A*Star sets up joint labs with two SMEs to build new capabilities

Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng (right) with Mr Marcus Sia, managing director of surface finishing firm ATC, at A*Star's pilot Innovation Factory @ SIMTech yesterday. ATC is among 14 firms that have joined the innovation factory t
Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng (right) with Mr Marcus Sia, managing director of surface finishing firm ATC, at A*Star's pilot Innovation Factory @ SIMTech yesterday. ATC is among 14 firms that have joined the innovation factory to co-create products with the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech).ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) has set up laboratories with two local small and medium-sized enterprises, to the tune of $11.5 million, to help these firms build new capabilities.

A*Star's Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC) will have a new joint lab with Tru-Marine, which specialises in maintenance, repair and overhaul of turbochargers.

Their combined investment will be $6 million over three years, and they will develop a new system to monitor the health of marine turbochargers in real time. This allows predictive maintenance and helps ship owners, managers or operators save costs and avoid unplanned downtime.

Mr James Loke, group chief executive of Tru-Marine, said: "While we have the idea, it might take us a longer time to develop it because of the (limited) resources of an SME. With ARTC's strong support and domain expertise on how data is being transferred, this will greatly help us reduce the timeline of our product going into the market."

The firm will pilot the service on Pacific International Lines' ships.

Tru-Marine has hired a data analyst and a data scientist, and will recruit three or four more in similar roles in the next few years.

Meanwhile, ARTC and Abrasive Engineering (AE) will invest a total of $5.5 million over three years in a joint lab that will help AE build advanced manufacturing capabilities and enter new industries.

In the pipeline are higher precision valves for more industries, including additive manufacturing and fast-moving consumer goods, as well as a fully automated room for sandblasting.

The joint lab will create at least nine new jobs in production and engineering roles.

It will also tap the expertise of scientists and engineers from two other A*Star units: the Institute of High Performance Computing and the National Metrology Centre.

A*Star yesterday also launched its pilot Innovation Factory @ SIMTech (Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology), in collaboration with Enterprise Singapore. At the 1,400 sq ft co-creation space, A*Star scientists and engineers will guide companies to design and create new products.

The factory's facilities include a workshop with electrical and mechanical design tools, and manufacturing equipment like 3D printers.

Once a company is ready to scale up production for a newly developed product, it can move to the Model Factory @ A*Star to make it.

A full-scale version of the innovation factory is expected to open next year at the CleanTech Park in the Jurong Innovation District, spanning 5,000 sq ft to 6,000 sq ft.

Fourteen local SMEs and two trade associations have joined the pilot factory as members and strategic partners, respectively.

Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng, who was at the launch of the joint labs and innovation factory, said he was "very happy to know that our local SMEs are not standing still and waiting for the (pandemic) to blow over".

"I encourage other SMEs to also develop new business lines and strengthen their existing ones, to increase revenue, profits and strengthen their competitive advantages."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2020, with the headline 'A*Star sets up joint labs with two SMEs to build new capabilities'. Subscribe