NTU builds its first overseas water treatment plant in Vietnam
Remote-monitored one-man operation is the first such plant in South-east Asia
A Nanyang Technological University (NTU) start-up has successfully launched its first overseas water treatment plant in Vietnam on Friday, 10 May 2013.
Located at Duc Hoa, at Long An province near Ho Chi Minh City, the newly built plant is about the size of a 5-room HDB flat (120 square metres) but has an output of 1 million litres of drinking water daily (equivalent to 6,600 Singaporeans’ daily water consumption).
Compared with water plants in the area, the high-tech remote-monitored plant built by NTU’s new start-up, De.Mem Pte Ltd, will supply cleaner and cheaper potable water at just two-thirds of current prices there.
The first of its kind in South-east Asia, the plant is unique because it requires just one person to operate, and will be linked wirelessly via an NTU-designed network back to the Singapore office, which will oversee and manage its daily operations.
This new plant, a joint venture between De.Mem and Vietnam company GD Wasser, is backed by Singapore-based investment firm, New Asia Investments, which had invested S$300,000 into De.Mem.
A subsidiary and partner of MINT (Membrane Instruments & Technology), an NTU spin-off company supplying water quality sensor technologies for water treatment plants, De.Mem’s (short for Decentralised Membranes) role in the joint venture is to design, build and operate the water treatment plant.
The NTU start-up had leveraged on superior membrane technologies from Singapore to deliver cleaner yet cheaper water. It uses MINT’s patented membrane integrity sensor technologies developed at NTU’s Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute (NEWRI), which is able to monitor the plant’s performance, allowing for early detection of issues to keep it operating at optimum levels.
General Manager of De.Mem, Dr Adrian Yeo, said the innovative water network model is a combination of the latest in info-communications technology, MINT’s patented sensors, and Singapore-developed membranes and treatment processes.
“This model is a new form of de-centralised water treatment plants, where we can control the quality and operations of dozens of small water plants simultaneously while only needing very few skilled workers locally,” said Dr Yeo, who is also General Manager of MINT.
“It allows us to supply clean water to nearby communities and industries at a low cost as lesser energy is needed to distribute the water over short distances, as compared to those of a centralised water distribution network.”
Dr Yeo, who is also a Research Fellow at NTU’s Singapore Membrane Technology Centre, an offshoot of NEWRI that focuses on membrane research, said that as water infrastructure is being developed in countries like Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia, the concept of decentralised plants are becoming increasingly popular, since membrane technology has a small footprint and is modular.
Future expansion in Vietnam
Riding on the successful launch of this first plant, four more water treatment plants are being planned for Vietnam by the end of this year, which will be based on De.Mem’s decentralised water network model. The upcoming plants include a retrofit of an existing 2,000 square metres facility, which will also be a joint venture with GD Wasser and financed by New Asia Investments.
Andreas Kroell, Director of New Asia Investments said MINT’s new model is very appropriate for developing countries such as Vietnam, as it reduces cost for communities and companies, while supplying better quality water.
“Our investment in De.mem and GD Wasser meets a strong market need for modern, but cost-efficient de-centralized water treatment technologies in SE Asia,” Mr Kroell said. “The synergies with the know-how of MINT and the leading expertise of NTU in this space provide an excellent basis for further expansion of the business model.”
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About Nanyang Technological University
A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has 33,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, and Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences. It has a new medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.
NTU is also home to world-class autonomous institutes – the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI), Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) and the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI).
A fast-growing university with an international outlook, NTU is putting its global stamp on Five Peaks of Excellence: Sustainable Earth, Future Healthcare, New Media, New Silk Road, and Innovation Asia.
Besides the main Yunnan Garden campus, NTU also has a satellite campus in Singapore’s science and tech hub, one-north, and a third campus in Novena, Singapore’s medical district.
For more information, visit www.ntu.edu.sg
About MINT and De.Mem
MINT was founded in 2009 on water sensor technologies developed at NTU’s Singapore Membrane Technology Centre. MINT is currently valued at S$7 million, triple its value in 2011, after De.Mem, a subsidiary worth S$3 million, was set up earlier this year.
MINT, which specialises in water quality monitoring systems, was given a recent injection of funds by venture capitalist New Asia Investments, successfully completing its Series A funding, which typically ranges from $500,000 to $5 million in Singapore.
Its propriety sensor technologies are used by De.Mem in constructing the new type of decentralised high-tech water treatment plants. Both start-ups are managed by General Manager, Dr Adrian Yeo, a entrepreneur and scientist in water technologies.
Apart from ramping up commercialisation of water technologies, Dr Yeo, who graduated from NTU, is also interested in grooming future environmental engineers and entrepreneurs, much like how he was mentored at NTU by his professors.
The young entrepreneur, who has won the Nanyang Award for Humanity, Asian Development Bank’s Water Champion and the Watermark Award, has in the past three years mentored over 10 NTU undergraduate students as well as several polytechnic students in the area of environmental engineering. He also won the inaugural Don Quixote Fund Award at the 2009 Singapore International Water Week.
About New Asia Investments
New Asia Investments Pte Ltd is an experienced technology investor in Asia with a focus on med tech, clean tech (water and energy) and industrial innovations.
With economies in many Asian countries developing and maturing over the past decades, R&D and high tech innovation have become increasingly important to sustain and drive future economic growth. New Asia Investment’s focus sectors play a particularly important role within this trend, driven by other factors such as population growth, urbanization or ageing societies.
New Asia Investments’ own investment case is based on these developments. It targets to select the most promising innovations for investments that play a crucial role in these countries and sectors. Being active in Singapore since 2008, it is based in a strategic location to explore the opportunities in the growth countries of Asia.
As a Venture Capitalist investor, New Asia Investments has a very hands-on investment management approach and actively works with entrepreneurial and technical management teams in order to build a sustainable and successful business around an invention.
Being the group holding and mother company, New Asia Investments has the flexibility to invest either direct or through local / regional fund structures. This gives the company a highly flexible and opportunistic business model.
In Singapore, New Asia Investments Pte Ltd manages a separate Singapore-focused fund, in which Singapore government is a co-investor via National Research Foundation. Since 2009, the 22 million SGD fund has invested in five companies all headquartered in Singapore. With this strong reference, New Asia Investments targets to expand its business into other countries in Asia in the near term future.