Professor Subra Suresh
President & Distinguished University Professor
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
OFFICIAL LAUNCH OF ECOLABS CO-INNOVATION LABS
JTC Cleantech One, Level 6, #06-03
Thursday, 21 April 2022, 10am
Ms Low Yen Ling, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth & Trade and Industry,
Mr Jeffrey Siow, Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer for Enterprise Singapore,
Ms Kavita Gandhi, Executive Director of Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore,
Colleagues and Friends,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very warm welcome everyone to NTU. I would like to thank Minister of State, Ms Low Yen Ling, and all our guests for taking the time to join us here today.
Clean energy for a sustainable future
Clean energy is essential to mitigate climate change and global warming. Under the Paris Agreement, the Singapore government has set a bold target to peak its emissions by 2030 and halve these emissions by 2050.
As a small, resource-constrained country, Singapore faces an “energy trilemma” of having to maintain a delicate balance among affordability, reliability, and sustainability. Singapore has to meet the growing demand for electricity, while keeping basic services affordable, amid rising fuel prices - which are growing internationally - and limited availability of renewables on a local scale.
At the same time, under the Singapore Green Plan 2030, the nation wants to achieve a green economy and mitigate climate change by transforming existing sectors and helping them to decarbonise. Singapore therefore needs to continue exploring new energy and low carbon technologies to achieve its energy needs and low emission targets.
The NTU 2025 Strategic Plan was rolled out a little more than a year ago, and there are certain components to that plan that have a direct bearing on today’s event. There are two aspects of this that I would like to highlight.
Under the NTU 2025 Strategic Plan, my colleagues at NTU articulated a bold vision to take our translational capability going from lab discoveries in basic research all the way to translation that benefits society and industry – the next quantum leap. As part of this, NTUitive – which is the translational arm of NTU – has set up a very ambitious agenda over the next five years. In some cases, tripling or quadrupling our output in terms of quantitative numbers for translation activities.
The second component of NTU 2025 is our bold ambition in sustainability where we walk the walk. In fact, because of what you could call an accident of history, or the beneficial circumstances arising from history, NTU is very fortunate to be one of the very few universities – if not the university – that has the ability to walk the walk in sustainability.
What do I mean by this? We have more than 57 building projects, 97 per cent of which are already Green Mark Platinum certified. Our campus is a Green Mark Platinum campus. Secondly, we set out a bold agenda by 2025 to reduce our net energy utilisation, net water consumption, and net waste generation by 50 per cent compared to the baseline level of 2011. We are not there yet, but well on our way on achieving that goal.
About six months ago, NTU also rolled out a very bold sustainability initiative and framework. We became the first university in the world to release sustainability-linked bonds, which were oversubscribed. As part of this effort, we have a 15-year plan to reduce our carbon footprint by 50 per cent by 2035, compared to the pre-Covid baseline of 2019.
These are some examples of activities that NTU has set out for itself, and today’s event is very much in sync with that aspiration and ambition.
EcoLabs, a clean energy champion
In this regard, EcoLabs, established jointly by NTU, Enterprise Singapore, and the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore (SEAS), has been a champion of the nation’s efforts by advancing energy and decarbonisation partnerships with start-ups, SMEs, corporate partners, investors, certification bodies and government agencies at home and abroad.
EcoLabs works closely with its partners to co-develop and accelerate deep-tech energy innovation capabilities through co-innovation programmes, co-development projects and test-bedding sites.
One of the significant strengths of NTU is not only being able to translate basic research into industry applications, but in working together with more than 250 companies on campus through a programme we call GAIN which was launched a little more than a year ago. Through this Global Alliance of Industries @ NTU, we are able to not only translate, but also potentially scale up, research projects to levels that industry can pick up and sustain.
Some of these programmes will be unveiled today, including co-innovation programmes with OCBC, Mistletoe, Chrysalix Ventures, Blue Ashva Capital, High Commission of Canada, and Bureau Veritas, to name a few. There are also new test-bedding initiatives with Ara-Ake, New Zealand. Later this afternoon, IBM and Emerson will also lead a knowledge-sharing session on how digital technologies will make energy systems more connected, intelligent, efficient, reliable and sustainable.
Singapore start-ups and SMEs’ role as clean energy engines
In our shared journey towards clean energy, the involvement of start-ups and SMEs is essential. As of 2021, SMEs contribute to nearly half of Singapore’s GDP and employ about 70% of the local workforce. In the clean tech domain, growing interest in energy efficiency and green buildings, along with carbon offsets and credits, has led to a huge demand for innovative solutions from start-ups and SMEs.
Innovations such as energy storage, carbon capture and utilisation, and hydrogen technologies, could potentially disrupt the status quo and contribute significantly to the nation’s economy.
However, some gaps remain in Singapore and across the region. For example, most clean energy solutions are deployed in silos. This means fewer opportunities exist to achieve greater energy efficiency and carbon reduction. Working with NTU offers the opportunity to go across these silos, across disciplines and intellectual domains, and across sectors including academia, industry and government.
There is also room for more collaboration between small scale enterprises and large MNCs to jointly accelerate growth in the clean tech sector, especially in testing and integrating their cleantech solutions.
EcoLabs Digital Twin Co-Innovation Lab and NTU Arrow Invent Lab
This is where the new EcoLabs Digital Twin Co-Innovation Lab will play an important role as a pioneering co-innovation testbed space in Singapore and Asia. With a strong focus on energy efficiency and decarbonisation, the new lab will work exclusively with Singapore-based start-ups and SMEs to advance energy efficiency solutions, such as energy monitoring, carbon mapping, and product benchmarking.
I am heartened to hear that more than 6 local start-ups and SMEs have already deployed their solutions in this space, with another 15 companies expected to testbed their solutions here in the near future.
These companies will benefit from the lab’s infrastructure and translational facilities, as well as opportunities for test-bedding, research and co-development, and business support. The lab will also be a model for future smart office operations in Singapore and the tropics.
In addition, EcoLabs has set up the NTU-Arrow Invent Lab, a collaboration between NTU, EcoLabs and Arrow Electronics, one of the world’s largest electronics companies. Small-scale companies can tap into Arrow’s market-ready solutions and work with large multinational partners.
I would like to congratulate EcoLabs on the official launch of the EcoLabs Digital Twin Co-Innovation Lab and NTU Arrow Invent Lab.
I look forward to all the ground-breaking solutions and contributions that will emerge from these two labs. They will certainly contribute to Singapore’s decarbonisation and sustainability goals.
I would also like to thank Enterprise Singapore, Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore (SEAS), Energy Research Institute @NTU (ERI@N) and all members of the EcoLabs team for all their hard work.
In particular, I’ll like to thank our leadership team, faculty colleagues, and students who have played an integral part in the success of ERI@N and many of its activities.
Thank you very much.