NanoTechnology in Singapore – A Country Study

  1. Report Summary
  2. Background

    Worldwide investment in nanotech R&D and enterprises has risen dramatically over the last few years to reach over US$3 billion in 2003. In Asia, nearly US$1 billion was spent on nanotech R&D in 2002. Singapore's government is looking to move forward with nanotechnology promotion with their budget of S$65 million, smaller than the U.S. and Japan, but larger than all previous nanotech budgets.

    Recognising the importance of nanotechnology, Singapore is aggressively promoting its development. Singapore aims to actively tap into this front of knowledge and aspires to be one of the leading international players in this arena.

    Singapore Strengths

    Singapore is home to more than 6,000 MNCs, many with advanced manufacturing and Regional HQ functions here. Singapore serves as the natural market place for companies to seek potential partners and gain quick access to the global market. By using Singapore as a springboard into Asia, opportunities for nanotechnology development are unlimited.

    Singapore has been moving up the value added and creation chain since the early days of industrialisation. Manufacturing accounts for about 25% of its economy. The various manufacturing clusters will continue to look for innovations to enhance their competitive edge.

    Singapore has an environment conducive for enterprises to start up and thrive. The valuable intellectual property created is well protected. There is a pool of about 150 VC firms in Singapore who manage almost S$16 billion in funds to bring the intellectual capital to market. Singapore with its reputation for objectivity and transparency also offers a test market and reference market for new products and services.

    Government Initiatives

    To accelerate the development of applications using nanotechnology, EDB is working with the Nanyang Technological University or NTU to set up a nanotechnology application development centre. Agency for Science, Technology and Research have initiated many Nanotechnology research programmes in state funded R&D institutions such as Institute of Microelectronics, Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology and Data Storage Institute. In addition to this there are also university based programmes like National University of Singapore Nanoscience & Nanotechnology Initiative.

    Nanotechnology Players

    Key industries involved in Nanotechnology development are AMR Technologies, IBM, Infineon, Nanofilm Technologies, pSiOncology, SurroMed and STMicroelectronics. There were few start-ups like Nanomaterials Technologies and NanoScience Innovation to commercialize foreign technology.


    Most nanotechnology activities are still being carried out in the laboratory, be it government or private. They are all in early stage of development. Only after 2006, government initiatives and R&D efforts by industries will produce substantial results. The technology is also expected to mature by that time with deployment of many Nanotechnology applications in every day’s life.

    Singapore faces the problem of creating and retaining high-tech manpower. The country has to compete with developed and developing countries in this race. Singapore’s ambition to be the hub for new nanotechnology will depend on managing of developmental activities and commercialisation of the innovations.

  3. Introduction
    1. Singapore's strengths
    2. Singapore is home to more than 6,000 MNCs, many with advanced manufacturing and Regional HQ functions here. It has a well established scientific and technology infrastructure to support these new activities as well as a thriving venture investment community to commercialise the innovations. Singapore has been moving up the value added and creation chain since the early days of industrialisation. Singapore is now the manufacturing center for such new generation products as flat screen TVs, Hard Disc Drives and DVD recorders, as well as sophisticated components like chips, precision mechatronics, specialty and high performance chemicals.

      The various manufacturing clusters are looking for new sources of innovation and technology to enhance their competitive edge. Given its pervasiveness across industries, nanotechnology will be a critical area for development to enhance the performance of existing products as well as create new products and processes.

      Most nanotechnology activities are still being carried out in the laboratory, be it government or private. For such technology to be fully exploited, there is a need to link the research talent, expertise and intellectual property with the marketplace. Singapore is well positioned and intends to be the hub for new nanotechnology enabled applications and products to be created, market tested and commercially exploited.

      Singapore has an environment conducive for enterprises to start up and thrive. The valuable intellectual property created is well protected. There is a pool of about 150 VC firms in Singapore who manage almost S$16 billion in funds to bring the intellectual capital to market. Singapore with its reputation for objectivity and transparency also offers a test market and reference market for new products and services.

    3. Asian Push for nanotechnology
    4. The Asian region has emerged as a leading center for nanotechnology. Total spending within the region Asia and Oceania on nanotechnology R&D exceeded US$1B in 2002, with more than half that total coming from Japan. Spending in China is much smaller, but China appears to be leading the world in sheer numbers of new nanotechnology companies (more than 300 firms are now working in nanotechnology).

      Table . Worldwide government funding for nanotechnology R&D

      in US$ millions per year





      W. Europe




















      Source: Government Nanotechnology Funding: An International Outlook* by National Science Foundation, June 30, 2003

      Taiwan, Australia, and Korea all support vibrant nanotechnology programs and feature a rich technology infrastructure. Singapore and India have launched national nanotechnology programs, and Thailand, Malaysia, and New Zealand have also announced significant new efforts in nanotechnology. The nanotechnology focus varies from country to country in Asia and many countries are strong in nanoelectronics and nanomaterials, but poor in nanobio.

      Funding for overall nanotechnology research in Asia is mostly from corporate investment and government support.

      Nanotechnology conferences, workshops, symposia and exhibits are proliferating in an almost uncontrolled manner.

    5. Nanotechnology – Brief Introduction

    Nanotechnology is fundamentally changing the way materials and devices will be produced in the future. Nanotechnology is anything that uses components or final-stage materials that are smaller usually by a large degree than a micron. Nano-materials offer unique properties and can be used in many fields, such as miniaturisation in optoelectronic engineering, enhanced performance of composites and new approaches in medical applications.

    Nanotechnology has been lauded as the next Holy Grail for computers. Last year, IBM announced the first carbon nanotube-based field effect transistor (FET). Other big players like Bell Labs, Motorola, NEC and Hitachi are also feverishly trying to complete the suite of electronic components in the new form factors.

    The researchers are targeting organic computing devices that can couple with the normal computers as specialty coprocessors. In the area of bioengineering, there have been attempts to bond organic matter such as neurons onto simple electrical pathways.

    Current research into nanotechnology may be divided into two broad areas. "Dry" nanotech is the term describing direct translation of current electronic design onto a new miniscule platform while "wet" nanotech work is based on chemistry and genetics, in real test tubes and Petri dishes of fluids.

    A still-hypothetical application of dry nanotech would be to take the radio set and make each component inside hundreds of times smaller, each wire nothing more than a few atoms wide. Research into use of nanotubes, which are the new "wires" are based on organic material like carbon or even silicon.

    Wet nanotechnology itself has two main sub-branches, which have quite similar techniques. One is termed molecular computing, and the other is biocomputing. The difference is in the medium used.

    Another potential use of optical technology is towards holographic optical storage, of which data signals are stored in stacks, each stack layer accessible either through different wavelengths of light, or by differing the angles of access.

    Nanotechnology is actually more of a whole new era of living than just a new approach to manufacturing. Applications range not only for computing, but everywhere. As we start to play with our fundamental building blocks, we can repair even ourselves.

  4. Government Initiatives
    1. Importance of Nanotechnology for Singapore
    2. Singapore has recognized clearly importance of Nanoscience and technology R & D and its impact on key manufacturing industries, and ultimately on the country’s economy. Nanotechnology has been identified by the Economic Review Committee (ERC) as one of key areas for Singapore`s pursuit of competitive advantages. Singapore's government is looking to move forward with nanotechnology promotion by cooperating with overseas bodies. Although their budget is smaller than the U.S. and Japan, today it stands at S$65 million, larger than all previous nanotech budgets.

      It is observed that Biotechnology and life science development will be used as a Route to Nanotechnology.

    3. A*STAR

The key funding agency in Singapore for Nanoscience and Technology is the Agency for Science, Technology & Research (A*STAR). A*STAR’s Nanotechnology Initiative started in Sept 2001. Their approach is to seed focused Nanotechnology research as part of Singapore`s continuing effort to build on accumulated capabilities and the promotion of innovations in areas that fuel Singapore industries.

As*STAR develops Nanotechnology research programs through existing capabilities and development programs at its research institutes:

    1. Economic Development Board (EDB)

EDB is another funding agency for supporting industry applications R & D particularly funding nanotech start-ups and international joint ventures. EDB is taking the initiative to establish the Nanotechnology Industry Application Center where start-ups can co-develop applications with market leaders in Singapore. EDB is actively promoting the advantages of Singapore as a Hub for Business and Investment, and acts as the key facilitator for global partnerships and for the growth of global Nanotechnology commercialisation and market.

  1. Major Oversea Players and Alliances
    1. Packaging Research Center
    2. Georgia Tech's Packaging Research Center (PRC) was established through a grant from the National Science Foundation's Engineering Research Center (ERC) program and the State of Georgia's Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) program. Using the ERC program as a model, Singapore hopes to increase the relationship between its industry and academia as well as to upgrade its wafer fabs by adopting latest trends in System-on-Chip (SOC) and System-On-Package technologies.

      The National University of Singapore and The Institute of Microelectronics of Singapore have a three year $3million program to explore and develop Nano wafer level packaging technologies (April 4, 2002). The program's central objective will be to explore and demonstrate cost-effective ultra-fine pitch Nano wafer level packaging interconnections to meet the needs of Nano chips, which are expected to be in production in 2004.

      PRC's "System-on-a-Package" vision or "SOP", which was founded on the premise that the future of electronics systems be convergent and micro-miniaturized, is right in line with the fundamental approaches of Nano technologies. The current global focus on Nano technologies is primarily on devices but addresses only about 1% of end-product systems like a cell phone. The PRC's focus on Nano is the first in the industry aimed at micro or Nano miniaturizing the entire system. The basic building blocks of Nano technologies cross all disciplines and change the way we approach traditional system design and fabrication. PRC's extensive SOP research will bring a unique perspective to the exploration of Nano science by extending Nano devices to end-product systems.

      There will be exchange program between the three organizations, offering consorted efforts in research as well as joint degrees and certificate programs. Faculty and students from each of the respective universities will travel between the U.S. and Singapore throughout the program and students will be given the opportunity to earn dual/joint graduate degrees with specialization in Nano systems packaging.

      The program will get industry involved in research, education and technology transfer as well as develop extensive human resources in next-generation micro and Nano electronics.

    3. Singapore-MIT Alliance
    4. The National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University of Singapore (NTU) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to take the Singapore-MIT Alliance to the next level of graduate education and research in science and engineering called SMA-2.

      SMA-2, a new five-year program starting in July 2005, is designed to involve more extensive research. SMA-2 will be funded primarily by the Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry -- through the Agency for Science, Technology and Research and the Economic Development Board and the Singapore Ministry of Education, NUS and NTU.

      The broad areas of interest in SMA-2 include Micro and Nano Technology and Systems.

    5. CANADIAN AMR Technologies
    6. AMR Technologies Inc., a Toronto producer of rare earth, zirconium and magnetic industrial products, has signed three agreements with Singaporean government and academic institutions to fund nanotechnology efforts (July 19, 2002)

      The deals, totaling approximately $1.2 million, consist of $210,000 in in-kind contributions from AMR, in addition to $1 million over three years from Nanyang Technological University, the Singapore Agency for Science, Technology and Research and the Singapore Economic Development Board.

      The funding is intended to accelerate R&D efforts at AMR's facilities to create new generations of nanosized special purpose materials for use in the electronic, chemical and automotive catalyst sectors.

    7. Beijing University of Chemical Technology

    Beijing University of Chemical Technology (BUCT) was founded in 1958 and is affiliated to the Ministry of Education. BUCT has evolved from a scientific-centred institution to a comprehensive university with a core curriculum of science, engineering, economics, management, languages and liberal arts. One of China’s key institutions of higher learning today, BUCT comprises nine schools and has 1,800 staff and 12,000 students.

    BUCT’s enterprise group has successfully commercialised some of its cutting-edge research. The group achieved sales revenue of 220 million RMB in year 2000. BUCT has been the world leader in Rotating Packed Bed (RPB) technology for past ten years and is recognised world-wide as the pioneer and leader in the development of RPB technology for the production of nano-sized powders for the process industry.

  2. Nanotechnology Development by Industries
    1. AMR Technologies
    2. AMR Technologies is known for producing, processing and developing rare earth and Zirconium based engineered materials and Sol-gel processing. Its partners are: School of Materials Engineering at NTU and AMR Nanotechnology Center in Oxfordshire UK. The major products produced by AMR are: Thermal barrier coatings; Solid oxide fuel cells; Structural ceramics; Cell phones; Display screens; Computers; and Sensors; and Catalysts.

    3. IBM
    4. IBM has teamed up with Singapore's Chartered Semiconductor and Germany's Infineon Technologies to jointly develop next-generation computer chips using nanotechology (Aug. 07, 2003). The project will focus on accelerating the move to produce 65 nanometer (nm) chips and later 45 nm semiconductors. About 200 engineers from the three companies will work on the project. The joint development model is critical to keeping 'fabless' and 'fab-lite' companies at the leading edge of process technologies.

    5. Infineon
    6. German chip company Infineon is one of the Singapore-based investors in nanotechnology and almost all its DRAM products are based on nanotech. Recently a $10 million technology incubator programme was launched by Infineon in partnership with the EDB to develop local talents for nanotech.

    7. Nano Silicon
    8. Nano Silicon Pte Ltd has become an IBM Business Partner for solution providers (June 10, 2003). This is Nano Silicon's first milestone toward providing a validated "Ready for IBM Technology" design solution for IBM foundry customers.

      Nano Silicon, founded in 1999 is a key solution provider for analog & mixed-signal designs and services. It provides analog & mixed signal solutions & IPs, specializing in the fast growing area of high speed connectivity and data converters. The IPs are silicon proven and are available for licensing in various major foundry processes

      Nano Silicon is an FTD company. The FTD group provides the full array of services related to the semiconductor industry, from concept to design to product development and training. It is a leading technology provider in the Asia-Pacific region.

    9. Nanofilm Technologies International Pte. Ltd.
    10. Established in May 1999, Nanofilm Technologies International Pte Ltd is an internationally recognized authority in the field of Filtered Cathodic Vacuum Arc (FCVA) Technology. Their FCVA coating technology represents a significant advancement in thin film deposition, and is the result of seven years ground-breaking work by a team of researchers led by Associate Professor Dr. Shi Xu, the Chairman and co-founder of Nanofilm.

      FCVA Technology has received numerous academic awards, including the prestigious Singapore Innovation Award & National Technology Award conferred by the National Science & Technology Board of Singapore (now A*STAR). Nanofilm has portfolio of patents/applications covering various areas of FCVA Technology.

      Nanofilm's R&D strengths are in the areas of Patented Filtered Cathodic Vacuum Arc Technology utilizing a coating species of pure ions with tunable energy to produce ultra-thin, diamond hard, low-cost and high-quality coatings.

      Applications include Ta-C films (higher grade of DLC) , Oxide films (Al2O3, TiO2), Metal films (Cu, Al, Ti), FCVA sources, complete vacuum coating systems, customer specific inhouse coating services, vacuum systems design, installation for sputtering equipment using ion-beam and magnetron CVA and FCVA technologies

    11. NanoScience Innovation
    12. NanoScience Innovation is started to commercialize Russian technology. The company manufactures and supplies high quality nanopowders and engineering materials. They have expertise in Gas-phase nanopowder production route using hybrid plasma sources & Platform technologies capable of industrial- scale production of high quality nanopowders.

      They have Singapore Technology Engineering as one of their investors. Funding source is Startup Enterprise Development Scheme administered by EDB.

    13. NanoMaterials Technology Pte Ltd
    14. NanoMaterials Technology (NMT) is a Singapore-based technology-focused company founded in April 2000 by several local entrepreneurs who collectively have more than 40 years of experience in the chemicals industry. Their mission is to develop and commercialize production technologies for nanomaterials for use in the process, pharmaceutical, electronics and opto-electronics industries. NMT has a wholly owned subsidiary in Beijing, NanoMaterials Technology (Beijing) Co. Ltd. to oversee NMT's entire operations in China. NMT has build manufacturing plants in Shanxi China. The company’s products are Plastics, paints & Coating, ink, pulp & Paper, rubber, adhesives & sealants; oral and Inhalation drugs; Multiplayer ceramic capacitors.

      The company closed a round of funding with EDB Ventures and Juniper Capital Ventures (amount undisclosed) in November 2001. In May 2002, the company received another cash infusion of $1.6 million from EDB and Juniper. EDB Ventures (EDBV), subsidiary of EDB Investments and Juniper Capital Ventures, the venture capital arm of SsangYong Cement (Singapore) will co-invest in NMT along with Beijing University of Chemical Technology (BUCT).

      A key process they have developed is called High Gravity Reactive Precipitation (HGRP) for efficient and consistent-quality production of a range of superior crystalline nano-materials at a significant lower costs. The company uses HGRP to develop nanosize precipitated calcium carbonate.

      NMT acquired the technology to produce nano-sized precipitated calcium carbonate (NPCC) patented by BUCT. The acquisition of the ‘Rotating Packed Bed’ (RPB) technology gives NMT a competitive edge to produce uniformly structured NPCC of 15 to 40 nanometers at a lower cost than its closest competitors.

      RPB technology employs a rotating packed-bed reactor to generate an acceleration higher than Earth’s gravitation. Under the high stress field in the special rotating packed bed reactor, the intense micromixing and mass transfer generates high super-saturation and uniform concentration distribution at molecular level. This reactive precipitation process yields nano-particles of uniform size distribution, whose size can be controlled.

      According to Roskill’s (2000) report on "The Economics of Precipitated Calcium Carbonate", the global consumption of precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC) was 5.4 million metric tons in 2000 and the market size for ultra-fine PCC is worth approximately US$100 million. PCC is commonly used in the plastics, paints and coating industry as ‘fillers’ to reduce production cost. BUCT showed that NPCC in place of PCC improves the impact resistance and other mechanical properties of plastic products. NPCC can also be used as special functional fillers for under-body plastisol paint for cars, industrial coating, rubber, ink, pulp and paper. This presents an opportunity for NMT to capture the existing PCC market with its 15-to-40 nanometers NPCC. Already, NMT has licensed three companies in China to mass-produce and distribute NPCC.

      NPCC is the first of a wide range of commercially valuable nano-sized products that can be synthesiszed using the RPB reaction technology platform.

      NMT plans to work in partnership with BUCT, and other regional universities and strategic partners to leverage the RPB technology to drive down the production costs of nano-sized products so that they are affordable for broad applications of nano-sized materials in the targeted industries. NMT’s revenue will primarily be derived from royalties through licensing of its portfolio of nano technologies.

    15. pSiOncology
    16. pSiOncology Pte Ltd is a joint venture between Singapore General Hospital, Biotech Research Ventures (Sg) and pSiMedica Ltd (UK).

      The company is known for its Proprietary nanostructured Porous silicon known as BioSiliconTM- active Agents carriers for direct Intra-tumoural delivery. pSiOncology is exploiting its know-how associated with BioSilicon™ to develop direct intratumoural treatments using biodegradable BioSilicon to deliver local chemotherapy and radiation therapy to malignancies.

      The in-situ, direct delivery of active agents into cancerous cells is a treatment known as brachytherapy. pSiOncology will extend this recognised techniques of brachytherapy to deliver high local doses, optimal for therapy avoiding the systemic or collateral toxicity often seen with conventional use of many radionuclides and cytototoxic drugs. BioSilicon is the only material in brachytherapy that can dissolve to allow repeat administration.

      BioSilicon™ implants carrying radionuclides or chemotherapeutic agents should lead to better efficacy and fewer side effects in treating tumours while allowing higher localised doses. pSiOncology works with Singapore General Hospital and National Cancer Center of Singapore.

      The company’s application areas are: Controlled Drug Delivery; Orthopaedics; Implant Packaging; Tissue Engineering; Neural Interfacing; Biofiltration; Gene/Vaccine Delivery; and Diagnostics

      pSiOncology intends to capitalise on the strength and quality of the clinical oncology expertise at SGH and Singapore’s National Cancer Centre. The Company is seeking to integrate world-leading advances in new biomaterials with recent progress in the areas of oncology and brachytherapy, and have been highlighted by the Singapore Government as areas of particular emphasis and resource.

    17. pSivida Evaluation of use of BioSilicon
    18. pSivida Limited is an Australian listed public company committed to the biomedical nanotechnology sector. It has as its core focus the development of nano-structured porous silicon (BioSilicon™) for multiple potential applications in human and animal healthcare through its UK joint venture, pSiMedica Limited in conjunction with UK Government owned QinetiQ

      pSivida Limited announced that its UK subsidiary pSiMedica has signed a Research Materials Agreement with Singapore General Hospital Pte Ltd (SGH) to evaluate the use of BioSilicon™ for potential Tissue Engineering products.

      The technology is based on applying a modified form of the silicon chip (porosified or nano structured silicon) in a variety of healthcare applications, ranging from controlled drug delivery, tissue engineering and orthopaedics to biofiltration and clinical diagnostics.

      BioSilicon™ is both biocompatible and biodegradable. Importantly when utilised in tissue engineering BioSilicon™ can act as a ‘scaffold’ to provide tissue cells with a structure to which cells can anchor and penetrate. As the tissue deposits itself onto the scaffold the porus silicon slowly dissolves away leaving just the new tissue. The silicon dissolves to form silicic acid, the most common form of which is found in everyday foodstuffs.

      Silicon has become ones of the most important industrial materials of the 21st Century. In addition to its function as a semiconductor in electronic devices, silicon exhibits a broad range of other properties. The low cost, wide availability and favourable physiochemical properties of silicon contribute to its position as a highly valuable and functional material. Porous silicon is prepared by eroding ‘pores’ into silicon to create a very large surface area. Unlike any other porous biomaterial, silicon can be finely controlled and ‘tuned’ to provide a support matrix with a programmed ‘in-vivo’ life. The key discoveries that make BioSilicon™ an enabling platform technology in the pharmaceutical industry are biocompatibility and controllable biodegradability.

    19. SGH-Singapore General Hospital
    20. Singapore General Hospital (SGH) is Singapore’s largest tertiary acute care hospital and national referral centre. It offers a comprehensive range of clinical specialties and clinical support services in the region. SGH also has extensive pre-clinical and clinical research facilities and activities in addition to teaching and educational services. Annually, 60,000 patients are admitted to the hospital and 600,000 people attend its specialist outpatient clinics.

    21. STMicroelectronics
    22. STMicroelectronics, one of the world's largest semiconductor companies and long a stalwart in Singapore, is in the process of starting a nanotech research centre in Singapore. This time, this industry giant will leverage on technology developed by a local research institute.

    23. SurroMed

    U.S. company SurroMed has opened a $25 million center in Singapore to develop technology that can scan a single drop of blood for a person's tendency toward diseases ranging from asthma to breast cancer. The process uses metal cylinders called "nanobarcodes,'' which are 1/1,000 the diameter of a human hair. These cylinders are coated with chemicals that react to blood constituents such as proteins and antibodies.

    Assistance has been provided by the Singapore Economic Development Board and the National Science and Technology Board (now known as A*Star). The company has been seeking foreign investment in biotechnology as it seeks to improve its life sciences capabilities and reduce its dependence on exporting electronic goods.

    The Nanobarcodes particle technology uses cylindrically-shaped colloidal metal nanoparticles, in which the metal composition can be alternated along the length, and in which the size of each metal segment can be controlled. Intrinsic differences in reflectivity between the metal segments allow individual particles to be identified by conventional optical microscopy. Nanobarcodes particles can be functionalized with various capture chemistries to bind specifically to target molecules that can be interrogated in solution and on surfaces using conventional techniques. This approach enables the creation of an extremely diverse range of uniquely identifiable Nanobarcodes particles that can be used for miniaturized and multiplexed analysis of biological molecules, such as proteins, peptides and organic molecules.

    SurroMed Inc. transferred its Singapore Advanced Research and Development Facility, to the IBE (now IBN) in 16 May 2002. With SurroMed's Singapore facility and scientific expertise, IBN will immediately have the technical capabilities in nanobiotechnology, which will be further developed through cross-disciplinary collaboration with other researchers at IBN. The IBN will provide infrastructural support for the Surromed research team to broaden their scope of research.

  3. R&D Orgs
    1. Data Storage Institute (DSI)
    2. Data Storage Institute (DSI) is positioned to lead and support the growth of the data storage industry in Singapore. Its core competencies are in magnetic, optical and network storage technologies. DSI is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for advanced materials and network storage R&D in addition to system design and prototyping.

      DSI’s R&D strengths are in Microsystems and nanosystems for data storage, Nano Spinelectronics, Nanomemory like MRAM, CRAM, Nanoprobes, Nanostructured Materials like Carbon Nanowalls and tubes, Laser Nanopatterning, Nanofabrication Process for Media, Sliders, HGAs, Nanoparticles and Self-assembly Technique.

      Applications/Products by DSI include Carbon Nanowalls, Nanosensors and Probe based magnetic recording, Nanofabrication of magnetic media and Laser assisted nanofabrication.

    3. Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN)
      1. About IBN
      2. IBE - The Institute of Bioengineering (now known as IBN) was officially announced in March 2002, to capitalise on Singapore's existing strengths in engineering and medical sciences. IBN’s focus is on research in tissue and stem cell engineering, biomaterials and scaffolds, medical devices and delivery systems. It is actively involved in newer technology platforms such as computational biology, imaging and analysis of biological systems and nanotechnology.

        IBN's innovative research is aimed at creating new knowledge and intellectual properties in the emerging fields of bioengineering and nanotechnology. This will attract top-notch researchers and business partners to Singapore. IBN will also play an active role in technology transfer and spinning off companies, linking its research institute and industrial partners to other global institutions.

        IBN research staff publish over 50 papers and apply for ten patents annually. Its programmes are geared towards linking multiple disciplines across all fields in engineering, science and medicine to produce research breakthroughs that will improve healthcare and quality of life.

      3. Research Focus and results
      4. IBN's six research areas are Nanobiotechnology; Delivery of Drugs, Proteins and Genes; Tissue Engineering; Artificial Organs and Implants; Medical Devices; as well as Biological and Biomedical Imaging.

        They work closely with Genomics Inst. of Singapore, Health Sciences Authority, IME, IMRE, NTU, NUS, National Cancer Center, National University Hospital, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, SurroMed, and Nanoplex Technologies.

        Applications include Encoded Nanoparticles (Nano-barcodes) for biomarker discovery, Nanostructured Materials, Electrodeposition, Microfluidics, Nanoparticle tags and Nanoparticle Functionalization

        IBN's staff strength stands at 95 and plans to expand to 250 staff by December 2006. With its multi-national research staff, the institute is geared towards generating new biomaterials, devices, systems, equipment and processes to boost Singapore's economy in the fast-growing biomedical sector.

        IBN is also committed to nurturing young minds, and the institute will act as a training ground for PhD students and undergraduates. Its Youth Research Programme also opens the institute's doors to university students here, as well as students and teachers from various secondary schools and junior colleges.

      5. Transparent membranes for wound healing
      6. IBN has created a novel transparent wound dressing using nanostructured materials (9 September 2003).

        This thin film made up of special polymers allows air and moisture to circulate freely between the wound and the environment, while protecting the injury from bacterial infection. This can accelerate the healing process.

        Its transparent feature allows doctors to keep an eye on wounds like cuts or burns, thus helping them determine the best time to remove the dressing.

        The membrane is also temperature-sensitive – it adheres to the skin at body temperature and is easily removed by a cold press.

        In addition, cells can be grafted onto the dressing to promote tissue regeneration. Drug delivery systems can also be embedded in the nanoporous membrane to allow timely release of medication to improve the healing process.

        It allows the possibility of making the material transparent and of incorporating fine pores that allow water and air to permeate through. It is temperature sensitive, a feature that facilitates the easy application and removal of the dressing. The membrane’s nanoscale design also allows the inclusion of nanoparticles that can be used in drug delivery." But it would take a year or two to commercialize the product.

      7. Glucose biosensors for diabetic patients
      8. IBN's glucose biosensor, a disposable test strip made up of a nanoparticulate regulating membrane, requires only 0.2 to 0.3 micro-litres of blood to generate accurate results within seconds. The high sensitivity of the biosensor allows readings of very minute amounts of glucose and this is the smallest sample volume needed amongst all glucose biosensors available in the market.

        A usual diagnostic test runs through multiple equipment for diagnosis. But with this, all you need is one microchip and one set of equipment, much less bulky and can also be done in a clinic rather than in a major facility like a hospital.

        The membrane contains sensing elements and regulates the glucose flux. After the blood sample is introduced to the biosensor, the porous membrane will retard the diffusion process and prolong the reaction time, leveling off the signal over a wide-time window.

        Using this technology, patients will no longer need to draw blood from their fingertips - an area of the body that is rich in capillaries, but also highly sensitive to pain. Instead, a very small amount of blood can be obtained from any other part of the body, like a person's arm and it can generate accurate results within seconds.

        The time needed to produce a reading ranges from five to six seconds, compared to 25 to 30 seconds with other current technologies. In addition, the biosensor strips can be produced much more cheaply than conventional test strips.

        A United States patent has been filed for this technology. A commercial product can be available in the market in the next one to two years. It hopes to use the same type of technology to produce more direct and accurate diagnostic tests for diseases ranging from breast cancer to even SARS.

      9. Ultrasensitive DNA/RNA biosensor

      Biosensors have been widely deployed in disease detection as well as healthcare management systems. The constant challenge is in producing cost-effective biosensors that show increasing levels of sensitivity and stability.

      The institute's ultrasensitive DNA/RNA biosensor is a nanofilm containing capture probes on its surface. A catalytic current is generated after DNA/RNA samples hybridizes with these probes. This electrical signal correlates directly to the amount of diseased DNA/RNA.

      Conventional biosensors used for this purpose generally employ fluorescent techniques. Few of these have sufficient sensitivities for the detection of genetic material at subpicomolar levels. (A picomole is 10-12 of a mole, which is the SI base unit of an amount of substance)

      However, IBN's biosensor, which uses electrochemical processes, is at least 1,000 times more sensitive than those using fluorescent detection.

      In fact, this biosensor is so responsive that it can recognize breast cancer susceptibility genes in messenger RNA extracted from human breast tissues. This does not involve a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) step, which is typically used to amplify the gene expression.

      Besides being able to detect disease DNA/RNA at a rapid rate, the device is also cost-effective. In addition, the biosensor is highly compact and mobile, and is compatible with advanced semiconductor technology.

    4. Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC)
    5. IHPC undertakes research in computational science and engineering and provides compute intensive resources and services to industry. IHPC 's R&D strengths are in the areas of Nanomechanics Computational Chemistry, Computational Electro-magnetics and Electronics, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Computational Mechanics, Computational MEMS, and High-end Computing.

      Applications include Modelling and Characterization of Molecular Electronic Nanostructures, Theoretical Study of Boron, Carbon and Nitrogen Ternary Nanoclusters and Nanotubes, Growth Modelling of low-Dimensional Quantum Structures.

    6. Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE)
    7. IMRE undertakes research in selected fields of materials science and engineering such as optoelectronics, nanomaterials, chemicals and polymers. It seeks to partner with international organisations and industry in a synergistic, multidisciplinary and collaborative approach to materials research and development.

      IMRE 's R&D strengths are in the areas of. Micro/Nano systems, Molecular Materials, Opto Electronic Systems, Science and Characterization Lab.

      Applications include Nanomaterials/Nanoparticles, Nanocomposites, Nanopatterning, and Nanostructure Characterization.

      IMRE researchers have developed novel techniques to pattern nanoscale features using simple and inexpensive processes. These methods allow for the patterning of dense nanoscale features over large areas on surfaces, which leads to the high feature density and/or high signal that is necessary for many practical applications in the microelectronic industries. With potential for commercialisation, IMRE has already filed three patents on these techniques.

      Nanofabrication is the patterning and fabrication of features with dimensions less than 100 nanometres (which is about 1000 times narrower than a typical human hair). These are essential technologies in areas such as semiconductor manufacturing. Current methods of producing sub-100nm features or structures are typically very complex and expensive.

      IMRE researchers have come up with an ingenious alternative to the nanoimprinting method called 'reversal nanoimprinting', where the polymer pattern is layered onto the mould itself and then transferred onto the desired surface. So instead of layering the wax and forming a pattern from pressure applied by the mould, the wax pattern is already on the mould and transferred wholesale to the surface. This allows patterning on surfaces that are not easily layered with the thin plastic film, like surfaces with existing structures. The technique also enables multiple nanostructure layers to form one on top of another.

      A second method employs robust template films with nanosized pores to direct the deposition of arrays of nanoparticles onto surfaces. The technique involves a template with uniform pores which hold the nanoparticles being placed onto the target surface. Once the template is removed, all that remains are the nanoparticle structures that form patterns on the surface of the material.

      The 'reversal nanoimprinting' enables lower imprinting temperatures and pressures than conventional nanoimprinting. The technique is especially useful in allowing imprinting onto a variety of substrates that cannot be easily spin-coated with a polymer film. Besides patterning on flexible substrates, this new imprinting method can be used to fabricate multilayer three-dimensional (3D) structures.

      IMRE's template-assisted fabrication approach is also quite versatile and can be employed to create high-density arrays of uniform-sized nanoparticles on substrates using a variety of nanoparticle deposition techniques. In this method, the nanoparticle dimensions are determined by the pore dimensions in the templates and can be easily tuned. They have created a range of metal and semiconductor nanoparticle arrays with controllable diameters and heights.

    8. Institute of Microelectronics
      1. About IME
      2. The Institute of Microelectronics (IME) helps to drive the continual growth of Singapore's electronics industries through high calibre research and development for semiconductor applications. IME works closely with Georgia Institute of Technology, USA and various departments of NUS.

      3. Research focus and applications

Applications include Memory Devices, Transistors, Nanochip Packaging, Photonics Devices, Front-end Power Devices BioMEMS and High Density Interconnects.

Research undertaken by IME includes advanced packaging, VLSI design and nanoelectronic devices. The Institute has three research focused areas:

      1. Photonic IC
      2. The new integrated photonic IC by IME shrank the current photonic devices by more than 100 times and demonstrated the possibility of integrating various devices into one small chip of dimension of 24mm x 32mm. Tthe new integrated photonic ICs will have thousands of photonic functions per square centimeter.

        The technology developed enables Moore’s law to be applied in photonic industry. The successful application of Si technology to photonic ICs will drive down the cost of deployment of optical network. Three patents were filed: one (IME), one (Photonics Concepts), and one joint (IME & Photonics Concepts). A few more are under consideration.

      3. Nanoscale Interferometric Inspection

The objective of this project is the development of capabilities and systems for automated manufacturing inspection based on optical interferometry. The planned duration is three years. It has so far resulted in the development of capabilities in several interferometric techniques, the demonstration of two application solutions and the publication of two academic papers.

The primary skill areas utilised are optical design, signal processing and the computer vision based analysis of extracted three-dimensional data sets. The measurement capabilities developed are broadly applicable to many sectors particularly precision engineering, semiconductors and photonics. These capabilities include phase shifting interferometry, white light interferometry, multi-wavelength interferometry, phase recovery and unwrapping algorithms, automated surface profile measurement, roughness measurement, automated analysis of profile data and calibration methods.

In conjunction with university collaborators, IME has also been working on the inspection of micro electro-mechanical devices (MEMS) and their optical variants used in photonics applications (MOEMS). In the semiconductor sector, IME is also investigating novel methods for the high-speed co-planarity inspection of solder interconnect to accuracies better than 1 micron.

    1. Nanoscience & Nano-technology Initiative
    2. National University of Singapore Nanoscience & Nanotechnology Initiative (NUSNNI) was established in January of 2002.

      NUSNNI 's R&D strengths are in the areas of Bio-nanotech, Nanoelectronics, Nanophotonics, Nanomagnetics, Molecular self assembly and devices, and Nanostructures & Nanomaterials. Biomedical nanotechnology is also a point of focus in materials science, such as the development of artificial replacements for structural tissue like muscle tendons.

      NUSNNI works with Faculty of Medicine (NUS), National UniversityHospital, Johns Hopkins Singapore, Inst. of Materials Research and Engineering, Institute of High Performance Computing, Data Storage Institute, Institute of Microelectronics, Agilent Technologies, Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing.

      Their oversea partners are: University of Queensland, Hong Kong UST, Hitachi, MIT, Uni. of Illinois, Johns Hopkins University Georgia Inst. of Technology, University of Texas, Drexel University UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara and IBM.

    3. Ngee ANN Poly
    4. Ngee Ann Polytechnic has tied up with NanoMaterials Technology on an A*STAR-funded research project to develop nano-size drug powders for a range of pharmaceutical products. The Polytechnic is the first to explore the production of Ibuprofen on a nano scale. Ibuprofen is a drug used to treat arthritis, fever, menstrual symptoms and pain. In addition, Ngee Ann Polytechnic will be researching nano applications for the manufacturing industry, a key economic sector in Singapore.

    5. NTU
      1. Advanced Materials Research Center(AMRC), NTU
      2. AMRC has received S$21 million funding since 1997.

        AMRC's R&D strengths are in the areas of Processing of Artificial bone using RF suspension Plasma spraying; Spark Plasma Sintering system capable of densifying Nanomaterial compounds at faster speeds and lower temperature than conventional methods.

        They partner with Industrial Manufacturing Institute (Canada), National Research Council (Canada), Ecole Nationale SupErieure Des Mines de Paris (France), Montpellier University (France), Fraunhofer Institute for Advanced Metallics and Composites (Germany), Cambridge University and Imperial College (UK).

        Applications include Nanocomposites, Nanocoatings, Nanostructured Magnetic Materials, Nanomaterials Synthesis and Characterization Techniques, Fuel cells, Bioglass, carbon and other advanced Ceramics/composites

      3. Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Corridor
      4. EDB is working with the Nanyang Technological University or NTU to set up a nanotechnology application development centre. This center to be called NanoFrontier, will spur the commercialisation of scientific know-how in nanotechnology into viable products and manufacturing processes.

        NanoFrontier will work together with companies on joint projects to develop nanotechnology enabled products, processes and services. It will have access to over $200 million worth of nanotech-related equipment within NTU. Companies working with NanoFrontier will not need to purchase their own equipment thus significantly lowering the barrier to entry for developing nanotechnology products.

        NanoFrontier can make use of the services of nearly 100 researchers working on nanotechnology plus the thousands of other researchers and academics in business and engineering. For example, NTU's team has specialized know-how in nanometerology, which is a critical knowledge to applications development. NanoFrontier will leverage on the intellectual property and expertise residing in NTU and subsequently with other research institutes and institutes of higher learning in Singapore.

      5. Precision Engineering & Nanotechnology Centre

      Precision Engineering & Nanotechnology Centre in NTU does development work on tools upgrades such as finer laser bores and smaller lithography techniques.

      R&D strengths are in the areas of Micro-replication, Ultra-precision Machining, Femto-second laser, Micromachining, and Nano-metrology Focused Ion Beam Machining. Good results have been obtained on Nano particles and Nano defects detection system for unpolished silicon wafers; Next-generation "breathable" contact lenses

      They partner with Sony, Infineon Technology, Hewlett Packard and HongGuan Technologies. Applications include Nanoscale Precision Machining, Nanometrology and Nanodefects detection.

    6. Singapore Institute Of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech)

SIMTech 's R&D strengths are in the areas of Forming Technology, Joining Technology, Machining Technology, Manufacturing Execution Technologies, Mechatronics, Precision Measurements, Production and Logistics Planning, Product Design and Development Technology.

Applications include Nanostructured Components Direct manufacturing and Nanostructured Materials.

  1. Venture Capitalists
    1. EDB Ventures
    2. EDB Ventures Pte Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of EDB Investments Pte Ltd (EDBI). EDBI is the investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB). It makes strategic investments worldwide focusing on new business-models, technology and knowledge intensive projects that deliver innovative solutions in hardware, software and related services. EDBI manages in excess of US$3 billion and has made investments in over 260 projects.

    3. Juniper Capital Ventures Pte Ltd
    4. Juniper Capital Ventures Pte Ltd is the venture capital arm of the Ssangyong Singapore Group (a publicly-listed company on the Singapore Stock Exchange). Besides investing into VC funds, it also makes direct investments into technology companies at the early to mid stages. The investments are mostly focused in the semi-conductor, infocomm, healthcare, and nanoscience areas. To-date, it has made investments into USA, Israel, China and Singapore.

    5. Other Sources

    GMI Capital Corporation opened regional Asia Pacific HQ in Singapore. It will provide secured loans of between $250,000 to $5 million to start- ups and emerging enterprises.

    Infineon Technology Incubator Program is a $6 million project to fund and incubate ventures in seed stage to jumpstart and create new generation of semiconductor products and solutions.

    US-based fund managers, Hamilton Lane & Apex Venture Partners have set up Asian base in Singapore.

  2. Conferences in Singapore
    1. Technological Advances of Thin Films & Surface Coatings
    2. The 2nd International Conference on Technological Advances of Thin Films & Surface Coatings ("ThinFilms 2004") will be a knowledge exchange and interactive platform for researchers and engineers from industry, research laboratories and academia.

      Thin Films 2004 brings together state-of-the-art developments on all aspects related to the processing, characterization and applications of thin films and surface coatings. The conference will certainly provide an attractive forum for presenting the latest advances in thin films and coatings processing and evaluation by researchers and engineers from industry, research laboratories, and academia.

    3. NANOTECH 2004
    4. Prof Wei ZHOU and Prof Bryan NGOI of NTU and Dr Gnian Cher LIM Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology are the three Co-Chairmen for NANOTECH 2004.

    5. SEMICON Singapore 2004 4-6 May
    6. SEMICON Singapore 2004 on semiconductor industry in Southeast Asia will include Presentations and discussions on nano technology for semiconductor industry.


    The National University of Singapore and National University Hospital together with the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Genome Institute of Singapore and Johns Hopkins Singapore organized the 7th NUS-NUH Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) on 2 and 3 October 2003. This ASM focussed on new frontiers in medicine in Singapore relating to nanotechnology. Extensive discussions were held on Nanostructured Processing of Advanced Materials

  3. Abbreviations

A*STAR: Agency for Science, Technology and Research

BUCT: Beijing University of Chemical Technology

EDB: Economic Development Board

ERC: Economic Review Committee

ERC: Foundation's Engineering Research Center

IBE: Institute of Bioengineering

IBN: Institute Of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology

IME: Institute of Microelectronics

JCV: Juniper Capital Ventures

MIT: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

NMT: Nano Materials Technology Pte Ltd

NPCC: Nano-sized precipitated calcium carbonate

NTU: Nanyang Technological University of Singapore

NUH: National University Hospital

NUS: National University of Singapore

NUSNNI: National University of Singapore Nanoscience & Nanotechnology Initiative

SEEDS: Startup Enterprise Development Scheme by EDB

SGH: Singapore General Hospital

SOC: System-on-Chip