Smart remains committed to S'pore's academia and enterprise endeavours

The article (S'pore's R&D: Expensive lesson or worthwhile investment?; April 16) seems to imply that the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (Smart) will inevitably end in 2021 when the funding for the fifth Interdisciplinary Research Group (IRG) ends.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) sees Smart as a strategic relationship with Singapore and is committed to working on issues of importance to MIT faculty and Singapore well after 2021. As part of its commitment, MIT professors spend considerable time in Singapore.

As with any collaboration, it must be a win-win for both sides to come to the table. The almost 60 MIT professors offer their time and service, and spend several months each year here in Singapore, supervising undergraduates, doctoral and post-doctoral students.

Since 2007, we, together with our 121 Singapore co-investigators (from National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore University of Technology and Design, Singapore Management University and others), have helped supervise a considerable number of students, and published many research papers in top scientific journals.

These achievements seem to be in line with the world recognition for Singapore's research.

On the commercial front, besides Visenti and several other start-ups, Smart's Future Urban Mobility IRG also gave birth to the self-driving car start-up - nuTonomy - which is based in Singapore and Boston.

nuTonomy's Singapore operations has a staff strength of about 70 and it is hiring aggressively for its growing company, which has attracted external investment.

Smart also comprises an innovation centre which has mentored more than 60 potential start-ups, leading to 22 new Singapore-based companies taking their innovations from bench to business.

It is good that editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang understands that "R&D results are often unpredictable and always something of a gamble".

This truism stands but it does not deter Smart from pursuing research excellence.

Smart will continue its mission to identify and researchcritical problems of societal significance that are of interest to Singapore, co-advising local doctoral students and post-doctoral researchers, and being a magnet for attracting and anchoring global research talent to Singapore.

Daniel Hastings (Professor)

Chief Executive Officer & Director
Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2017, with the headline 'Smart remains committed to S'pore's academia and enterprise endeavours'. Print Edition | Subscribe