A*Star to be headed by Mindef deputy secretary Frederick Chew from April 1

Rear-Admiral Frederick Chew Chih Chiang, who is currently Mindef's Deputy Secretary (Technology), will become A*Star's chief executive on April 1, 2019.
Rear-Admiral Frederick Chew Chih Chiang, who is currently Mindef's Deputy Secretary (Technology), will become A*Star's chief executive on April 1, 2019.PHOTO: MTI

SINGAPORE - Following a career in defence, Rear Admiral (RADM) Frederick Chew will take the reins of Singapore’s largest public sector research agency in April, when its current chairman Lim Chuan Poh retires. 

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) announced on Friday (Feb 1) that RADM Chew, 43, will be appointed chief executive officer of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) from April 1.

He is currently Deputy Secretary (Technology) at the Ministry of Defence – a position he will continue to helm until the middle of the year.

It was also announced last month that Permanent Secretary for Education Chan Lai Fung, 55, would be appointed the agency’s non-executive chairman, while current A*Star chief Mr Lim, 57, a former chief of defence force who has been in the public service for 38 years, would be retiring.

MTI Permanent Secretary Loh Khum Yean said: “With their vast experience across diverse backgrounds, I am confident that Lai Fung and Frederick will be able to take A*Star to greater heights and further its mission of advancing scientific discovery and technological innovation, to create economic growth and improve the lives of Singaporeans.”

Explaining the change in management structure to a non-executive chairman and CEO, MTI told The Straits Times that the agency had grown remarkably since its establishment in January 2002.

Given its role and importance, A*Star will be transitioning to a non-executive chairman appointment, “typical of most statutory boards in Singapore”, it said.

Ms Chan would steer A*Star in charting its strategic direction and priorities, MTI explained, while RADM Chew would assume the agency’s executive leadership role and responsibilities.

RADM Chew has held various key positions in the Defence Ministry and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), including director of joint operations, commander maritime security task force and head of naval plans, said MTI, noting that he has made many significant contributions in his various appointments.

As Deputy Secretary (Technology) in Mindef, he was instrumental in optimising the Defence Technology ecosystem, in particular strengthening Mindef’s partnership with industry, it added.

RADM Chew is currently a board member of the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and DSO National Laboratories. He will also be appointed as a board member of A*Star from April 1.

A*Star, which has about 5,200 employees, is recognised as one of the world’s top innovative government science and technology organisations.

Last year, it announced its biggest shake-up to date, with broad changes made to the way the research institutes under its charge would be run, in efforts to make the organisation more nimble in the use of talent and funds.

However, some staff say issues such as funding difficulties and uncertainty over the future remain.

One senior staff member, commenting on the appointment, said that it was critical for the incoming CEO to have an in-depth understanding of research and a long-term plan on how to lead the curve in scientific advancement.

Said the scientist: “With billions of tax-payer dollars at stake, it is imperative for A*Star’s leadership to have a clear vision of what innovation and research are needed for the industries of the future, and how to take that all the way from R&D to commercialisation.”

Along with RADM Chew's appointment, MTI also announced changes to the A*Star board that took effect on Friday.

Three other new members were appointed: Nestle science and technology strategy adviser Stefan Catsicas; Mr Anton S. Huber, former chief of Siemens' digital factory division; and Dr Benjamin Koh Khay Wee, Deputy Secretary (Development) at the Ministry of Health.

Four members stepped down or will be stepping down. They are: Mr Bruce Brown, former chief technology officer at Procter & Gamble; Dr William A. Hawkins III, former chairman and CEO at Medtronic; former Siemens chief technology officer Siegfried Russwurm; and Ms Tan Li San, Deputy Secretary (Industry and Information), Ministry of Communications and Information.