Innovate for a sustainable future

Sustainability in today’s business world

Across the globe, businesses are turning to innovative technologies and business models that will help them become more sustainable in the long run. According to the “Better Business, Better World” report by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, opportunities in sustainability could contribute US$12 trillion to global GDP and create 380 million new jobs by 2030. Leading companies are incorporating sustainability principles to improve operations, pursue growth and add value to their companies. Corporate sustainability is no longer a trend, but a necessity.

Charting Singapore’s sustainable development

Last year, the Singapore government launched the Sustainable Singapore Movement to galvanise the public sector, corporates, NGOs, and all Singaporeans to take collective environmental action. The public sector will take the lead with the Public Sector Sustainability Plan 2017 - 2020 (PSSP) which aims to use 15 per cent less electricity and 5 per cent less water compared with 2013 levels by 2020.

In Singapore’s dense urban environment, green buildings are vital for resource sustainability. The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has set a national target of at least 80 per cent of all buildings in Singapore to be certified green by 2030.This means that the buildings must be energy and water efficient, with a high quality and healthy indoor environment, integrated with green spaces and constructed from eco-friendly materials.

To help local SMEs along their innovation journey to a more sustainable future, A*STAR has developed a new platform for companies to testbed for green building solutions in a tropical climate. The system, called the Intelligent Building Energy and Environmental Monitoring and Control System, or i-BEEMS, was co-developed by researchers from A*STAR’s Experimental Power Grid Centre (EPGC) and Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC).

Currently housed at the EPGC on Jurong Island, the system works by tapping on a network of 200 sensors that measures various atmospheric and energy-consuming elements in real time to evaluate how effective a green building solution is. It compares the building's performance prior and after a green building solution is introduced.

Glass manufacturer AGC group started using i-BEEMS earlier this year to test their double-glazed glass panel sets as their products were created mostly for use in temperate countries such as Japan. The company was able to assess the glass panels performance in a hot and humid climate before introducing them to a new market.

A*STAR scientists have also developed greener and more eco-friendly solutions for buildings in collaboration with local SMEs. One such company is HVS Engineering. The local SME engaged A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) to develop a water treatment system that purifies water in cooling towers, which in turn are used to operate centralised air-conditioners. The system helps the company to save water, energy and eliminate the use of harmful chemicals. HVS Engineering reported that the use of the system helps building owners reduce their air-conditioning bill by 3% to 5% compared to the usual water treatment method.

Contributing to a Circular Economy

Beyond environmental benefits, efforts in sustainability can go a long way to reap economic growth. Sustainable Manufacturing is a new generation paradigm shift in the manufacturing industry’s effort to reduce environmental burdens, improve cost competitiveness and demonstrate responsible corporate citizenship.

Companies can begin with small-scale implementations by improving their operational resource efficiency on the shop floor. In fact, remanufacturing opens up a suite of exciting opportunities, contributing to a circular economy where products at the end of their life-cycle are reused again, and again, to create value, essentially "closing the loop". By participating in the circular economy, companies can reduce waste and drive greater resource productivity.

For instance, the automotive sector has been taking positive steps towards a circular economy through remanufacturing and materials innovation. According to Renault, compared to a new part, one remanufactured component uses 80% less energy, and generates 70% less waste during production.

For many SMEs, investing in expensive advanced manufacturing equipment is daunting, and many are cautious about experimenting with innovative technologies. The solution is to tap government resources for greater productivity. A*STAR’s model factories, located at the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) and the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC) can help local companies scale up their businesses by allowing them to experience the latest manufacturing technologies first-hand in a learning environment. They are excellent spaces for companies to collaborate with stakeholders to testbed and co-develop innovative solutions for their processes. Tech Access also allows SMEs to access A*STAR’s installed base of advanced manufacturing equipment and expertise.

Another useful resource is SIMTech's Sustainable Manufacturing Centre (SMC) which brings together relevant government agencies, industry associations, research communities and companies, to develop and implement sustainable manufacturing technologies.

Since its inception, the centre has been actively engaging the local manufacturing industry to develop and implement technologies for ecoperformance improvements in products and manufacturing processes. One success story is LHT Holdings, a local company in the timber industry. The company worked with SMC to develop a pallet and crate design system that integrates product design and product life cycle analysis. The system is user-friendly and non-experts can also be used to carry out pallets and crate design in compliance with the relevant environmental standards. The system also promotes green logistics by increasing product re-use rate and recycling end-of-life products.

Changing for a better future

Those ready to embrace disruptive technologies and adopt new ways to doing things will have a better chance of surviving and differentiating themselves from the competition.

With a range of support and initiatives available in the market, the future looks promising with many opportunities to shape a greener, more sustainable future. For more information on A*STAR’s SME initiatives, contact:

- Prof Tan Sze Wee, Executive Director, Science and Engineering Research Council, A*STAR -

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