Singapore reviewing science programmes and funding

SINGAPORE - Singapore is reviewing its research and development programmes and policies ahead of the next five-year tranche of science funding, which will be announced next year and could hit $20 billion, up from the current $16.1 billion.

The National Research Foundation (NRF) has also poured almost $100 million into two new centres - focussed on advanced two-dimensional (2D) materials and 3D-printing - to prepare the country for possible changes in technology trends, and is ramping up efforts to attract overseas Singaporean scientists and researchers back to the country.

"We are reaching a state of maturation in our science and technology development, and it will mean that, moving forward, key strategies that have worked well for us may need to be changed," said NRF chief executive Low Teck Seng at a press conference on Monday about last Friday's meeting of the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council.

The council charts Singapore's policies and initiatives to transform the country into a knowledge-based economy. Chaired by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, it includes Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and other ministers, as well as senior industry professionals and academics.

The NRF, for example, has awarded $42 million to the National University of Singapore's Centre for 2D Materials, which studies next-generation materials such as graphene, a super-thin form of carbon. This research will prepare the country for any changes in materials used by the global manufacturing industry. The NRF has also given $50 million to the Nanyang Technological University-hosted Singapore Centre for 3D Printing. The centre is researching the use of 3D-printing in the aerospace and defence, building and construction, and marine industries.

Prof Low said the NRF has also compiled a list of overseas Singaporean researchers and scientists, and has contacted about 20 of them so far. He declined to name them due to the ongoing talks, but said the NRF expects to announce the return of two of them by early next year. The organisation also announced that 14 scientists have been given new fellowships and investigatorship grants. Of the seven new fellows, four are Singaporeans previously based overseas.