Back to story

Speech by NTU President at the launch of Phase II of the Rolls-Royce@NTU Corporate Lab

Speech by

Professor Subra Suresh
President, Nanyang Technological University


Auditorium, Nanyang Executive Centre
60 Nanyang View, Singapore 639673
Thursday, 18 July 2019, 10:00 hours

Mr Heng Swee Keat, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Finance and Chairman of the National Research Foundation

Ms Chan Lai Fung, Permanent Secretary (National Research and Development) and Chairman of A*STAR

Dr Bicky Bhangu, President for Southeast Asia, Pacific and South Korea, Rolls-Royce

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning and welcome to NTU. Today, we witness Singapore’s pioneer Corporate Laboratory come full-circle in its first phase of research excellence. This milestone is a result of the successful partnership between NTU and Rolls-Royce, along with strong government support through the National Research Foundation (NRF).

Launched in 2013, the Rolls-Royce@NTU Corporate Laboratory was the first-of-its-kind under NRF’s Corporate Lab @ University scheme. It focused on developing innovative solutions and technologies for the aerospace industry, overseeing 53 projects that tripled the ones under an existing partnership between NTU and Rolls-Royce, which started back in 2005. Industry partnership such as this ensures research conducted at the lab remains relevant and beneficial to society and beyond. Our partnership with Rolls-Royce goes way back, and this is a strong testament to NTU’s strong drive in nurturing partnerships with leading companies, to develop technologies and solutions that will support a brighter future. 

In the same vein, the Corp Lab projects developed more efficient and reliable energy delivery systems, and innovative manufacturing technologies to complement more robust power systems. The Corp Lab also looked into optimising production processes by extracting information from various equipment and workflows so that operators can make timely and informed decisions.

With safety and reliability being key concerns in the aerospace industry, the Corp Lab’s projects aimed at improving the design and development of repair technologies for next-generation repair engines, like Ultrafan. If you look at the aerospace industry and jet engines because human lives and safety criticality are in play. One has to ensure that there are no defects and parts should meet the highest standards. The Aero-Composites Repair project is aimed at developing novel, cost-effective repair methodologies to enhance the repair reliability and engine life cycle to reduce engine downtime 

Other projects include the Modular Energy Storage System, which provides an electrical solution to air flight that is useful for lightweight hybrid electric aircrafts. Another project is the Virtual Engine Emulator which uses a special artificial intelligence (AI) system to develop large engines and turbines. Tapping into decades of engine design data, it quickly evaluates and identifies optimum solutions for future aircraft designs, thus significantly reducing design time. These are just some of the unique and innovative projects that are being pulled through to the company today.

These projects attest to the university’s drive in making sure that its research is translated into practical and impactful outcomes that are aimed at resolving societal problems, and improve conditions of living. The various successful projects were trialled and test-bedded right here on the NTU Smart Campus, where other advanced technologies are being developed in partnership with industry. These partnerships are crucial in fostering a research ecosystem that develops cutting-edge solutions which echoes NTU’s strong track record in translational research excellence. 

Advancing into to Phase 2

After a successful Phase 1, the Corp Lab is now moving into Phase 2 with a joint funding of S$88 million over the next five years, and encompassing 29 new Industry 4.0 projects. These projects address five key thrusts, namely: Rolls-Royce Electrical (with a primary focus on developing industrial power electronics solutions), Manufacturing Technology, Advanced Repair and Materials, Data Analytics and Complex Systems, and Internet-of-Things. 

Some of these will revolutionise air travel as we know it. For example, the Corp Lab will now look at developing innovative energy storage solutions to enable and enhance hybrid-electric flight engines. This will also reduce harmful emissions and reliance on fossil fuels in the aerospace industry by accelerating the adoption of clean energy systems.

The partnership will also leverage AI and Data Science to process large chunks of data that includes product quality, equipment ageing and degradation, and even environmental conditions. This data-driven approach will streamline and optimise production processes, ensuring aerospace parts and products are of the highest quality, consistency, and reliability. 

Corporate labs and industry partnerships

These are just some of the cutting-edge research projects that the Corp Lab will work on, underlining NTU’s research focus in ensuring that everything we do remain industry relevant and impactful. The tripartite partnership is an example of a highly successful collaboration between academia, industry and government that translates world-class research into useful products, processes and systems. The projects will continue to be trialled and test-bedded right here on NTU’s Smart Campus, which is home to seven Corporate Labs each focussing on different areas of technological innovation.

For example, our HP-NTU Digital Manufacturing Corp Lab which we launched last fall that DPM officiated, focuses on digital manufacturing technologies, specifically in advancing 3D printing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, new materials and applications, and cybersecurity. The NTU-SMRT Smart Urban Rail Corp Lab aims to enhance the resiliency and reliability of urban rail systems as Singapore moves towards a car-lite future. 

On built environment solutions, the NTU-Surbana Jurong Corp Lab is working on next-generation sustainable solutions to tackle industrial and complex urban challenges, such as underground storage systems and green building technologies. Leveraging on AI and Internet-of-Things, the projects at the Delta-NTU Corp Lab for Cyber-Physical Systems range from large infrastructure solutions such as water and power distribution to emerging consumer systems. 

These partnerships also reflect the value that NTU brings as one of the top global universities whose multidisciplinary research strengths and industrial connections are increasingly recognised worldwide in areas that are poised to have a profound impact on society in the coming decades as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. NTU is also situated in Singapore, a small nation at the crossroads of Asia, which is well on its way to emerge as one of the most influential country in the region, creating Smart Nations and Smart Cities of the 21st Century. Our industrial partnerships not only promotes impactful research, but also supports Singapore’s innovation ecosystem.

I would like to thank Roll-Royce and NRF for their tremendous support and passion for joining us in shaping the future through collaboration and innovation. I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to:

i) Dr Bicky Bhangu, President for Southeast Asia, Pacific and South Korea, Rolls-Royce
ii) Dr Dave Smith, Director of Central Technology at Rolls-Royce
iii) Prof Low Teck Seng, CEO of NRF; 
iv) Prof Lam Khin Yong, NTU’s VP for Research

Thank you for steering the Rolls-Royce@NTU Corporate Lab to new heights in research excellence and innovation. I would also like to thank Deputy Prime Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat, for taking time off his busy schedule to grace today’s momentous occasion. Last but not least, I would like to thank and congratulate all the Corp Lab members, NTU faculty and staff, for the hard work and dedication over the last five years, which made today’s event a huge success.

Riding on the momentum of the achievements under Phase 1, I have no doubt that the Rolls-Royce@NTU Corp Lab will continue to push the boundaries of science and innovation in making technology smarter, safer and more sustainable for the aerospace industry and beyond. 

Thank you.