Singapore is now in business with the sports company that makes tennis legend Rafael Nadal's racquets.
The Singapore Institute for Sports Research (ISR) has taken on French firm Babolat, as well as other sports giants such as TaylorMade from the adidas group, as clients. It will do research on some of their products such as golf clubs and sports compression garments.
The ISR is a partnership involving Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Britain's Loughborough University, renowned for sports studies.
Last week, NTU also inked a deal with Russia's leading sports retailer Sportmaster to set up an innovation centre under the ISR. This will create sports apparel and equipment to be sold in the retailer's 368 stores worldwide.
The ISR is also helping the International Table Tennis Federation, one of its non-corporate clients, to develop test protocols for products.
In the longer term, the ISR aims to develop more advanced items such as air-conditioned helmets and textiles with integrated, wireless devices that can monitor sports performance and risk of injuries, said director Pascal Joubert des Ouches.
NTU, which opened the institute without much fanfare in 2011, took a year to find the right person to lead it.
Mr Joubert des Ouches, 48, has 23 years of experience in sports technology innovation, including running his own firm. He is a graduate of the leading French engineering school Arts et Metiers Paris Tech and the Essec Business School.
"In the past one year, we have been forming the institute's direction, but now we are really kicking off," he said.
The ISR will receive about $5 million from NTU and the Economic Development Board, but aims to become financially autonomous by 2016. It also wants to boost its numbers from 57 people, including full-time staff and PhD students, to 100.
Mr Joubert des Ouches said one of the institute's long-term plans is to encourage more international sports firms to do research in Singapore.
"We would like to act as a catalyst. Perhaps sports companies can first put one of their engineers in our institute, and then they can open a joint laboratory, and finally, hopefully, they will establish a full-fledged R&D centre in Singapore."
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