Address By Professor Low Teck Seng, CEO, National Research Foundation, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore, At Energy Innovation 2016

03 Jun 2016

Ladies and Gentlemen,

   Good morning. It is my pleasure to welcome everyone to Energy Innovation 2016.

2. Thank you for taking time to be with us today. To those who have come from abroad to join us for this event, welcome to Singapore.

Leveraging Science and Technology to Address National Needs

3. Nations of the world are facing a common challenge - to convert an economy sustained by carbon-intensive energy sources, to one based on low-carbon, sustainable sources of energy.

4. We have seen global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Singapore has also made a commitment to reduce our emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and stabilise our emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030.

5. However, if we leave such efforts to the market, the pace of energy transition will be slow. Hence, there is a need to accelerate change. One way to do this is through research and development (R&D). And that’s essentially a big role NRF plays, and to do so together with all our partners. We are very pleased that the National Research Foundation (NRF) is working with the Energy Market Authority (EMA) and National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) to organise this event with our partners. For us in Singapore, we hope that though we are small, through working together, we can be more effective in some areas and get ahead of everybody else, but that is left to be seen.

6. Singapore believes in leveraging science and technology to address national challenges, such as energy, water and land issues, which arise from resource constraints of a small nation like ours. Through R&D, we seek to support and translate research outputs into energy, water and land solutions, and build up the innovation capacity of our companies to drive economic growth. But not necessarily only solutions of the day - we hope that our input will provide us with what we call “solution options for the future”. If we have the knowledge, we will be able to solve the problems when the need arises.

7. We need to build up the innovation capacity of our agencies and companies so that we are able to translate what they do to more effective outcomes. Our solutions can then, hopefully, work out for us, and in a small way, contribute to globalneeds and solve global challenges. One good example is the water membrane technologies developed by PUB. Since 2006, NRF has invested a lot of money in water technologies. We have put money with our agencies, universities and companies. What have resulted for us are not only solutions that we are now able to broaden, but Singapore today is also a hub for water technologies. Similarly, energy and land are part of innovations for us even though they are also resource challenges.

8. Energy transformation and innovation on a national scale cannot be realised without the efforts of all stakeholders, and a clear long-term vision and strategy for the government, private sector and academic to work on together.

Synergising efforts through RIE2020

9. In January this year, the government announced the sixth science and technology plan for Singapore for the next five (5) years. $0.9 billion out of the $19 billion Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 Plan has been set aside for research, innovation and enterprise under the new Urban Solutions and Sustainability (USS) domain. Together with our stakeholder agencies, we are committed to take Singapore to the next level of development in energy-water-land in an integrated manner. We see it not as an isolated challenge, but that as one challenge. The nexus of water and land is something that we will address together.

10. The USS domain takes an integrative approach to reap synergies at the intersection of the energy-water-land nexus to better meet Singapore’s needs. For example, energy can be recovered from used water treatment processes to reduce overall energy consumption. Treatment facilities can be co-located to save land and enable sharing of feed and waste streams. For us, the energy issue is also a water issue, and vice versa. We can solve our water problems, but to get clean water, we need to use energy. So the challenge for us is really clean water at the cheapest cost. We can see clearly from this nexus of energy and water that they can be addressed together.

11. The USS domain has also identified ambitious goals that were set based on national needs and the potential for R&D to create transformational impact. These include expanding Singapore’s land and space capacity, reducing energy dependency of the water sector, and reducing carbon emissions.

Applying Research to Transform Green Data Centres1

12. There are many examples of how technology, combined with innovative thinking, can lead to energy saving solutions. One example I would like to share is how a local researcher came up with a new algorithm to create “green” data centres at almost no additional upfront cost.

13. For us, the data centres are a double-edged sword – it brings us economic benefits – but it also use a lot of energy. A data centre consists of hundreds of computer servers, and over half of the energy costs are spent on cooling these servers through air-conditioning. They use lots of energy and generate a substantial amount of waste heat.

14. Dr Wen Yonggang, an Assistant Professor with the School of Computer Engineering at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), came up with a solution for this.

15. Yonggang developed an algorithm that was able to analyse energy consumption by tapping on sensors in chips already found in computers, servers, air conditioning systems and industrial machinery. By combining it with externally-placed sensors that monitor ambient temperature, the solution can integrate and analyse all the operational data and recommend energy-saving solutions. The new algorithm provides a cost-effective way for companies to find out where they can save energy without compromising performance.

16. I am happy to note that his algorithm was licensed by an NTU-incubated company, Evercomm Singapore. The company is currently deploying this technology in a new test-bed located at NTU under its Eco-campus initiative, and has plans for deployment in other trial data centres.

17. This project, which was funded by the Energy Market Authority, also won the 2015 Datacenter Dynamics Asia Pacific Award, also known as the “Oscars” of the data centre industry. It stood out from more than 170 nominations, including those from industry giants such as Huawei, to clinch this award.

Tech Roadmapping to Understand Global Technological Trends

18. Accelerating change requires collective determination, commitment and persistence. A clear, long term vision that sets the direction for the government, the private sector and academia to work in unison is also necessary. Hence, we have embarked on a technology roadmapping exercise as part of the Energy National Innovation Challenge to identify focus areas where R&D could lead to impactful outcomes.

19. The roadmaps were developed by government agencies with input from the industry and academia. They will continue to guide government agencies in formulating their technology master plans to secure Singapore's energy future and address climate change challenges. The roadmaps will also inform the work of the USS domain towards enhancing our living environment and addressing our resource constraints.

20. To recap, findings from four roadmaps were shared at the Energy Techroadmap 2014. The four identified research areas were in solar photovoltaic, carbon capture and storage/utilisation, green data centre, and building energy efficiency.

21. Today, I am pleased to share three new roadmaps in the areas of waste-to-energy, e-mobility, and industry energy efficiency. They build on the four roadmaps that were announced two years ago. All seven roadmaps identified areas that are strategic to Singapore’s needs in the areas of energy, water and land.

22. The technology roadmaps that we are sharing today are one of the critical tools in our strategy to understand global technological trends. They highlight the research and development priorities for Singapore to develop the energy solutions we need for tomorrow. We believe the roadmaps will help stakeholders evaluate their business options and direct their investments, sharpen their R&D strategies, as well as develop policy to facilitate high impact outcomes for Singapore.


23. This year, Energy Innovation 2016 is jointly organised by the National Research Foundation Singapore, the National Climate Change Secretariat, and the Energy Market Authority. Together with our partner agencies, the Land Transport Authority, National Environment Agency, Economic Development Board and Building & Construction Authority, we seek to adopt a whole-of-government approach to promote knowledge-exchange between the industry and government agencies, and catalyse conversations in translational research and to nurture the next generation of Singapore’s energy innovators. Energy transforms Singapore, and it cuts across all parts of the work that we do. So clearly for us, getting our agencies to work together takes the whole industry.

24. I am delighted to learn that the symposium will be featuring exciting topics ranging from energy modelling, smart grids, to green buildings technologies. Through the event, we hope that all participants will walk away with greater knowledge and appreciation of the need for energy innovation.

25. With this, I wish you all a fruitful and enjoyable experience at this symposium.

Thank you.

1 Success stories provided by EMA, with information from NTU's press release issued in Dec 2015.

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