Singapore's Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has launched a new research centre to help local companies sharpen their edge in optical and laser engineering in the face of global competition.
Known as the Centre for Optical and Laser Engineering (COLE), this centre will drive research with the aim of developing commercial applications. With a winning value proposition targeting local SMEs, the centre has already secured industry and research funding of more than S$10 million, bringing its total worth to S$30 million.
Optical and laser engineering has in the last decade, played a big part in our everyday lives in devices ranging from microscopes and digital cameras to DVD players and the optical mouse used for computers.
Optics and lasers are also used for many commercial applications such as in high-tech precision manufacturing, measurement systems and more notably in biomedical industry for medical diagnosis.
Projects at the new centre include new ways of 3D measurements which are useful for structural engineering; new devices such as a patented "lenseless" microscope; and medical projects, such as to improve resolution and to lower the cost of medical imaging for tissue and cancer diagnosis.
Currently, precision engineering contributes about 10 per cent of the total output of the manufacturing sector, which currently makes up 22 per cent of Singapore's Gross Domestic Product and is set for further growth.
Having new innovations, streamlined processes and skilled manpower trained in optical and laser engineering will help local companies have a keen edge in this climate of global competition.
Professor Freddy Boey, Provost of NTU, said this new centre is borne out of the excellent research in optical and laser engineering done at the University. NTU has an established track record of working with industry leaders such as Rolls-Royce and Siemens, as well as local companies and research institutes.
"Optics will be one of the major drivers of technology in the 21st century, just like how electronics and precision engineering had dominated the last century," Prof Boey said.
"Together with our partners, COLE will focus on high-value manufacturing solutions targeted at the industry and will bring about greater efficiency as well as new commercial applications. Going forward, we expect that more industrial partners will join us in growing the local research and development scene and keep Singapore at the cutting edge of technology."
At the launch of COLE held at NTU's Nanyang Executive Centre today, seven local companies and one multinational company came onboard as its first industry partners. This Industry Partnership Programme allows the companies to engage in collaborative industry and research projects with COLE's researchers and scientists.
The eight member companies are:
1. Sunny Instrument
2. WaveLab Scientific
3. KLA Tencore
4. JM Vistec System
5. Life Technologies Holdings
6. Disco Hi-Tec (Singapore)
8. Precision Optical Systems Singapore
Located at NTU's School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, COLE has already secured four initial joint projects with industry with more to come. The centre, which will have about 100 faculty and researchers when it reaches steady state, will focus its research on three key areas of computational optics; optical metrology and instrumentation; and laser processing and patterning.
Another mission of COLE is to develop a strong base of optical and laser engineers in Singapore. To this end, COLE is working closely with EDB to support the tuition fees of PhD students who are working on industry projects in home-grown and multinational companies through the existing Industrial Postgraduate Programme (IPP).
"COLE plays an instrumental role in deepening our industry knowledge base and expanding our talent pool in laser and optics. Given the increasing industry applications of laser and optics technologies, we see opportunities for growth in this sector. COLE is a valued partner in building our manufacturing capabilities and developing technology solutions with the industry", commented Mr. Chang Chin Nam, Executive Director of Precision Engineering at the Singapore Economic Development Board.
Professor Anand Krishna Asundi, Director of COLE, said optical and laser engineering research will propel the precision engineering and biomedical sectors to new heights in Singapore and beyond.
"In recent years, NTU has developed many new optical and laser technologies, such as a patented lens-less 3D microscope which allows us to take a photo and focus on the details later. We have also been successful in developing precision laser systems which improves emerging technologies, such as 3D printing and nano-patterning. With COLE, we expect our successes in optical and laser engineering to grow further," said Prof Asundi.
As demand for optical and laser engineers is growing, NTU has initiated a specialisation in Optical Engineering as part of their Master's Degree programme in Precision Engineering. Started in 2011, this course which is endorsed by the Optics and Photonics Society of Singapore, already has 30 graduates, with 19 students enrolled currently at the School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
In addition, COLE also signed Memoranda of Understanding with three top optical engineering research centres from the USA, Germany and Japan. They are the Centre for Laser Aided Intelligent Manufacturing from University of Michigan, USA; Institute of Technical Optics from the University of Stuttgart, Germany; and the Centre for Optics Research and Education (CORE) from Utsonomiya University, Japan.
These agreements signify the beginning of a new international research consortium in the area of optical and laser engineering, and the centres will have staff and student exchanges as well as joint projects.
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Nanyang Technological University
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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