Budget debate: $220 million in R&D for urban solutions and sustainability under national research plan

Some $80 million will go to research projects that look at how resources can be recovered from Singapore's key waste streams - plastics, electronic waste and food. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Around $220 million is being pumped into national research initiatives focusing on sustainability, in areas such as water technologies and projects that can squeeze value from waste, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said on Tuesday (March 8).

Almost one-third, or $80 million, will go to research projects that look at how resources can be recovered from Singapore's key waste streams - plastics, electronic waste and food, said Ms Fu.

"It will support the development of useful and safe applications for treated waste residue and low-carbon waste treatment options," she said during a parliamentary session on Singapore's green efforts.

The initiative adds to the earlier Closing the Waste Loop initiative, which was awarded $45 million in funding in 2017.

Fifteen research and development projects have been funded by the National Environment Agency under the previous programme, with seven getting commercial interest.

For instance, Republic Polytechnic has, in collaboration with building materials provider EnGro Corporation, formulated a technique to treat incineration bottom ash for use as construction material, she noted.

This could enable the ash to be diverted from Semakau Landfill, thus prolonging the facility's lifespan, she said.

Semakau Landfill is the country's only such facility and its lifespan has already been shortened from the projected 2045 to 2035.

Under the Singapore Green Plan 2030, which sets out green targets for the country, the Republic wants to reduce waste sent to Semakau per capita per day by 20 per cent by 2026, with the goal of reaching 30 per cent by 2030.

Another $87 million will go into water technology research, such as how to make the energy-intensive process of desalination more efficient, or how used water can be better treated.

This will support the Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute and the Separation Technologies Applied Research and Translation Centre.

In 2023, a desalination integrated validation plant will be commissioned to trial "promising technologies" to reduce the energy consumption of desalination to less than 2 kilowatt-hour per cubic m of water.

Traditional desalination technology typically uses about 3.5kWh per cubic m of water.

Rounding up the $220 million figure is $51 million in funding from the National Research Foundation for water research announced last year.

The funding focused on extracting chemicals needed for water treatment and studying the impact of climate change on water quality here.

Aside from the investments going into developing high-impact solutions for Singapore's national water needs, Ms Fu said that research and innovation will also be an engine for green growth, spurring private sector R&D, job creation and technological spin-offs in the water industry and adjacent sectors.

Overall, the $220 million funding will be parked under the urban solutions and sustainability domain in the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 plan - the Republic's national research blueprint, which is for the period from 2021 to 2025.

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