SINGAPORE – From high-tech systems that allow farmers to predict yield and waste of produce, to novel paper packaging material that protects food from oxygen or moisture degradation. Singapore firms are looking to science and technology for answers on how the nation can overcome challenges such as climate change, pollution and the over-consumption of resources.
“Science can shed light on the most appropriate pathways towards a sustainable future, while technology can help us get there more efficiently,” said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Tuesday morning (Sept 10).
The public sector is also leveraging science to guide its policies.
To strengthen local climate science capabilities, for example, the Ministry for the Environment and Water Resources will set up a new climate science research programme office next year, said Mr Masagos.
He was speaking at the Leaders in Science forum, an event organised by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) . The forum marks the opening of one-North festival, a free five-day exhibition on research, science and innovation held at Fusionopolis One.
Sustainability, Mr Masagos said, is no longer just a way for nations to provide a green and liveable environment.
“Sustainability has taken on an existential significance,” said Mr Masagos, echoing Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s clarion call in August for Singapore to tackle climate change.
“Climate change, the over-consumption of resources, pollution of the air, land and water; these are all pushing our planet to a breaking point, threatening our very existence,” he added.
Mr Masagos said one way Singapore is dealing with these threats is by moving toward a circular economy – one in which resources are reused again and again, so that new resources do not have to be diverted to making fresh products.
Last week, for example, the Resource Sustainability Act was passed in Parliament, providing regulatory teeth for the government to compel large firms to reuse and recycle food waste, electronic waste and packaging waste.
Researchers from the Nanyang Technological University are working to develop an enzymatic process to turn food waste into high-grade organic fertiliser in eight hours, a fraction of the usual 24-hour period needed in conventional methods.
Said Mr Masagos: “The enzymes used are cultivated from the food waste itself – indeed, nothing goes to waste!”
During Tuesday’s event, the minister drew parallels between Singapore’s sustainability journey and its water story, highlighting the need for collaboration across sectors – from government to academia and companies.
Academia provides scientific knowledge and the know-how to turn concepts into prototypes, while firms help to test-bed these innovations, help turn them into commercially-viable products, and provide funding, he said. The Government can also do its part by providing infrastructure, funding, platforms for collaboration, and a conducive regulatory framework, Mr Masagos added.
This has helped Singapore safeguard its water supply, and groomed a thriving water sector with almost 15,000 jobs across 200 firms as well as 25 research and development centres in the past decade.
Science, he said, must be the foundation of Singapore’s sustainability journey.
“As we pursue science and technology for the betterment of Singapore and the world, I invite the research community and companies to partner with the Government to safeguard our environment for our children and grandchildren.”