secret that R&D innovation plays an important role for our future growth.
The modern international landscape is beset by economic and political uncertainties,
and there is a rising demand for innovative products and services, propelled by
urbanisation, ageing, and increasing affluence. For Singapore’s economy to thrive,
R&D and innovation are key. When discovery is translated to innovation, and creates
impact and value through real-world, commercially-viable applications, it becomes
Industry at the Forefront
Local enterprises have tapped on R&D to differentiate themselves amid tough competition
and saturated markets. These efforts have had a substantial impact – in 2016, the
Global Innovation Index ranked Singapore as the most innovative country in Asia,
and sixth in the world.
One technological leap that has made waves is TeLEOS-1 – the world’s first commercial
earth observation satellite. Designed by Singapore Technologies Electronics Limited
(ST Electronics), with support from DSO National Laboratories (DSO), Centre for
Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing National University of Singapore (CRISP,
NUS), and Satellite Research Centre, Nanyang Technological Institute (SaRC, NTU),
this innovative satellite provides more frequent high resolution images of the equatorial
belt, and under more diverse sun-lit conditions as compared to previous-generation
systems. In turn, these can be used for time-critical events, such as homeland security
and border control, maritime situation awareness, and disaster monitoring and management.
Internationally, various local innovations have already been commercialised, such
as Hyflux’s Kristal™ 600 hollow fibre ultrafiltration membrane. This ground-breaking
technology, found in Singapore’s water recycling plants, has also been used globally
as a pre-treatment in large seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) plants. It took four
years of tireless research and a dedicated in-house membrane R&D team, which was
formed and led by Professor Neal Chung of the National University of Singapore (NUS).
A prominent researcher in water technologies, Professor Chung also worked with his
team at NUS to develop various other novel membrane materials that have been licensed
and commercialised – a key example being the double-repulsion nanofiltration (NF)
membrane that removes both positive and negative charged multivalent ions from industrial
effluents. For his achievements, Professor Chung was bestowed the President’s Technology
Award (PTA) in 2015.
Innovation is also not exclusive to large corporations as many of our very own small
and medium enterprises (SMEs) are making significant strides in R&D commercialisation.
Film Screen Pte Ltd, a traditional printing company that offers large format printing
services for outdoor advertising, licensed technology from the Singapore Institute
of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) to create an ultra-thin light-emitting film.
Later adapted for commercial use as the eLumiNEX™ product, it has since become one
of the company’s key differentiated offerings due to the low capital investment
required for manufacture, ease of installation, and ability to be overlaid with
Decks Pte Ltd, a fashion and lifestyle retailer, is another SME that leverages heavily
on innovation. Under A*STAR’s Technology Adoption Programme (TAP), the company adopted
three technology solutions – namely, the RFID-based Item Management and Tracking
System (IMTS), the Virtual Try-On (VTO) and Video Analytics System (VAS). IMTS has
helped to reduce the time taken for inventory management by 2,370 hours, achieving
savings of $27,000 each month. VTO is an added-value service that allows customers
to preview the clothes’ appearance on themselves without having to physically try
them, while VAS gives the company critical insights on customer behaviour for future
As Singapore continues to grow its knowledge-based economy, more local enterprises will be leading or collaborating on innovative projects for technological advancement. The impact of innovation on society – exemplified in the case studies shown – is even more apparent when translated to real-world, commercially-viable applications.
Each year, we recognise and honour such R&D excellence through the President’s Science and Technology Awards (PSTA).
If you know of a local enterprise project that pushes the boundaries of R&D innovation,
nominate them now for the PSTA at https://app.a-star.edu.sg/psta/NewNomination.aspx. The next winner and excellent innovation could be recognised by you!
More information about the award categories and the nomination process can be found