Cool ideas for HDB living to get full funding

SINGAPORE - Leaving pans on the stove for too long used to be a problem for Madam Lim Kim Choo, 68.

"I always forget about the pan, then it becomes charred and I have to throw it away," the housewife, who has lost four or five pans that way, said in Mandarin.

But a new set of gas hobs has changed all that, with a digital timer that turns off the gas supply once the specified time is reached.

"It's much safer now. I can even leave the house if I set the timer and when I get back, the food is done," said Madam Lim, who often cooks for her son and his family. They live in an HDB four-room-flat in Hougang.

The innovative gas hob was co-developed by piped gas supplier City Gas and appliances maker Aerogaz. Costing around $500, it has been available here since July last year. City Gas could not provide the number of units sold by press time.

But its origins lie in ideas by two teams of junior college and polytechnic students, who in 2013 took part in the Housing Board's annual Cool Ideas for Better HDB Living competition. The contest began in 2011 to encourage HDB residents to create solutions for everyday problems.

To help more of such ideas hit the market, the HDB will now fund them in full, announced Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong yesterday. This is after a dismal take-up rate for its co-funding scheme launched two years ago.

The $600,000 Cool Ideas Fund provides a grant of up to $10,000 to develop prototypes and test-bed them in HDB estates. But the fund has yet to be disbursed. Of more than 50 competition winners since 2011, only three have applied.

Participants receive funding on a dollar-for-dollar matching basis. But the feedback, especially from students and retirees, was that this requirement was too hard to meet, said Mr Wong. "Because we want more ideas to... take off, we will now remove this co-funding requirement," he said at the launch of this year's Cool Ideas exhibition at the HDB Hub.

Eight industry partners will also get involved in the Cool Ideas movement, from judging competitions to mentoring teams with promising ideas that could be commercialised.

These include companies such as 3M Singapore, IBM Singapore and Microsoft Singapore, as well as organisations such as the Singapore Furniture Industries Council.

This year's winners include a team from Temasek Polytechnic, who created a shopping trolley that automatically slows down and stops on downward slopes.

Team member Jaimee Kee, 20, realised the need for this when accompanying her grandmother on grocery trips. She said: "She's been relying on me to go to the market with her, because she's afraid of the shopping trolley going out of control." The team is considering applying for the Cool Ideas Fund.

Mr Bryan Lau, 22 - one of the students who had the idea of automatically cutting off the cooking gas supply - was glad to see the idea become an actual product. "It feels good that we actually helped to change someone's lifestyle," said the national serviceman.

janiceh@sph.com.sg