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We were invited to participate in the 1st nanotechnology in manufacturing roundtable discussion on April 15th organised by the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech, an A*STAR research institute). About 10 industry representatives were invited to participate in the discussion to address the advantages and challenges of nanotechnology adoption in the Singapore manufacturing industry. Key recommendations resulting from the discussion include increased government funding support for nanotechnology industry development, enhance public acceptance of nanotechnology, develop innovation to reduce cost, form industry alliance/consortium to facilitate the adoption of nanotechnology.

June 4th, 2010

Promoting Nanotechnology in Singapore Manufacturing Industry - The 1st Nanotechnology in Manufacturing Roundtable Discussion

Nanotechnology has been identified by the Singapore Economic Review Committee (ERC) as one of key areas for its pursuit of economic competitiveness. Shortly after US NNI was launched, universities in Singapore started to coordinate university-wide nanotechnology initiative to facilitate strategic research on nanoscience and technology. In 2006, Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), the key funding agency in Singapore for science and technology, launched an A*STAR nanotechnology programme and seeded nanotechnology research as part of Singapore's continuous efforts to upgrade Singapore's industries through technology innovation. Singapore, a very small country in size but high in GDP per capita and with aggressive science and technology investments toward knowledge-based economy, has been trying to build a comprehensive nanotechnology ecosystem to promote nanotechnology R&D and commercialisation.

However, the awareness of nanotechnology among local manufacturing industry has been poor and gaps exist between the hard core local industry and nanotech R&D and SMEs in Singapore. Although we have been reporting on nanotechnology adoption in industries in Europe, USA, Japan and Korea, we have yet to see the adoption of nanotechnology by the Singapore local manufacturing industry. We reported some nanotech start-ups in Singapore which have developed highly innovative technologies for customers outside of Singapore. To address the challenges of adoption of nanotechnology by Singapore manufacturing industry and identify solutions to overcome the challenges, the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech), organised on April 15th 2010 the first Nanotechnology in Manufacturing Roundtable Discussion and invited over 10 representatives from Singapore manufacturing industry across different sectors in the nanotechnology value chain including Pidilite Innovation Centre Pte. Ltd, Toray Singapore Water Research Center, In-Mat Technologies (Singapore) Pte. Ltd., Leica Microsystems (SEA) Pte Ltd, CARL ZEISS SMT Pte Ltd, BASF South East Asia Pte Ltd and others.

SIMTech is preparing the Nanotechnology in Manufacturing Initiative (NIMI) with the support of key funding agencies and participation of different research institutions in Singapore. The objective of this roundtable discussion is to understand the needs of local manufacturing companies for nanotechnology, potential near-term applications and related issues from manufacturing perspective. In addition to identifying challenges of the adoption of nanomaterials and nanotechnology in manufacturing, the participants provided recommendations for overcoming these challenges. One of the key challenges discussed is the high cost of nanomaterials and equipment used. "When we talked to customers about nano products, they usually place cost over performance," said Mr Lim from In-Mat Technologies (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. Environment, Health and Safety (EHS), regulation of nano products and public acceptance is another key challenge for adoption of nanomaterials in manufacturing. In addition, technological and engineering barriers (scalability, quality and reliability), incomplete value chain, and lack of industry expertise as well as information dissemination of nanotechnology are factors that have contributed to the slow adoption of nanotechnology in Singapore today.

The roundtable ended with a session on recommendation/solution discussion. To lower the cost, innovative R&D could provide value-added materials and processes to the existing manufacturing process or new manufacturing process with lower cost. The collaboration among government research institutions and industries could also lower the R&D development cost for industry and accelerate the adoption of nanotechnology. The industry representatives recommend government to take the leadership in funding nanotechnology development as well as public education for understanding nanotechnology; and research institutes conduct R&D projects in close collaboration with industry to address industry needs.

To accelerate the commercialisation of nanotechnology, it is more efficient and cost effective if industries work in partnership through sharing resources and jointly developing new materials as well as sharing/building-up marketing network. Especially for nanotechnology start-ups, it is more efficient and effective if start-ups form a strong partnership with manufacturing players at the early phase of the development. At the end of the roundtable discussion, the consensus is to form the Nanotechnology manufacturing consortium in Singapore which could serve as a platform to accelerate the adoption of nanotechnology by Singapore-based industries.

Group photo of all the participants of the 1st SIMTech nanotechnology in manufacturing roundtable discussion held on 15 April 2010

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