Speech by Mr Lim Chuan Poh, Chairman A*STAR, at Advanced Materials 30 Symposium, 4 December 2018, at Fusionopolis Two Multipurpose Hall

Speech by Mr Lim Chuan Poh- Chairman A*STAR- at Advanced Materials 30 Symposium

Welcome and Introduction

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning and welcome to the 2018 Advanced Materials 30 Symposium. Let me take this opportunity to thank all our speakers- some of whom have travelled some distances to be here with us today. Hopefully- you will find the weather here slightly more agreeable at this time of the year. Today’s speakers are leaders in their fields- presenting a wide variety of topics from biomedicine- additive manufacturing- energy- electronics- to chemistry and medicine.

AM30 Symposium in Singapore

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the journal- Advanced Materials. [impact factor = 21.95]

AM was launched as a platform to share ideas that advance materials science and engineering. Today- it is a flagship scientific journal and a highly visible forum for some of the best interdisciplinary materials science.

To commemorate this milestone- several AM30 events were organised around the world- in Hong Kong- Dresden and Beijing. It is a tremendous honour for Singapore to host the final leg of this series of events- and a testament to our reputation as a leading hub in the area of materials science and- more broadly- in our ability to innovate as a nation.     

This year- Singapore was again ranked as Asia’s most innovative economy and fifth in the world on the Global Innovation Index.

Our move up the innovation value chain was propelled by our steady and sustained commitment to both research and innovation to bring about impactful outcomes. A*STAR occupies the space between academia and industry- and we do what it takes to close the gap from research to innovation and enterprise.

Our mission is to advance science and develop innovative technology to further economic growth and improve lives.

More pertinently- we are now in Research- Innovation and Enterprise Plan 2020- Singapore’s quinquennium plan for investing in R&D that started in FY 2016.

One of the key domains is Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering and A*STAR has embarked on the Future of Manufacturing as the framework approach for the Domain. 

The Future of Manufacturing fully leverages on the full suite of Industry 4.0 technologies. Not surprisingly- Advanced Materials research is one of the key pillar in this framework.

Within A*STAR- our working definition of Advanced Materials is “Materials with high performance properties tailored for specific applications”.

While most innovations focus on products- materials are the silent enabler of the features and functionality that we all respect in the most popular and advanced products of our time.

Companies now are often defined by how fast they can develop the materials that enable their customers’ next generation products. (Source: Weforum.org link)

The advanced materials market worldwide is expected to be worth US$155 B in 2021- with a compound annualized growth rate of around 6%. (Source: marketsandmarkets.com). 

Singapore wants to have a share of this growing market at the advanced materials segment.

Our efforts to transfer relevant technologies to industry are bearing fruit- as seen by local enterprises growing their innovation capacity and bringing new products and services to market.

Last year- A*STAR worked on over 2-100 industry projects with companies- a twenty percent increase over the previous year- and one-third of which were with local enterprises.

In the same year- three-quarters of over 260 A*STAR licenses were taken up by local enterprises compared to about 60 per cent of 235 in FY2016.

How Materials Sciences Has Advanced

As we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of Advanced Materials- it is also timely to take a historical look at how materials science has advanced. 

The history of this field of science is tightly intertwined with the evolution of tools and how different materials were discovered and developed- from prehistoric times till today.

During the Stone Age- the improvement of stone tools was possible through the process of annealing. 

The hardened tools were the result of the physical phenomena of grain alignment- which is a remarkable achievement- accomplished more than 150-000 years ago.

Early iron weapons- for instance- the Gallic swords that were typically made from pure iron- were not suitable for battle until the development of steel in the early Middle Ages.

Fast forward to the twentieth century- the development of materials has exploded to a magnitude never seen before. The late 1980s was a curious time where nanoparticles were known as “colloids”. Graphene was simply called “soot”. 

The term “advanced materials” was a rather aspirational term used only in grant proposals to invigorate the belief that solid‐state chemistry and physics could one day solve real‐world challenges.

It was against this backdrop that the first issue of Advanced Materials was launched.

The Role of Materials Sciences Today

In the 1990s- the advanced materials field was gaining momentum. Nobel Prizes for perovskite superconductors and scanning tunneling microscopy were early signs that there was much to be gained by understanding materials at a molecular and atomic level.

For the first time- the new field of “advanced materials” was here to stay.

Today- we see the explosive growth of analytical and computational techniques- which are set to revolutionise the way we understand- explain and predict how materials work at the nanoscale level.

Nanoscience is now feasible- which sets the stage for us to study advanced materials- and potentially solve challenges in healthcare- energy and sustainability- and in all areas of high technology.

We are seeing these materials being adapted or used for practical purposes. For instance- one of the key challenges for wearable electronics- was to create a power source that can store more energy- yet remain flexible and stretchable. 

Two-dimensional (2D) stretchable power sources are conventionally used in wearable devices- but they suffer from poor energy storage capacity.

Recently- local researchers- inspired by origami- made use of the honeycomb lantern structure to convert 2D power sources to 3D. This increased the power capacity of the power sources by 60 times. Even after 10-000 stretch-and-release cycles- the device retains the capability to store energy.

I was proud to hear that this collaborative research was done by the co-organisers of this conference- Prof Chen Xiaodong from Nanyang Technological University- Singapore (NTU Singapore) and Dr Loh Xian Jun from A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE). Such collaborative research and partnership is what we are trying to encourage and foster both within the local and international research communities.

Theme for AM30 Symposium: Advanced Emerging Soft Materials

The theme for this year’s symposium is “Advanced Emerging Soft Materials”- and highlights the excellent science in this rapidly developing area- and features key contributors to the field.

There will also be discussions on basic knowledge in chemistry- physics- materials and biology and how this knowledge is being transformed into new research areas- new prototypes and new innovations.

I hope that this conference will generate greater awareness of materials science research conducted in Singapore- and encourage closer interactions amongst researchers all over the world.

I also hope that after today- you will be galvanized to come up with innovative and impactful solutions to tackle the global challenges faced by the world today- which range from climate change- environmental protection- energy generation- food and water safety- global health and healthcare.


On this note I would like to congratulate the organising committee- chaired by Xian Jun and his team- Prof Chen Xiaodong from NTU and Prof Liu Bin from NUS for putting this event together.

The conference today would not be possible without the support from A*STAR’s IMRE- NTU- and NUS.

Let me also thank all of you for your participation.

I wish everyone a fruitful and enjoyable scientific conference.