Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the National Engineers Day 2020 Prize Presentation Ceremony on 21 November 2020
Dr Richard Kwok, President of The Institution of Engineers, Singapore;
Ms Jasmine Foo, Chairperson of National Engineers Day Organising Committee;
Professor Yeoh Lean Weng, Senior Director of National Research Foundation;
Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, Chief Executive of Science Centre Singapore;
Professor Chung Keng Yeow, Chairman of the Engineering Innovation Challenge;
Ladies and gentlemen;
Good morning. It’s a pleasure to join all of you today at the prize presentation ceremony for the Engineering Innovation Challenge (or EIC) 2020, in conjunction with this year’s National Engineers Day (or NED).
2 Let me begin by commending all our young and creative engineers-to-be for stepping up to innovate and develop solutions to help tackle global challenges. I also applaud the Institution of Engineers, Singapore (or IES) for overcoming the challenges posed by the pandemic and adapting the format of today’s event, with the support of your partners. This truly embodies the inventive spirit of engineering.
Past, present and future of engineering
3 Engineering has been the bedrock of Singapore’s development throughout our history. The work of engineers past and present has fuelled our economic growth, given us a beautiful and liveable city and enhanced our quality of life in many ways.
4 Engineering has played a pivotal role in building Singapore’s resilience against many global challenges. Take for instance climate change, an existential challenge that has led to rising sea levels, dry spells and intense thunderstorms. Engineering solutions will be central to mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects.
5 We have seen how engineering has helped to enhance Singapore’s water and food security. From the use of technology to develop urban farms, to recycling used water into NEWater to close our water loop, engineering expertise has been integral in helping Singapore to overcome many of our inherent constraints as a small city state with limited natural resources. Engineering solutions are also much needed in lowering the carbon footprint of our buildings, increasing the energy efficiency of our cooling systems and automating our cleaning and sanitation sector.
6 The COVID-19 pandemic has also demonstrated the importance of engineering innovation. Engineers from various fields have come forward to develop smart solutions to keep our community safe. We have seen many remarkable innovations as we meet the evolving challenges of the pandemic — from ventilators, AI temperature screeners, to disinfecting robots and mobile applications such as TraceTogether and SafeEntry.
7 All these innovations, coupled with rapid developments in technology, make engineering a career that is more exciting than ever before. With their solid grounding in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (or STEM) subjects, our younger generation is well-positioned to not just take up engineering as a career, but make a positive impact on the future of Singapore and the world.
NED & EIC 2020
8 I am happy to see the IES take the lead in nurturing an interest in engineering amongst our students. I understand more than 100 teams took part in the EIC this year, and pursued projects such as using irradiated containers to reduce bacteria in stored food, developing a UV tunnel for the sushi conveyer belt, and exploring the use of ionising radiation to grow huckleberries in tropical climates. The IES has given students precious opportunities to discover engineering outside of their classroom, and to gain hands-on experience in developing inventions to solve real world problems. These are commendable efforts.
9 EIC 2020’s focus on food safety and security is very apt. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of having a secure and diversified food supply. When many countries undertook lockdown measures, there was an adverse impact on global trade and supply chains. As Singapore currently imports more than 90 per cent of our food, we are vulnerable to such disruptions in the global food system. And in the face of challenges posed by climate change, such as increasingly erratic weather conditions, our food production must not only be high yielding, but also climate-resilient and resource-efficient.
10 Given that we produce less than 10 per cent of our nutritional needs now, it is even more crucial for us to harness technology and creative minds like yours to push the frontiers of local food production. We are no longer just growing our foods, we are producing our foods with manufacturing equipment and processes. This will allow Singapore to meet our “30 by 30” goal, which is to meet 30 per cent of our nutritional needs with locally produced food, by 2030.
11 To all the aspiring engineers here today, I am happy to share that we expect to see many new jobs created in the agri-food industry over the next 10 years. We will need specialists and engineers like yourselves, with expertise in process control, automation and robotics to help ramp up local food production. These and many other opportunities await you in the future. The future in sustainability and climate mitigation and adaptation requires engineering solutions. From building flood protection structures, more efficient solar PV system, charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, harnessing value from waste to high yield agri-tech system, we look to engineering – whether civil, mechanical, mechatronics, electrical, electronics, process, systems, chemical – you name it, we will need the whole suite of discipline and expertise for solutions to our current and future challenges. Our upcoming Tuas Nexus is one example of how engineering solutions will come together to break new grounds in a first-of-its-kind greenfield project to harness the synergies of co-locating waste and used water treatment facilities.
12 Let me conclude by congratulating all participating students of EIC, for applying the knowledge gained in school to solve real-life problems. Regardless of the results of the competition, I urge you to keep this inquisitive spirit, drive and passion to continue to make positive changes.
13 I would also like to congratulate all the winners of the IES Prestigious Engineering Achievement Award 2020 who will be receiving your awards later. Thank you for your wonderful contributions to our society. I hope that your work will inspire our younger generation to do more and go further.