Research and technology organisations in Singapore
- Research institutes and universities
In Singapore, public research can be conducted in either one of the institutes of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) or one of the research laboratories in universities or polytechnics.
I.1. A*STAR institutes
A*STAR is the main government agency for applied research. 2,000 international researchers are employed in its 14 institutes, located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis. The researchers work in the engineering or biomedical sciences. A*STAR has five entities and 3 subsidiaries.
I.1.1. A*STAR entities
The Biomedical Research Council (BMRC) supports, oversees and coordinates public sector biomedical research and development activities in Singapore. The different research fields are distributed over seven institutes and five consortia, which are housed mainly at Biopolis.
• Bioinformatics Institute (BII),
• Bioprocessing Technology Institute (BTI),
• Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS),
• Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN),
• Institute of Medical Biology (IMB),
• Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB),
• Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS).
• Experimental Therapeutics Centre (ETC),
• A*STAR – Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Neuroscience Research Partnership (NRP),
• Singapore Bioimaging Consortium (SBIC),
• Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN),
• Singapore Stem Cell Consortium (SSCC).
The Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC) deals with the same objectives as the BMRC regarding engineering sciences: electronics, information and communication technologies (TIC), chemistry. SERC manages seven research institutes and one centre which are located mainly at Fusionopolis, Singapore’s iconic hub for science and technology research:
• Data Storage Institute (DSI),
• Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences (ICES),
• Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC),
• Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R),
• Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE),
• Institute of Microelectronics (IME),
• Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech),
• National Metrology Centre (NMC).
The A*STAR Joint Council (A*JC) promotes and supports multidisciplinary research with resources and an interaction platform to catalyse and explore new scientific opportunities and technologies. A*JC aims to be a bridge between BMRC and SERC. The A*JC came into being in 2007, after the redefinition of research priorities as outlined in Singapore’s Science and Technology Plan 2010.
In order to attract and develop scientific talent, A*STAR created the Graduate Academy (A*GA) through which selected students are offered scholarships from the undergraduate to post-doctoral levels.
The last entity, Corporate Services, includes all the administrative and financial functions.
I.1.1. A*STAR subsidiaries
The A*STAR subsidiaries comprise the research entities, three commercialisation entities aimed at bringing research to market and the support services for the local research community.
I.2. Research laboratories in universities and/or polytechnics
The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), established in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) opened its doors in 2012. SUTD’s focus is on technology and design through a multidisciplinary approach. Research follows four main axis: architecture and sustainable design, engineering product development, engineering systems and design, information systems technology and design.
The Singapore Management University (SMU) also runs research programmes in human sciences , entrepreneurship and commercial sciences.
Lastly, the five polytechnics; Singapore Polytechnic (SP), Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), Temasek Polytechnic (TP), Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) and Republic Polytechnic (RP) – which are equivalent to France’s IUT – conduct applied research in their own areas of speciality ..
I.3. Research Centers of Excellence
The Research Centres of Excellence (RCEs) were founded and co-funded by the National Research Foundation and the Ministry of Education (MOE). Five RCES were chosen based on a stringent criteria. These centres, building upon the existing academic strengths and research competencies of the local universities, aim to become world-class research centres. The Director of each RCE is a renowned academic researcher selected for his outstanding scientific and leadership credentials.
Three of the RCEs are attached to NUS : the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT), founded in 1998 and approved as a RCE in 2007, Mechanobiology RCE (MBI) approved in 2009 and the Cancer Science Institute Singapore (CSI Singapore) approved in 2008. The remaining two RCEs are at NTU; the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) built in 2009 and the newest, created in 2010, the Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering (SCELSE).
I.4. Campus for Research Excellence And Technological Enterprise
The Campus for Research Excellence And Technological Enterprise, CREATE, was launched in 2012. With CREATE, the NRF aims to develop research collaborations between elite international universities and/or private laboratories and local universities and research centres. Singapore now hosts 10 high level international laboratories at CREATE:
• Cambridge Centre for Carbon Reduction in Chemical Technology (C4T),
• Shanghai Jiao Tong University-NUS Research Centre on Energy and Environmental Sustainability Solutions for Megacities,
• Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) Centre,
• The Singapore-ETH Center for Global Environmental Sustainability (SEC),
• Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, NTU and NUS Centre for Regenerative Medicine,
• TUM-CREATE Centre on Electromobility in Megacities,
• Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Research Centre on Inflammatory Diseases,
• UC Berkeley’s Berkeley Education Alliance for Research in Singapore (BEARS) Research Centre,
• Ben-Gurion University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and NTU research centre for Energy and Water Management,
• Singapore-Peking University Research Centre for a Sustainable Low Carbon Future.
II. Context and Research Funding
II.1. Supervision and scientific boards
II.1.1 Main players
As Singapore does not have a dedicated Ministry of Research, this role is shared between the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and the Ministry of Education (MOE). The Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) are also involved in research funding but only for their respective fields. For example, the MINDEF has its own laboratories which are managed by its research agency, the DSO National Laboratories .
The Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council (RIEC) is the consultative instance which defines the orientations of research. Chaired by the Prime Minister, RIEC leads the national drive to promote research, innovation and enterprise, by encouraging new initiatives in knowledge creation in science and technology, and to catalyze new areas of economic growth.
In 2006, the National Research Foundation (NRF) is launched in order to provide secretariat support to the RIEC. NRF funds the long term research programmes and coordinates the research of different agencies within the larger national framework in order to provide a coherent strategic overview. NRF is on the same decision level as MTI and MOE.
Figure 1 :Organisation of the R&D in Singapore
II.1.1 The national plans « Science & Technology »
Several 5-year national Science & Technology Plans have been put in place since 1991, to fulfil objectives considered a priority for the country and to enable all stakeholders in the economy to move forward in the same direction.
The 5th Plan covers the period 2011 – 2015. The RIEC wants to encourage the creation of knowledge based expertise in the development of innovation and enterprise. Its budget amounts to SGD 16.1 billion or about € 9.1 billion for the 5 years, which is an increase of 20% over the budget (SGD 13.6 billion or € 7.7 billion) for the preceding five years.
This plan continues the support for R&D activities of the country, with a view to attracting private investments and opening up new markets for Singapore. The allocation of the funding is very competitive, and it serves to stimulate innovation and collaborative and multi-disciplinary research efforts between the main R&D players in the public and private sectors in Singapore.
Additional funding is given for the transfer of technology to encourage the commercialisation of fundamental research applications. The desire to attract international scientific talents is strong and scholarships are given to facilitate the development of young scientists, whether local or foreign.
The RIEC is also the organiser of the National Innovation Challenge (NIC) which aims to tailor solutions to respond to the national interests at stake, such as self-sufficient and effective energy management strategies, and sustainable environmental and urbanisation development.
Innovation and entrepreneurship thus form the base for a company’s competitiveness, opening the door to new markets, and allowing the economy to develop, thanks to a significant intellectual capital.
The previous 5-year plan outlined a target of R&D spending attaining 3% of Singapore’s GDP. The City-State wants to achieve a spending of 3.5% of GDP from now till 2015, based on the growth of R&D activities in the private sector.
II.2. Funding agencies
Research is supported by different agencies, of which A*STAR is the most important. A*STAR not only plays the role of research operator, it also finances research.
Academic research is mainly supported in turn by the Academic Research Council – ARC – of the MOE, the National Medical Research Council – NMRC – of the MOH and the NRF.
The Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board (SPRING) are the two other funding agencies of the MTI for industrial research.