Singapore is known globally for the use of technology to create a sustainable model of water management and Nanyang Technological University has been at the forefront of Singapore's R&D effort in environmental and clean water technologies.
To support the key growth areas in Singapore's water industry, the Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute (NEWRI) at NTU will be focusing on new research projects in industrial wastewater treatment and the energy-waste-water nexus.
NEWRI has just moved into JTC CleanTech Park which is set to become Singapore's 'Enviropolis', the first business park here catering to green firms.
NTU President Professor Bertil Andersson said NEWRI's relocation to the iconic CleanTech One, where it will be among the many cutting-edge industry players, gives it a clear strategic advantage.
"A research-intensive university like NTU known for its track record in industry collaborations can only benefit from having a seamless connection with the industry like what NEWRI will enjoy at CleanTech One," said Prof Andersson.
The opening of its new premises at CleanTech One was officiated today by Guest-of-Honour Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources.
$132 million in renewed funding
NEWRI was set up by NTU in 2008 and today has four centres of excellence that focuses on research in water management, waste management, membranes and applied environmental microbiology and bioprocesses.
Being housed under one roof at CleanTech Park will allow them to better tap on each other's strengths and also that of the wider community at CleanTech One to engage in interdisciplinary research.
To drive its new research in phase two, NEWRI is expecting to clinch over $132 million in renewed funding, which will bring its total funding amount to about $400 million by the end of 2016, inclusive of competitive research grants.
NEWRI's renewed funding is supported by various public agencies such as the National Research Foundation (NRF), Economic Development Board (EDB), Environment and Water Industry Programme Office (EWI), National Environment Agency (NEA) as well as multinational companies and local small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
NEWRI's Executive Director Professor Ng Wun Jern, said the continued funding is a strong affirmation of the leading role that NTU plays in Singapore's R&D landscape in Environment and Water Technologies (EWT).
"This continued support allows NEWRI to pursue its underlying philosophy of the need of the contiguous value chain of research, translation, development and application," Prof Ng said.
"The value chain will help Singapore address its water and environmental issues as space usage continue to intensify. Simultaneously, companies shall have opportunities to draw on our expertise to better address the global EWT market."
NEWRI's second phase
As the anchor tenant at CleanTech One, located adjacent to the NTU campus at Jalan Bahar, NEWRI will house its 400 researchers at the top two levels of the six-story building, occupying a total floor space of 6,000 square meters.
To address the industry's increased need for more economical and effective technologies for water, wastewater, and wastes management, NEWRI will, in its next three years of operation, focus on the development of new membranes for forward osmosis and biomimetic desalination, wastewater bioprocessing with enhanced energy recovery; and quick optics-based technologies for real time contaminants and pathogens detection.
NEWRI's research on energy-waste-water nexus will look into various ways in which clean water can be produced by using less energy; how waste can be effectively turned into a source of energy and water, reducing the energy use in treating waste.
To build a skilled talent pool for this sector, education is also a key area for NEWRI.
Mr Chew Men Leong, Executive Director of EWI and Chief Executive of PUB, the national water agency said: "Having developed significant R&D manpower and capabilities that span across the entire innovation value chain, NEWRI is well on its way to become one of the world's leading water technology and solutions providers. I look forward to seeing more collaborative research between NEWRI and PUB/EWI into new growth areas such as the emerging industrial water solutions sector and rising challenges in the water-energy nexus, both identified as key issues not only for Singapore but the global water industry."
Mr Leo Yip, Chairman of EDB said: "NEWRI plays a critical role in the development of Singapore's water industry, through its industry-focused research, commercialisation of new technologies and training of postgraduate talent. The co-location of NEWRI in CleanTech Park will generate opportunities for interdisciplinary research and enable the clustering of industry players in the sustainability sector. The continued success of NEWRI will also strengthen Singapore's research and thought leadership position as the Global Hydrohub."
Mr Png Cheong Boon, Chief Executive Officer of JTC, said, "JTC is developing CleanTech Park to support Singapore's leadership position as a clean technology hub. CleanTech One, the first completed building in this Park, will provide lab spaces for research, innovation and commercialisation activities in clean technology. We are pleased that NEWRI has joined the CleanTech Park community with its research activities in water and environmental technologies. As a pioneer amongst like-minded public and private industry partners, and one that enjoys close proximity to NTU for industry-academia collaborations, NEWRI will play an important role in CleanTech Park's future growth."
NEWRI's industry collaborations
In the past five years, NEWRI has developed industry-focused, cutting edge technologies for water treatment and purification such as new forward-osmosis membranes and also developed environmental restoration and resource reclamation techniques. Its various industry collaborations include leading water companies such as Suez, Keppel, Sembcorp and Toray.
Today also marks the signing of a research collaboration agreement with Grundfos, a global leader in pump solutions, to develop to study and develop new ways to improve the treatment of wastewater.
NEWRI's recent projects include its collaboration with Siemens Water on membrane distillation research and the development of a low-pressure hollow fibre membrane; and joint research and test bedding of a high performance UASB-Membrane Bioreactor System with Meiden Singapore.
SMEs have also benefited from NEWRI's research. Under the PUB-SPRING Joint Grant Call on Used Water Treatment Technologies, NEWRI recently helped four local companies adopt patented technologies developed at NTU to improve their competitiveness.
NEWRI has also spun-off five start-up companies dealing with patented water and environmental technologies. One of NTU's start-ups, MINT, has already secured contracts to deploy their membrane integrity sensor systems in water treatment plants in France and Australia. Another start-up, Aquaporin Asia, is developing a new type of biomimetic water filter membrane which will reduce energy, operating and maintenance costs for water treatment plants.
NEWRI is also no stranger to international academic collaborations; its latest partnership agreement was signed with Germany's Stuttgart University last December. Existing academic partners include University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Korea University and University of New South Wales.
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About Nanyang Technological University
A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has 33,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, and Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences. It has a new medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.
NTU is also home to world-class autonomous institutes - the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering - and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI), Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) and the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI).
A fast-growing university with an international outlook, NTU is putting its global stamp on Five Peaks of Excellence: Sustainable Earth, Future Healthcare, New Media, New Silk Road, and Innovation Asia.
Besides the main Yunnan Garden campus, NTU also has a satellite campus in Singapore's science and tech hub, one-north, and a third campus in Novena, Singapore's medical district.
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The NEWRI Ecosystem
The Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute's (NEWRI) has four Centres of Excellence:
1. DHI-NTU - focuses on urban water quantity and quality modelling and management.
2. Singapore Membrane Technology Centre (SMTC) - researches on basic membrane science to develop innovative membrane technologies.
3. Residues & Resource Reclamation Centre (R3C), - seeks to turn waste into a resource by studying ways to efficiently handle industrial wastes.
4. Advanced Environmental Biotechnology Centre (AEBC) - specialises in applied environmental microbiology and bioprocesses.
NEWRI also has four other arms: the Environmental Chemistry & Materials Group (ECMG); NEWRITech, which commercialises newly developed technology; NEWRIComm, which partners for social investments in environmental protection in developing Asia and NEWRI Postgraduate Education Unit, which trains specialised manpower in the area of water and environment technologies.