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NRF to set up research-industry group to promote innovative membrane products, technologies

THE National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF) on Monday announced it will set up a national consortium to promote research, collaboration and commercialisation in innovative membrane products and technologies.

The Singapore National Membrane Consortium (SG-MEM) will connect expertise in local research institutes with companies, to translate cutting-edge research in membrane technologies into products and technologies that meet industry needs.

The new grouping will provide a seamless platform for researchers, industry and government agencies to promote and access membrane technology for new focus areas beyond water, such as in energy, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, and biomedical applications, said NRF.

The SG-MEM will harness R&D capabilities of the following research institutes: the Separation Technologies Applied Research and Translation (START) Centre under Nanyang Technological University, the National University of Singapore's Membrane Science and Technology Consortium (MSTC), NTU's Singapore Membrane Technology Centre (SMTC) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic's Environmental and Water Technology Centre of Innovation (EWTCOI).

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Meanwhile, 15 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), bigger local enterprises and multinational corporations (MNCs) have joined the consortium as founding members to date. They are Shell, Sembcorp, Grundfos, Kurita-Singapore, Aquaporin-Asia, Ceraflo, De.mem, Blue Ocean Memtech, Marmon Product Development Center, Evoqua Water Technologies, SUEZ, Regentech, ECOSOFTT, UES Holdings, and Tritech Group Ltd.

Mr Andreas Kroell, chief executive officer and director of De.mem, said: "SG-MEM brings together two sides of the medal in the membrane industry value chain: industry and research. Singapore is world-leading in both.

"From De.mem's perspective, the ability to follow research, technology and innovation trends through this platform, combined with the strong support and drive of the Singapore government towards commercialisation, is a great asset. This is particularly important for a company like ours, which is growing quickly but still limited in terms of resources and manpower compared to larger MNCs."

Companies will have access to world class research laboratories and facilities located at the research institutes to manufacture, assemble and test membranes to bring R&D to market, said NRF. SG-MEM will hold technology workshops to facilitate interactions between research institutes and industry representatives on the latest technologies, while networking with other regional and global membrane centres.

Mr George Loh, director (Programmes) at NRF, said: "Singapore has built a strong reputation as a leader in membrane technologies for water treatment. Our universities, NUS and NTU, are ranked top in membrane research, and they have developed advanced membrane technologies for water companies.

"The SG-MEM consortium provides the platform for SMEs, which are not in the water sector, to have access to membrane technologies for applications in diverse sectors including food and beverages, fragrance, and medtech. This will help our SMEs benefit from the latest technologies to grow their business."

NRF said the consortium will focus on five sectors that present opportunities for the commercialisation of membrane technology: Gas separation and purification in the energy sector; concentration and purification of pharmaceutical ingredients in the pharmaceuticals sector; clarifying, concentration and purification of products in the food and beverage sector; controlled drug-delivery systems in the biomedical sector; and energy-efficient treatment processes in the water sector.

The SG-MEM will be governed by two committees. The steering committee will take charge of the overall direction, strategy and work plan of the consortium, and will be chaired by Dr Adil Dhalla, managing director of START. The technical management committee will look into the technical aspects and performance of the consortium, and will be chaired by Professor Gary Amy, MSTC coordinator.

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