​Speech by NTU President Professor Subra Suresh at the launch of the F&N-NTU F&B Innovation Lab

Published on: 07-Jan-2019

Speech By
Professor Subra Suresh
President, Nanyang Technological University

LAUNCH OF THE F&N-NTU F&B Innovation Lab

Monday, 7 January 2019, 4.30pm
CBE LT, N1.2-B2, Singapore 637459

Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education,

Mr Lee Meng Tat, CEO, Non-Alcoholic Beverages of Fraser & Neave (F&N)

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, a very Happy New Year to all of you and also good afternoon. I welcome you all today as we celebrate the official opening of the F&N-NTU F&B Innovation Lab. Singapore is known for food, and Singapore is known for acronyms. We combine the two here, so this is a very nice, very eclectic acronym. 

Over the years, NTU has partnered with many companies in fields such as artificial intelligence, digital manufacturing and autonomous systems. With the new joint lab between F&N and NTU, we will be advancing innovation for the food and beverage industry.  

Food sustainability and security are important areas of concern for the world. This is especially so for Singapore, where more than 90 per cent of the food consumed is imported. Food security is influenced by many factors -- the availability of food from domestic production or global markets, the accessibility, affordability, food safety and nutritional standards. Ensuring food security is a challenge. NTU, recognised as a top-tier global university with major strengths in interdisciplinary education and research, is well positioned to take up this challenge.

NTU has strong research activities already in food technology. Our Food Science and Technology (FST) programme has produced promising food technology innovations. From zero waste food processing and sustainable production of natural preservatives, to fermentation technology and biodegradable packaging materials, this new F&N-NTU F&B Innovation Lab will tap on these research capabilities to develop products with functional benefits in a sustainable way.    

This lab is very important to us, because NTU students who take part in the lab’s research projects will be able to witness first-hand industry’s best practices and sustainability efforts. F&N is a household name in many countries. As partners, NTU and F&N have similar beliefs when it comes to promoting a healthier lifestyle and sustainability. 

Research from this joint lab can help the food industry to create more innovative products and services for consumers. At NTU, sustainability is not just a buzzword. As part of the NTU’s Smart Campus initiative, just a few months ago, we launched the “ECHO” initiative, which stands for “Eco-friendly”, “Connected”, “Healthy” and “oneNTU”. NTU has ambitious plans to reduce energy, greenhouse gas emissions, water and waste intensity by as much as 35 per cent by 2021, and by as much as 50 per cent by 2025, compared to the levels of 2011. 

To reduce our carbon footprint, we have set a bold mission to achieve Green Mark Platinum certification for all our campus buildings by 2020, and to date, 96 per cent have won Green Mark certification. As part of global efforts to reduce single-use plastic, our food and retail outlets have stopped issuing free plastic bags since October, or three months ago. By taking such integrated efforts to leave a greener footprint, NTU is walking the talk to save the environment.  

This latest partnership with F&N will bring our efforts to a higher level. The joint lab will be an important testbed for zero waste food processing for the food and beverage industry. Currently, traditional food processing technology mainly targets the storage and transportation aspects of F&B products, but does not adequately address the large amount of food waste that arises from manufacturing processes. The new lab will develop new processing technologies that can offer more effective ways of recovering nutrients from food waste and return them back into the food chain. 

For example, NTU researchers have converted soybean residue that is usually discarded in soymilk processing into a form of biodegradable food packaging material. Through further research and innovation, the lab can bring such innovative ideas to industry by recycling waste into valuable materials. In addition, the lab will develop new ways to reduce food wastage by effectively prolonging the shelf life of food produce. 

Another key research area of the F&B Innovation Lab is developing ingredients that offer more health benefits. Food is part of our everyday life, and we all know how much Singaporeans love food. In the future, some of the healthy ingredients you may find on food labels are likely to come from the F&B Innovation Lab, housed right here on NTU’s Smart Campus. 

NTU and F&N have something else in common besides our pursuit of innovation and food products -- the late Dr Michael Fam, who led both our organisations. Dr Fam was the executive chairman of F&N from 1983 to 2007. He also chaired the Council of Nanyang Technological Institute, NTU’s predecessor, from 1981 to 1993. 

In 1996, NTU established the Michael Fam Visiting Professorship in Engineering in his honour. Later in 2013, Dr Fam made a gift to the professorship’s endowment fund, thereby creating the Michael Fam Chair Professorship in Food Science and Technology. Today the joint lab, with NTU’s Professor William Chen and F&N’s Dr Yap Peng Kang as co-directors, will take his vision further and deepen the longstanding ties between NTU and F&N.  

2019, which is only less than seven days old as of now, is off to a very good start with the opening of the F&B Innovation Lab. We look forward to a successful partnership with our colleagues from F&N, and many fresh and innovative ideas for the F&B industry in the future. I want to congratulate my faculty, research students and colleagues at NTU for initiating this partnership. I wish them all the best. Best of luck in this endeavour. Thank you.

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