02 July 12 The Business Times by Lynn Kan
[SINGAPORE] Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) is more than a grand old networking session of water companies, government officials and specialists.
It is first and foremost an event that carries a national imperative to grow Singapore's catchment of water solutions by getting water technologists to work and generate solutions here, says its organiser.
Since 2008, SIWW has been faithfully organised every year by the Environment and Water Industry Programme Office (EWI) which includes Singapore's water agency PUB, the Economic Development Board, IE Singapore and Spring Singapore.
EWI, said its head Chew Men Leong who is also CEO of PUB, "helps bring innovative solutions which PUB can apply to develop our water resources better and meet our mission of water sustainability".
And SIWW fits into EWI's technology development mandate.
"Application of technology can only be facilitated through innovation and R&D. Essentially, because of circumstances we face, we need to seek innovative water solutions for ourselves first," said PUB chief executive Chew Men Leong.
Just five R&D centres - Hyflux, GE Water, and Siemens Water Technologies among them - with about 100 researchers existed in Singapore in 2007 before SIWW started.
By 2009, after the third SIWW, that had grown to 17 and today, there are 25 water R&D centres that hire about 750 researchers, about half of whom are Singaporean citizens and permanent residents.
Part of the growth has been thanks to SIWW, and part of the attraction has been the $470 million in funding from the National Research Foundation for water solutions.
Said Mr Chew: "We're quite optimistic about the growth of R&D in water where industry is concerned. In the process, by bringing a lot of players to Singapore, well, it has certainly brought in new innovations in water."
New-fangled ideas born in the labs are also allowed into PUB's facilities to be tested "live".
One of these ideas being hatched at the moment in the plant is from video analytics company Zweec Analytics where tropical freshwater tiger barbs are tracked to detect changes to water quality. Twenty fish are monitored in the system and if half of them die, an alert is triggered so a water sample is sent for testing.
The fish activity monitoring system is one of the 347 projects funded by $220 million from the NRF pot since 2006. Of these, 120 of them worth $23 million have been tested in PUB's plants.
Not all of these test-bedded projects work out, but many of them are tweaked and refined so that they can be used in a different setting, said Mr Chew.
These test-bedded technologies can also be adapted for industrial water treatment.
While "not very much" of the $470 million has been channelled into projects for industrial use yet, the EWI sees the value in doing so in the future.
Currently, 55 per cent of Singapore's water demand come from non-domestic uses, which are primarily industries. This will grow to two-thirds in the future.
"(Industrial water solutions) is a new strategic direction where we see growth, both from perspective of Singapore and from larger demand of industrial water," said Mr Chew.
SIWW has a new Industrial Water Solutions Forum this year, where companies can focus on exchanging ideas on water innovation for the chemicals, food and beverage, oil and gas, and mining sector.