SMEs partner scientists for novel solutions

Dr Krishnan (second from right) explaining the system for land surveying that he helped SC Ang Consortium to develop. With him are A*Star managing director Raj Thampuran (second from left) and Mr Iswaran (centre, with red tie). They were at the annua
Dr Krishnan (second from right) explaining the system for land surveying that he helped SC Ang Consortium to develop. With him are A*Star managing director Raj Thampuran (second from left) and Mr Iswaran (centre, with red tie). They were at the annual SME Day organised by A*Star yesterday.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

A*Star scheme allows companies to tap into R&D expertise

Land surveying firm SC Ang Consortium has joined forces with a senior scientist from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) to develop a user-friendly satellite-based technology that is helping the firm cut its reliance on unskilled labour at construction sites.

By taking references from more satellites than the typical GPS, SC Ang's GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) gives surveyors an accuracy of 3cm with just one receiver instead of two, even under cloudy skies. GPS has a more than 10m margin of error.

Dr Sivanand Krishnan, a positioning and localisation scientist, was seconded to SC Ang from A*Star's Institute for Infocomm Research in 2014.

Dr Krishnan said yesterday: "There's a lot of satisfaction because we get to bring the product all the way to the end user, test it in the field, get feedback from them and improve on it."

SC Ang Consortium was one of about 30 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) showcasing their innovations to about 1,000 visitors, scientists and other SME bosses at the annual SME Day organised by A*Star yesterday.

Mr S. Iswaran, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), told the event that more SMEs should partner with A*Star and other government agencies to embark on new innovation projects.

Noting the challenges SMEs face in today's economic climate, Mr Iswaran said: "The most robust strategy across all scenarios is really to invest in our capabilities in terms of enhancing productivity and innovation capacity so that we are ready to seize opportunities when the upturn comes, which it will."

One less-known scheme offered by A*Star is "T-Up", or Technology for Enterprise Capability Upgrading. T-Up matches SMEs to scientists with the skills they lack, and the scientists are seconded to the SME to lead research and development.

A total of 620 scientists and researchers have been seconded to 340 SMEs here since T-Up was started in 2003, with A*Star paying 70 per cent of the researchers' salaries during the secondment.

The next phase for SC Ang Consortium, said director Ang Soo Cheng, is for the surveyor to move from the one-man-operated model to a "no-man" operated technology, via remote monitoring and control.

And surveying just scratches the surface of what their new tech could be used for. With more refinements, the GNSS can be used for autonomous vehicle navigation or armoured vehicle training, Mr Ang said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2016, with the headline 'SMEs partner scientists for novel solutions'. Print Edition | Subscribe