Three Ways Singapore is Driving a Sustainable Future through Innovation

From smart cities to agriculture projects, water consumption to air quality, Singapore is pushing hard on sustainable innovation. But what makes the city a leading driver for sustainability in the region and beyond?

It’s not just a matter of developing and using the latest sustainable technologies. Singapore is the center of a productive ecosystem with the resources, support and reach that start-ups, investors, multinationals and governments need to transform industry and act on global opportunities.

Here are three things that demonstrate Singapore’s commitment to driving innovation for a sustainable future.

Investing widely in energy research

Asia is projected to require US$1.7 trillion (S$2.3 trillion) of infrastructure investments annually from 2016 to 2030, which is more than double the level in 2009. In response to this, Singapore has committed about S$1 billion to energy research, with a focus on energy storage, green buildings, smart grids, and solar energy. Singapore is also home to several research institutes dedicated to clean energy including the CleanTech Park at Jalan Bahar, the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) and ERI@N which is the Energy Research Institute at the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore (NTU).

NTU hosts top-tier public and private-sector test-bedding sites and labs from leading groups such as ST Engineering, SMRT Corporation and Rolls-Royce. ERI@N, with over S$250 million in funding, is one of the largest energy research institutes in the Asia Pacific region and provides support specifically for energy efficiency and renewable energy integration with a focus on solutions for mega cities. In 2019 ERI@N launched the EcoLabs Centre  of Innovation for Energy (EcoLabs) that has supported over 25 start-ups, is looking to serve as a landing pad for start-ups coming to Singapore and aid a 1:1 government matching scheme to venture funds that invest in Singapore-based companies.

Leading a regional transformation in the food supply chain

Singapore imports over 90% of its food which makes it particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in global food supply and prices. To remedy this, Singapore has set the goal of producing 30% of its food locally – compared to 10% today. This is leading to a real push in Singapore’s agritech sector and pushing the agriculture value chain to think of alternative, cleaner approaches. For example, Singapore-based Big Ideas Ventures is raising $50 million to invest in plant-based  foods and the alternative protein ecosystem. With backing from Tyson Foods and Singapore’s state-owned investment firm, Temasek, it has all the ingredients to be a significant pillar of the future of South East Asia’s agtech industry. They announced their first investment in April where they took part in a $4.6 million round into a Singapore-based company Shiok Meats who are developing cellular aquaculture and cell-based meat products.

Setting the international standard for water use

Singapore, one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, has through decades of planning and innovation become a world leader in water research and is a model city for integrated water management. Today, the country has managed to not only establish a sustainable domestic supply, but also exports sophisticated water purification technologies to its international peers. On another level, Singapore’s Public Utilities Board (PUB) has also conducted over 150 pilot projects with companies since 2006, developing water solutions and bringing them abroad.

In 2019 Emerald Technology Ventures, a pioneer in investing for a sustainable future, announced the launch of the ripple2wave incubator with VFT Ventures to support incubating water technology startups in Singapore. Emerald has successfully exited a number of water technology investments including Optimatics which was acquired by Suez in 2018, Pure Technologies which was acquired by Xylem for $400 million in 2017 and Inge Water which was acquired by BASF.

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