Speech by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of Transport

speech by Dr Janil Puthucheary- Senior Minister of State- Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of Transport- at the opening of One-North Festival 2019

Good morning everyone.

1. Thank you for having me here to launch this year's One North Festival.

2. We announced the plans to develop a science hub here at Bouna Vista more than 20 years ago- to try to encourage start-ups and high tech businesses- and to do so by providing a conducive environment. 

3. You can see the extent to which the area has been transformed. One North is an icon of Singapore's efforts in the Knowledge Economy. It focuses on growth sectors – the biomedical sciences- infocomm technology- media – and it is home to a vibrant- dynamic community of more than 50-000 scientists- innovators- industry professionals- entrepreneurs and students.

Science and Sustainability: Innovating for a More Sustainable Planet

4. The One North Festival (ONF) is a celebration of that – of the research- the innovation- the creativity and the enterprise that we have been able to bring together in this area and in Singapore.

5. Our theme this year- Future of Everyone: Innovating for A Sustainable Planet- is timely. Our Prime Minister put important focus on this in his National Day Rally.

6. Preparing Singapore for climate change is important – safeguarding the existence of our island. We are exposed to this threat and it is going to be very real for us. But we are in a position to address some of the key issues. It is an existential challenge and there are lessons to be learned for ourselves- especially against the global backdrop of these problems – global warming- environmental pollution- resource allocation – the whole world is facing these sets of problems as we are.

7. For us and Singapore- there are additional problems that we face - food security- water security and waste disposal challenges- an outcome of our circumstances and our geography. There are 7.5 million tonnes of waste that we generated last year. It occupies space- occupies land- occupies resources; and it is a sevenfold increase from where we were. The amount of waste we generate is increasing. The recycling rate for plastic shrank 2% over the same period as that sevenfold increase.

8. We may not be going in the right direction- in all of these dimensions- and we need to identify where we are doing well- we need to identify where we need to do better and we need to start doing something now.

9. Science- innovation- technology- combined with effort; can contribute significantly to change our sustainability efforts. The One North campus here is home to many A*Star Labs where scientists work together with public sector partners on innovation projects- contributing towards Singapore's efforts towards creating a circular economy and moving towards zero waste. 

10. For examples- scientists of the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering have come up with a way to make biodegradable plastic out of lignin- a waste product of paper production that is typically disposed of- or burnt. Innovation- such as this- will help to reduce the ever growing environmental impact of non-biodegradable plastic.

Digital Transformation for a Sustainable Future

11. Digitalisation also has a key part to play in accelerating the transition to a more sustainable Singapore. Science and technology when combined can create ideas and solutions bigger than the sum of the parts. This is the underlying premise of scientific academic progress. 

12. An example is like what the Nanyang Polytechnic students came up with – an activity sensing device using the heat signature and image processing - allowing users to continuously monitor the power status of household appliances and better manage energy consumption. This is about taking existing technology- existing problem statements and coming up with something innovative and ultimately impactful.

13. Meanwhile- scientists at A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R) are working with Singapore District Cooling to launch a new self-regulating integrated electricity-cooling network system which can reduce electricity costs by close to 40 per cent; Existing technology- existing problem statements- made possible through advances in engineering and advances in thinking- bringing it all together and having a real impact in terms of costs. 

14. National University of Singapore’s Advanced Robotics Centre has a booth here today- working on multiple autonomous technologies in vehicles to advance the robotic frontier -using sensors to travel safely from one location to another. It is the future of travel- something that is close to my heart- wearing my other hat from the Ministry of Transport. Autonomous vehicles have the potential to significantly transform our city state- the lived environment for all of us.

15. Another thing close to my heart and I have a vested interest in is JTC’s showcase of Punggol Digital District here. We hope to be a vibrant- inclusive district where cutting edge technology is deployed- make a real difference in our lives and showcase the future of Singapore. It should include and will include urban and social innovation to make everyday living more convenient- more sustainable. It must host companies participating in the digital economy- creating job opportunities for all our citizens and residents in the northeast and the whole of Singapore.

16. Through the clustering of these growth sectors- JTC aims to create an ecosystem of open innovation and testbed environment; a living lab environment- enabling businesses in the community to thrive in the digital economy.

Celebrating Youth Voices on Our Future

17. Core to all these and core to what we do here at the One North Festival- is a celebration and engagement of our youths in Singapore- encouraging them to take a greater interest in science- technology and sustainability. 

18. Today- I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate the winners of the A*STAR-ESSEC Business School Innovation Pitch Day. Your innovative ideas to build solutions for today's societal environmental issues deserves recognition and celebration. I hope that I can see in my lifetime these ideas be translated into successful- thriving businesses changing the environment here in Singapore. I hope you will continue to nurture your passion to create a better Singapore for your families- for Singaporeans and inspire your juniors.

19. Even as students- it is not too early to start thinking about how you have to encourage and inspire even younger children and students to pursue career opportunities in science and technology.

20. A*STAR and JTC have put together an entire spread of activities for everyone throughout this Festival. We can play our part in encouraging the young people we know to attend- to participate- to learn and to seek opportunities.

21. I hope everyone has a chance to enjoy the activities here at the One North Festival- visit all the various booths- and engage with some of these latest ideas – scientific research- the work that is happening in the laboratories in the universities- the research institutions- the industries. Have that hands-on experience; learn what it means for you- your families- for our country- and the opportunities that can be created to pursue a career in science and technology around environmental sustainability.

22. I wish all of you an enjoyable and enriching time here at the Festival and congratulations to all the winners.

23. Thank you for inviting me to join you here today.