Science and tech policies up for review

Science and tech policies up for review
Professor Low Teck Seng, chief executive officer of National Research Foundation.

Singapore is reviewing its science and technology programmes and policies ahead of next year's announcement of the new, five- year tranche of science funding, which could be up to $20 billion, said National Research Foundation (NRF) chief executive Low Teck Seng yesterday.

The NRF has also poured almost $100 million into two centres - focused on 3D printing and advanced two-dimensional materials - to prepare the country for global technological changes.

And it is ramping up efforts to woo overseas Singaporean scientists and researchers home, after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the Returning Singaporean Scientists Scheme last year.

"We are reaching a state of maturation in our science and technology development, and it will mean that, moving forward, key strategies that have worked well for us may need to be changed," said Professor Low yesterday.

He was speaking at a press conference about last Friday's meeting of the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council.

The council is chaired by Mr Lee, and its members include Cabinet ministers, business leaders and science experts.

The NRF has announced a $50 million award to the National University of Singapore (NUS) Centre for Advanced 2D Materials, which studies next-generation materials such as graphene, a super-thin form of carbon.

It will also give $42 million to the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore Centre for 3D Printing, which will research the use of such printing in aerospace and defence, building and construction as well as marine and offshore industries.

These technologies are expected to revolutionise manufacturing and other industries. "We are seeding today what we hope will be key drivers for us in the longer term," said Prof Low.

The NRF has compiled a list of overseas Singaporean scientists and researchers, and has contacted 20 of them so far. Prof Low declined to name them, but said the NRF expects to announce two returning scientists early next year.

Yesterday, it named seven new fellows and gave seven other scientists its inaugural Investigatorship awards, which are meant to fund mid-career scientists' research.

Of the seven new fellows, four are Singaporeans returning from overseas institutes.

Dr Koh Tong-Wey started work at the NTU and NUS-affiliated Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory in September, and will focus on the link between Type-2 diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

He left Singapore in 2001 to pursue a doctorate in the US, and found at Yale University that a condition similar to Type 2 diabetes predisposes fruit flies to neurodegeneration.

"It's quite exciting to be back in Singapore, and I found that many of my old friends are still doing science," he said.

This article was first published on Nov 4, 2014.
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