When Singapore was hit with the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic in 2003, defence scientists and engineers here helped to battle the disease by developing thermal scanners that could screen large crowds for fever.
"We had a problem because people were scared to work," recalled Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at a scholarship ceremony yesterday. "(The scanners) restored confidence to the community and allowed the economy to pick up again."
Stressing the importance of technology in solving Singapore's challenges, Dr Ng announced that the Defence Ministry will set up a S$10 million innovation fund for defence scientists and engineers to tap.
The Total Defence Innovation Fund will be split equally between the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and DSO National Laboratories (DSO), and go towards research and engineering projects.
Staff from the two organisations can apply for funding from next month.
"This fund is to recognise and reward innovations that address national-level challenges," said Dr Ng, adding that he hopes it will motivate those in the field to seek breakthroughs in science and technology for Singapore.
Recognising that the contributions of defence scientists and engineers in laboratories and offices are "no less important" than those of combat troops on the ground, Dr Ng said: "Without the use of advanced technology, the Singapore Armed Forces would not have been able to meet our goals, whether in logistics, procurement or in combat elements."
The minister also presented awards to 93 junior college, undergraduate and postgraduate DSTA and DSO scholarship recipients last night.
One of them was 19-year-old Ng Rui Qi, who shunned the junior college track four years ago to pursue a diploma in engineering science at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
"Even from secondary school, I knew that my passion was in science and mathematics," said Ms Ng, who will study electrical and electronic engineering at the Nanyang Technological University on a DSTA undergraduate scholarship.
"The sense of satisfaction that I gain from solving technical issues and sums is just so immense. It gives me a sense of accomplishment."
The sense of satisfaction that I gain from solving technical issues and sums is just so immense. It gives me a sense of accomplishment.
- Scholarship recipient Ng Rui Qi
This article was first published on July 12, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.