SINGAPORE - Food manufacturers looking to test new products in small batches will soon be able to do so without the expense of buying processing equipment that can cost millions of dollars.
By the end of next year, equipment such as spray dryers and microwave-assisted thermal sterilisers will be available on a pay-per-use basis at the JTC Food Hub @ Senoko - a food factory facility with 50 units for lease that was officially launched on Tuesday (July 31).
Speaking at the event, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat highlighted the importance of food manufacturing, saying it helps to diversify food sources.
The industry also added $4.3 billion to Singapore's gross domestic product last year - a 14 per cent rise from 2016.
Mr Chee said that manufacturers need to continue to innovate and improve productivity to capture new markets and meet changing consumer tastes.
"More than ever, consumers today look for ease of preparation and enhanced nutritional value in their food choices," he said. "Food manufacturers need to innovate their product offerings to meet these new consumer requirements."
However, companies - especially small and medium-sized enterprises - may not have the scale or in-house capabilities to test their new ideas.
"Equipment is expensive, and outsourcing to a contract manufacturer requires a larger minimum order size than what they need," Mr Chee said. This adds to their cost of experimentation and a low commercialisation rate.
The new facility in Woodlands - the first space of its kind in Singapore - will have equipment ranging from standard items such as spray dryers to microwave-assisted thermal sterilisers, which can cost more than $1 million.
On Tuesday, JTC, Enterprise Singapore and the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) signed a memorandum of understanding to set up the new 1,130 sq m facility, which SIT will operate.
Besides food processing gear, the JTC hub also has other shared spaces, such as an integrated cold room and warehouse which can also be rented. It also offers distribution services. The hub will host workplace training courses and seminars too.
SIT's vice-president for industry and community Ivan Lee said: "The facility will serve as a conduit to translate technology know-how into new and better products and processes that can ultimately accelerate the growth of the Singapore food industry and contribute to developing Singapore into Asia's leading food and nutrition hub."
JTC will also be studying food waste recycling programmes.