Swiss don made honorary citizen for R&D push

Emeritus Professor Ulrich Werner Suter (second from right) with President Tony Tan Keng Yam, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat (far left) and NRF chief executive Low Teck Seng at the Istana. The Honorary Citizen Award is the highest form of recognition
Emeritus Professor Ulrich Werner Suter (second from right) with President Tony Tan Keng Yam, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat (far left) and NRF chief executive Low Teck Seng at the Istana. The Honorary Citizen Award is the highest form of recognition for a non-Singaporean.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

A Swiss professor was made an honorary citizen of Singapore yesterday for his contributions to developing Singapore into a vibrant and well-known research and development hub.

Emeritus Professor Ulrich Werner Suter, 73, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, was conferred the award by President Tony Tan Keng Yam at a ceremony at the Istana.

The Honorary Citizen Award is the highest form of recognition for a non-Singaporean.

It is given by the Government to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to Singapore's growth and development.

"Professor Suter has contributed his knowledge and time generously over more than a decade to develop Singapore's science and research landscape," said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who chairs the National Research Foundation (NRF).

Prof Suter, whom DPM Teo described as a close friend of Singapore, is a leader in the field of materials science. He played an instrumental role in "laying the foundation for research excellence in Singapore", the NRF said.

In 2004, he was on an international panel commissioned by the Ministry of Education to study the establishment of a research- intensive science and technology institution in Singapore. The panel's recommendations paved the way for the NRF to be set up in 2006.

Prof Suter, who held several roles in the NRF, was the co-chair of the NRF Scientific Advisory Board from 2006 to 2011.

In that time, he conceptualised its Research Centres of Excellence.

Today, these centres are globally recognised in the fields of quantum technology, cancer science, earth science, mechanobiology and environmental life sciences.

Since 2011, Prof Suter has chaired the NRF Competitive Research Programme International Evaluation Panel, which decides in which fields Singapore should put its R&D dollar.

He has also been adviser to NRF since 2012, contributing to Singapore's R&D strategy.

Prof Suter said in a statement yesterday that he was moved and honoured by the award.

"I am excited by the many new possibilities that Singapore can pursue with the strong R&D capabilities it has so vigorously built up over the years," he added.

Charissa Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2017, with the headline 'Swiss don made honorary citizen for R&D push'. Print Edition | Subscribe