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Speech by NTU President Professor Subra Suresh at the Launch of the RGE-NTU Sustainable Textile Research Centre

Speech by Professor Subra Suresh President & Distinguished University Professor,
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Launch of the RGE-NTU Sustainable Textile Research Centre
Academic Block North, Foyer
Thursday, 4 August 2022


Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment,
Mr Anderson Tanoto, Managing Director of RGE,
Mr Perry Lim, Executive Director of RGE,
Distinguished guests,
ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon, and welcome to NTU. Need for textile waste recycling The rise of textile industry was one of the primary drivers for the first industrial revolution in the 18th century. Now, amidst the fourth industrial revolution, textiles – smart and sustainable ones – are once again a main driver, this time in the context of the circular economy. Textiles are a huge source of waste. Every year, more than 90 million tonnes of textile waste are disposed. This number is projected to grow beyond 134 million tonnes annually by 2030. Much of this waste is either incinerated or it ends up in landfills. The textile industry itself is responsible for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of global wastewater.

Against this backdrop, the textile industry is gradually adopting a paradigm shift towards sustainability and materials circularity, by developing and adopting greener and more efficient means of textile production, and by increasing resource circularity.

Launch of the RGE-NTU Sus-Tex

I am therefore pleased to join you today, to launch the RGE-NTU Sustainable Textile Research Centre, or RGE-NTU SusTex. The joint research centre aims to relook at the chemistry of often complex textile materials, engineer better sustainability and circularity into the value chain, and create technologies that are deployable in urban settings, such as Singapore. This is very much aligned with Singapore’s zero waste vision to build a sustainable, resource-efficient and climate-resilient nation.

This partnership between NTU and RGE draws on RGE’s industry experience as the world’s largest producer of viscose fibre, and leverages NTU’s strong intellectual assets in materials science, and environmental chemistry.

NTU’s unique intellectual assets will feed heavily into the work of this research centre. As you may know, two of the areas that make up this corporate lab – materials science and environmental science – are areas where independent metrics from abroad have placed NTU at the very top of their global indicators.

Similarly, our College of Engineering, which is home to many of these activities, is also, by many international metrics, viewed as one of the top five in the world. Over the next five years, RGE and NTU will pool their best minds to work on industry-focused projects in these areas:

• Cleaner and more efficient means for mixed fibre separation;
• Automated front-end sorting of textile waste;
• Alternative high value utilisation of by-products and development of new functional materials;
• Environmentally benign processes for dye removal and natural dyes development.

These efforts tie in nicely with our NTU 2025 strategic plan. The plan calls for high-impact interdisciplinary research to address global grand challenges, and to create mechanisms that can accelerate the translation of NTU’s research discoveries into innovations that will benefit Singapore and the world at large.

Complementing this five-year partnership is RGE’s plan to build a pilot textile recycling plant, which will serve as the first urban testbed for the new green technologies developed at RGE-NTU SusTex. We take great pride in nurturing partnerships with industry because it not only ensures that our research remains industry relevant, but also practical and beneficial to society.

The collaboration is off to a good start. I hear that RGE-NTU SusTex is working closely with government agencies, and actively engaging relevant stakeholders, including the fashion industry, hotel chains, healthcare institutions, and waste collection and management companies.


I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Minister Grace Fu for taking time to be the Guest-of-Honour at today’s event. My sincere thanks to all the RGE staff and NTU faculty members and members of the leadership team for your tremendous contributions leading up to today’s milestone event. Like many of you, I very much look forward to watching the success of this collaboration, and also all the exciting ideas, products and services that will emerge from this, not only from a technological perspective, but also the commercial and societal impact of the research centre’s work.

Thank you.