Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Finance and Chairman of the National Research Foundation, at the President's Science & Technology Awards (PSTA) 2018 Ceremony

President Halimah Yacob
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen


  1. Good evening to everyone. Welcome to the President’s Science & Technology Awards (PSTA) ceremony.
  2. Tonight’s event is special – it marks the 10th anniversary of the PSTA.
    Congratulations to A*STAR on the 10th anniversary of these Awards.
    1. First established as the National Science and Technology Awards in 1987, the awards were elevated to the Presidential level in 2009 to show the state’s recognition of the importance of Science and Technology.
    2. We are grateful for President’s support, and thank President for gracing the ceremony each year to recognise those who have done important research, achieved impactful outcomes, and made valuable contributions towards R&D in Singapore.
  3. We are living in extraordinary times, when advances in technology offer us opportunities to do things in different, better ways to solve problems and benefit mankind.
    1. Countries all over the world are investing in R&D, Science and Technology, and innovation, recognising that breakthroughs in these areas can unlock profound solutions to improve our lives.
    2. Each society has its own unique challenges and culture, and approaches innovation in its own way. At the same time, we face many common challenges, and when we bring our diverse conditions and perspectives together, there is much we can learn, share, and build upon.
    3. What do innovative societies have in common? Well, every innovative culture needs good people with expertise to work together, in order to make a tangible improvement.
  4. And it is the same here in Singapore – we have talented researchers who have made their mark in their chosen fields, maintain good connections with others to exchange ideas, and seek out opportunities to make an impact.
    1. Like other countries, Singapore has been investing significantly in R&D. We are now a globally-competitive research hub, supported by a strong pool of research scientists and engineers. Our universities have grown to become top research institutions that carry out cutting-edge research. A*STAR leads efforts to grow Singapore’s economy through important sectors such as manufacturing, biomedical sciences and Food, Nutrition and Consumer. And NRF invests in scientific research and research translation to enable the flow-through of knowledge from research into industry.
    2. With each development, our R&D ecosystem grows richer, with a broader and deeper range of talents, fuller networks across diverse fields, and more fruitful interactions among researchers in academic, industry and government.
  5. Indeed the progress we have made in our R&D efforts owes much to the rich people–to–people connection. What matters most is our people, who regardless of their background, are united by a common purpose of advancing Science and Technology to develop innovative solutions, improve lives, and make a contribution to the world.
  6. R&D must address specific needs and conditions, but its inspirations, its workings, and indeed its benefits can be borderless.
    1. In Singapore, many scientific talents and organisations have worked with us over the years, catalysed good ideas, and worked with our people.
    2. We want to continue connecting and collaborating across boundaries, be they of discipline or culture. Such partnerships will advance our scientific and academic excellence, facilitate the flow of ideas and knowledge, adding to Singapore’s vibrancy as a research and innovation hub, and strengthen our ability to
      contribute to others.
  7. Tonight, we honour some of the people who have made important contributions to our R&D landscape, fostered connections and enriched collaboration. These awards recognise research leaders dedicated to working together to make an impact with science. I hope our award recipients are in turn an inspiration to others to learn and experiment, and work together to break new ground for the good of others.

    PSTA Recipients

  8. Tonight, we recognise Singapore’s scientists and engineers for their scientific excellence, and invaluable contributions to our R&D landscape.


  9. This year’s President’s Science and Technology Medal, the nation’s top scientific honour, is presented to Professor Judith Swain and Professor Lam Khin Yong.
  10. Professor Judith Swain is an internationally renowned physician scientist and academic.
    1. She has made outstanding contributions in translational and clinical research, and was pivotal in raising Singapore’s international reputation in biomedical research and economic development.
    2. As Founding Executive Director of the A*STAR Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, Professor Swain established internationally competitive research programmes. Through these programmes, she advanced our understanding of gestational diabetes and its impact on children, spurred research efforts on basic and translational human nutrition which help shape the economic development of Singapore’s food sector; and catalysed research in nutritional sciences,
      metabolic diseases and human development.
    3. She has been dedicated to developing scientific talent, having served in advisory roles at the A*STAR Graduate Academy, National University of Singapore (NUS), and the National Healthcare Group. She has also served on various governing boards and advisory committees across the biomedical research and academic community.
  11. Professor Lam Khin Yong has, for over three decades, been a champion of impactful research that delivers outcomes that benefit society. He has also been a
    driving force behind valuable public-private partnerships that shaped Singapore into a thriving R&D hub.
    1. He established the A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC), and played an instrumental role during its formative years. Today, IHPC provides leadership in high performance computing and is a significant and strategic
      resource for scientific inquiry and industry development.
    2. At Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore, Professor Lam is dedicated towards advancing the university’s mission to drive scientific and translational research through partnerships with industry.
    3. Over the past five years, he pursued deep engagements with companies across various industry sectors, and in partnership with the National Research Foundation, helped set up six Corporate Labs that see researchers working with the private sector to jointly develop solutions that can be used by industry.


  12. For this year’s President’s Science Award, we also have two recipients. The first winner is Professor Loh Teck Peng from NTU Singapore. A world-renowned scientist and pioneer in organic synthesis research, Professor Loh’s accomplishments have strengthened Singapore’s position as a leader in the field of chemistry.
  13. Over the last 20 years, Professor Loh has developed innovative, practical and green methods that can produce synthetic compounds. His creative and insightful
    research is paving the way for environmentally-friendly and efficient processes in the production of complex compounds that will have a transformative impact on the
    biomedical and pharmaceutical industry.
  14. The second award goes to a team led by Professor Tan Eng King from the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), and comprising Associate Professor Lim Kah Leong from NUS, Professor Ng Huck Hui from A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore, and Associate Professor Louis Tan from NNI.
    1. The team is recognised for its transformative contribution to the field of Parkinson’s Disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s.
    2. The team identified clinical and genetic biomarkers, and developed novel disease models and therapeutics for advancing the understanding and management of the disease. Their research has paved the way for new treatment guidelines for
      Parkinson’s Disease patients, and the formulation of improved healthcare


  15. The winner of the President’s Technology Award is Professor Stuart Cook from Duke-NUS Medical School, for his outstanding research in human genetics and cardiovascular disease, which have a deep impact on the field of precision medicine.
  16. Professor Cook’s research has advanced our understanding of cardiovascular disorders unique to the Asian population, and has also led to a development of a genetic sequencing test kit that is now used globally to screen patients for various gene mutations associated with hereditary heart conditions.


  17. The Young Scientist Awards recognise young researchers with potential to scale greater heights.
    1. If I may say a few words on this award, I’m particularly pleased that we recognise promising young scientists. It is important not only to groom young scientific talents, but to also open young people’s eyes and minds to the wonders of
      science and technology.
    2. We can start early by encouraging children to have an interest in science. Two days ago, I was at a launch of a series of picture books on Asian scientists for children from the age of four. It was infectious to see how engaged the children
      were. Whether it is through books, awards, at home, in school, or elsewhere, it is good to have different efforts to get our children excited about Science and Technology.
    3. Therefore, I am glad to have the Young Scientist Awards to encourage young
      researchers to scale greater heights.
  18. This year’s recipients under the Physical, Information & Engineering Sciences category are Dr Liu Zheng from NTU Singapore for his pioneering work in the synthesis of 2D materials; and Dr Anjan Soumyanarayanan from A*STAR, for his research in emergent quantum phenomena towards scalable nanoelectronic devices.
  19. Under the Biological & Biomedical Sciences category, the award is presented to Dr Xue Shifeng from A*STAR, for her work on gene regulation in developmental biology.


  20. Research, innovation and enterprise remain very important to Singapore’s development. And we must continue to attract bright minds to be engaged in science, and to be excited in a future built on science and technology.
  21. In the 10 years of the President’s Science and Technology Awards, we have given out 34 awards to outstanding research scientists and engineers. They have worked on research ranging from water membrane technology, cancer therapeutics, and silicon photonics, to creating Singapore’s first commercial earth observation satellite. By deepening our capabilities in research and innovation, they help us create a better future.
  22. Indeed, just as innovative cultures around the world share one thing in common - people - our winners over the history of the PSTA also share common traits. They
    have brought people together to work on a common purpose, share their work for others to build upon, and inspire and mentor others.
  23. Science is a perpetual work in progress. To all the award recipients, I hope you will continue to inspire others to think of new solutions, challenge the status quo, and
    ultimately improve the lives of people. I hope that the President’s Science and Technology Awards will continue to encourage today’s scientists, and future scientists.
  24. My heartiest congratulations to all our award recipients.

    Thank you.