A*Star unit ready to take on open market

A demonstration of a smart assembly system at A*Star's Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre last September, when A*Star teamed up with Rolls-Royce and Singapore Aero Engine Services to set up a lab to speed up the development of innovative
A demonstration of a smart assembly system at A*Star's Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre last September, when A*Star teamed up with Rolls-Royce and Singapore Aero Engine Services to set up a lab to speed up the development of innovative technologies.PHOTO: A*STAR
A demonstration of a smart assembly system at A*Star's Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre last September, when A*Star teamed up with Rolls-Royce and Singapore Aero Engine Services to set up a lab to speed up the development of innovative
A*STAR CHAIRMAN LIM CHUAN POHPHOTO: A*STAR

AMF, which makes items for optics sector, already has value of $403 million

It has taken more than 10 years of careful nurturing but the latest spin-off from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) is ready to take its chance on the open market.

Advanced Micro Foundry (AMF), which produces items for the optics industry, was unveiled yesterday and already has a value of around US$300 million (S$403 million).

It has long been a unit operating within A*Star but has now moved on to the next level to become a commercial entity.

A*Star said AMF has secured investments and is valued at around US$300 million, a figure that could soon reach US$400 million.

It added that the new firm will boost Singapore's electronics sector and generate high-skilled jobs while creating a new high-mix, low-volume market for silicon photonics wafers. That in turn will attract companies wanting its services to set up shop in Singapore.

The wafers are ideal for high-speed communications as they can carry more data while consuming less power and without heating up.

A*Star chairman Lim Chuan Poh told a briefing: "In the early 2000s, A*Star decided to invest in research in silicon photonics, a technology platform that is now a game changer for future computing systems and advanced data centres."

He added that AMF is the world's first commercial micro foundry that can do high-mix, low-volume manufacturing specialising in silicon photonics.

AMF is led by former A*Star executive director Tan Yong Tsong.

Meanwhile, A*Star noted that businesses are responding well to an initiative that boosts research and development collaborations.

The number of R&D projects A*Star carried out with the private sector jumped 20 per cent from the 2016 financial year to 2,100 in the 12 months to March 31. One in three was with local enterprises.

These projects under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 Plan bumped up company R&D outlay from $220 million in 2016 to $340 million last year.

"More significantly, R&D spending by local enterprises outpaced this increase, growing from $61 million to $102 million," Mr Lim added.

INVESTMENT PAYING OFF

In the early 2000s, A*Star decided to invest in research in silicon photonics, a technology platform that is now a game changer for future computing systems and advanced data centres.

A*STAR CHAIRMAN LIM CHUAN POH

Local enterprises accounted for 75 per cent of the 260 A*Star licences taken up last year, up from about 60 per cent of 235 in 2016.

The licences ranged from antibodies to artificial intelligence speech services and enabled firms to build up innovation capacity and commercialise products and services.

Under RIE, launched in 2016, the Government commits to spend $19 billion over five years to help develop a knowledge-based, innovation-driven economy and society.

Mr Lim said a measure of the good response to RIE is the business expenditure on R&D which, according to a 2016 national survey, has been maintained at around $5.7 billion. "A large part of the efforts is to encourage and facilitate our companies to adopt emerging technologies and develop digital capabilities in high-value manufacturing," he added.

A*Star also works on projects with foreign businesses here.

Last September, it teamed up with Rolls-Royce and Singapore Aero Engine Services to set up a lab to speed up the development of innovative technologies.

It also joined the National University of Singapore in bringing together leading pharmaceutical firms GSK, Pfizer and MSD to transform manufacturing operations and technology.

"We have also started discussions with companies in the food manufacturing and fast-moving consumer goods industries... to increase productivity," Mr Lim said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2018, with the headline 'A*Star unit ready to take on open market'. Print Edition | Subscribe