Real-time innovation in action

Staying ahead of times

Gone are the days where companies survive solely on their core product lines. Today- adaptability is the name of the game. We talk to a large local corporation and an Australian startup to find out how they are staying ahead of times.

It was stacks of empty shipping containers that turned Nicholas Press from a soldier into a businessman.

A decade ago- Press was deployed to Afghanistan as a Strategic Logistics Officer in the Australian Regular Army. He noticed that many empty intermodal containers were taking up significant amount of space on the ground – and space at military bases was a limited and valuable commodity.


The empty shipping containers sparked my interest in investigating other inefficiencies at our main logistical operating base- which eventually led me to researching logistics and shipping challenges that extended beyond just military operations. From there- I came up with the idea of designing a collapsible shipping container.


Press explained.


Collapsing budget and space constraints

Collapsing budget and space constraints

(Image credit: CEC Systems)


Today- Press is the founder of CEC Systems- which produces the COLLAPSECON®, a semi-automated 40-foot collapsible shipping container for several global shipping lines and logistic chains.

The COLLAPSECON is capable of collapsing to 25% of its original width. It has an inbuilt combining mechanism which requires no external parts- and collapses horizontally instead of vertically. This is especially helpful in maintaining the stability and weight loads of the containers during shipping.


By designing the shipping containers to be collapsible- shipping lines are able to reduce the lost costs associated with the storage- handling and distribution of empty containers- which is a significant problem globally. Additionally- the flow-on effects on the landside help ports and operational resources save space and reduce unnecessary activities. These benefits will be reaped across all spectrums of the value chain.


Press explained.


To improve the initial design of the COLLAPSECON® containers- CEC Systems is working with A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) to research- test and simulate new capabilities that will optimise future COLLAPSECON® iterations.


Working with SIMTech- we are focusing on structural and environmental testing to improve the system- which has already translated in a potential 30% weight reduction. We are now working on redesigning expensive structural components- corrosion testing and manufacturing design.


Press said.


Working with- not against the system

When asked about the acceptance of COLLAPSECON® containers by the logistics and shipping industries- Press explained that he deliberately designed the container to be as close to a standard container as possible in order to ensure seamless work with existing shipping and logistics systems.


Shipping and logistics are well established- conservative industries. The introduction of the common standard 20-foot container was in the sixties and it was a major shift at that time. Ever since then- the only major innovations have been the introduction of 40-foot and refrigerated containers. We therefore designed COLLAPSECON® to work in tandem with the industry’s existing systems so as to ensure that there are no major changes to the operations.


From computer chips to potato chips


Real-time innovation goes beyond the realm of startups. By introducing innovative new products- larger corporations can explore new product verticals and expand market reach.


That is exactly what happened to Dou Yee- a local enterprise that supplies specialty packaging materials for semiconductor industries in Asia and Europe.

Dou Yee’s vice-president Alex Tan attended a talk by Dr. Li Xu of A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), where Dr. Li introduced a new material that can block 150 times more oxygen than normal plastic packaging.

Tan saw an opportunity to expand Dou Yee’s existing packaging lineup into a promising new product line which may provide a good barrier packaging for food manufacturing.

Tan worked with Dr. Li and his team to produce the new material- which is made up of a clay-polymer material sandwiched between 2 plastic layers. According to a report in The Straits Times- the material has successfully increased the shelf life of cakes from 7 to 9 days without any additional oxygen absorber.


Using this new material was a natural extension of our current product offerings. This new packaging helps to keep food dry and fresh- which helps food manufacturers increase the shelf life of their products. It can potentially bring in new revenue for Dou Yee.


Tan explained.


Riding on industry potential

When asked about the potential hurdles- Tan said it was proving the packaging’s effectiveness to potential clients.

“Unlike Japan and Korea where smart food packaging solutions are marketed in full swing- our technology is still relatively new to food manufacturers in South East Asia. Therefore- we are actively testing and refining the technology to prove the effectiveness of the packaging- as well as exploring ways to scale it up for mass manufacturing-” Tan said.

“We have 25 years of experience in packaging. We thought that this new product line is promising- especially with IMRE and A*STAR’s commercialisation arm ETPL introducing us to potential partners in the food industry-” Tan added.


Asia’s food industry has been growing rapidly- with listed companies in the industry growing top-line revenues by an average of 23% every year between 2005-2011.


Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit report


Exploring new frontiers in innovation

For innovators who are not afraid to develop solutions beyond what their industries have to offer- the sky is the limit. By combining new technologies and solutions with deep research and development capabilities- companies in Singapore and the region can explore new verticals and increase their market reach.


Collaborate with A*STAR

Companies interested to collaborate with A*STAR- can find out more at: and