Published on 31 Jul 2018

Surbana Jurong, NTU and NRF launch S$61 million joint corporate laboratory to develop sustainable urban and industrial solutions

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), Surbana Jurong and the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF) have set up a joint corporate laboratory to develop next-generation sustainable solutions to tackle industrial and complex urban challenges.

It will include research to explore underground storage systems, sustainable indoor solutions for buildings, and digital technologies to scale up productivity in the built environment.

The $61 million joint corporate lab is underlined by a five-year partnership, which leverages NTU’s strengths in engineering and sustainability research, and Surbana Jurong’s track record in providing urban, infrastructure and industrial solutions to its global customers.

Located at NTU, the SJ-NTU Corporate Lab was officially launched today by Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance.

The NRF facilitates the setting up of corporate labs via public-private partnerships. The SJ-NTU Corporate Lab is the 12th supported by NRF and the sixth such corporate lab at NTU.

NTU President Professor Subra Suresh said, “The current dramatic shift to a digital and sustainable economy requires societies to push the boundaries of urban and industrial innovation, and develop new technologies that balance the built and natural environments.

The innovations developed at the SJ-NTU Corporate Lab will be tested on NTU’s Smart Campus, which is already pioneering the use of green construction technologies and is a testbed for innovations from autonomous electric vehicles to smart buildings and various applications of artificial intelligence.” 

Mr Wong Heang Fine, Group Chief Executive Officer of Surbana Jurong said, “Rapid urbanisation, climate change and digitalisation are major trends that will continue to shape and transform the built environment. Leveraging Surbana Jurong’s global industry experience in the urban and infrastructure sectors and NTU’s world-class research capabilities, the SJ-NTU Corporate Lab aims to develop innovative and sustainable solutions that will alleviate near term urban challenges and improve lives for people around the world. The Lab will be working on projects which will not only be game changers for Singapore but will also help to further establish Singapore as a global hub for sustainable urban and infrastructure solutions.”

NRF Chief Executive Officer Professor Low Teck Seng said, “Singapore is well placed to be an international hub for sustainable urban solutions with our strong research and translation capabilities in areas such as energy efficiency, water, urban mobility and waste management. The partnership between Surbana Jurong and NTU underscores Singapore’s capability to translate research outcomes into solutions that can be adopted for city living that is green and comfortable for Singaporeans. It will also strengthen our ability to export next-generation smart and urban solutions to other cities facing similar challenges arising out of urbanisation.”

Championing sustainable solutions for the urban environment

The key objectives of the SJ-NTU Corporate Lab will be to translate research outcomes into practical and viable solutions that are focused around three core themes: digitalisation; green and sustainable urban solutions; and future of the industry and productivity.

Professor Lam Khin Yong, NTU’s Vice President for Research said, “The three key areas of research in the corporate lab draw on the strengths of NTU and Surbana Jurong as we both have expertise in engineering and in the translation of research into practical industry applications. With five recent corporate labs and a strong track record of working with industry players, NTU has the experience and confidence to ensure research innovations nurtured at the lab can be developed into relevant applications that benefit the industry and society.”

Kicking things off, researchers will be working on 11 projects that are aimed at optimising land usage, future-proofing buildings and infrastructure, and transforming the way buildings are designed and constructed.

For example, researchers will develop a thermal management system and an indoor air quality system that is not only energy efficient, but also uses a botanical solution to purify the air. Integrating selected plants with architectural and interior design, indoor air pollutants would be reduced while creating a natural and lush indoor environment.

Another project involves a chilled ceiling technology that uses special composite materials for ceiling panels which are linked to a central monitoring system. The composite panels transfer heat more effectively than conventional aluminium panels, reducing the need for air-conditioning and improving energy efficiency.

On the digital front, researchers will look into creating technologies to scan and map the external and internal parts of building structures such as piping networks, to create Building Information Models. The solution aims to improve the efficiency of facility managers and change the way buildings are managed and maintained.     

Next-generation solutions for industry

The multidisciplinary Lab will include NTU scientists from various fields and Surbana Jurong professionals. In its fully operational state, the lab will have 70 researchers, including NTU undergraduates and PhD students.

For a start, researchers will explore underground storage spaces for storing liquefied natural gas (LNG) in industrial and urban areas so that space aboveground can be freed up for other uses. The storage of LNG within these spaces will be kept at below 162 degrees Celsius to ensure it remains in a liquefied state.

Asia’s first ‘Cold Lab’ that will develop ‘Cold Energy Capture’ and ‘Cold Energy Storage’ technologies will also be set up. These technologies harness cold temperatures produced during regasification, a process where LNG is converted back to natural gas at atmospheric temperature. The harnessed cold energy could power various industrial applications such as cooling systems in warehouses and data centres.