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 a game-changer.

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.

Venturing Into New Territory: ST Electronics

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.

A Global Impact: Hyflux

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.

SMEs Leading the Charge

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 high-resolution graphics.

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 retail optimisation.

R&D Excellence: Recognising and Celebrating the Innovations of Local Enterprises

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 The next winner and excellent innovation could be recognised by you!

More information about the award categories and the nomination process can be found at

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