WIPD 2020: Celebrating Innovation for a Green Future

From trash to electricity, to growing high-rise produce, here are some examples of how Singapore presents innovative solutions for a green future, in celebration of World Intellectual Property Day (WIPD). 

Themed “Innovate for a Green Future”, the World Intellectual Property Organization celebrates WIPD by challenging intellectual property (IP) offices to identify inventors and innovations in their country that have used the IP system to support the global transition to a low-carbon future. 

As one of Singapore’s lead innovation agency, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) proactively develops a vibrant IP ecosystem by keeping its regime robust and policies up-to-date with the demands of the industry. IPOS also rolls out pro-innovation initiatives to help businesses scale-up and expand beyond Singapore into global markets. Its efforts have been recognised globally in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, the WIPO’s Global Innovation Index and most recently, the World Trademark Review.

Sharmaine Wu, Director of the Registries of Patents, Designs & Plant Varieties at IPOS says, “New solutions and technologies can alleviate the problems the world faces in common, be it sustainability, healthcare or climate change. IP offices help innovators bring their solutions to the market and to the society. IPOS is committed to doing its part in supporting innovative individuals and enterprises worldwide through our programmes and our connectivity to the international IP system. In conjunction with WIPD celebrations here, IPOS will be launching a new patent programme to bolster its support for innovators across all technological areas. Innovators with solutions for a greener future can, too, tap on this new programme to accelerate deployment.”

IPOS will be launching the new programme later this month. In addition to IPOS’ efforts, the following cases reflect how Singapore innovates for a green future. 

IPDay2020-Primer

Photo: Courtesy of WIPO

Overcoming resource scarcity in Singapore 

In about 10 years, the global demand for energy will increase by 50% and for water by 40%. How can technological innovation address such challenges? 

Singapore recognises the need to address climate change in order to build a liveable and sustainable home for future generations. Close to SGD $1 billion has been committed by the government to research in urban solutions and sustainability, with a focus on areas such as renewable energy, cooling Singapore, and carbon capture. The innovative solutions created in Singapore can then be commercialised and help address global challenges. 

Singapore’s national water agency, PUB, is a good example of a government organisation supporting this cause. The agency will deploy one of world’s largest single floating solar photovoltaic systems on Tengeh Reservoir by 2021. When completed, the systems will generate sufficient green energy to meet the needs of the day-to-day operations of Singapore’s five raw water treatment plants, as well as the Marina Barrage. With this, Singapore’s waterworks will be one of the few in the world to run entirely on renewable energy. The project also reduces Singapore’s carbon footprint and overcome our land constraint.

 

PUB

Photo: Courtesy of PUB

From trash to a flash of electricity

The global movement against plastic waste is another key challenge. Last year alone, Singapore generated 930,000 tonnes of plastic waste with only four per cent being recycled. Taking a positive step towards becoming a zero-waste nation, a team of scientists at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), have devised a method to turn plastic waste into valuable chemicals by harnessing sunlight. 

NTU

Photo: Courtesy of NTU Singapore

Led by Dr Soo Han Sen, the research team mixed plastics with their catalyst in a solvent, which allows the solution to harness light energy and convert the dissolved plastics into formic acid – a chemical used in fuel cells to produce electricity. The catalyst is made from an affordable, biocompatible metal, vanadium, which is commonly used in steel alloys for vehicles and aluminium alloys for aircrafts. When the catalyst is dissolved in a solution containing a non-biodegradable consumer plastic and exposed to artificial sunlight, it breaks down the carbon-carbon bonds within the plastic in six days. 

Dr Soo said, “We aimed to develop sustainable and cost-effective methods to harness sunlight to manufacture fuels and other chemical products.”

NTU2

Photo: Courtesy of NTU Singapore

The research team filed a patent to protect their invention in 2016 and their research was published in the journal Advanced Science in October 2019. Such efforts to develop zero-waste solutions are part of the NTU Smart Campus’ vision to develop a sustainable future.

Urban vertical farm with sky-high potential

With a growing global population, demand for food is expected to rise 35% by 2030. The current global impact of the COVID-19 situation on supply chains makes countries like Singapore susceptible to disruptions.

One example of how technology can solve the issue of producing more with less is Sky Greens, a Singaporean vertical farm. The company has become a world leader in sustainable food production technology. 

SKY

Photo: Courtesy of Sky Greens Pte Ltd

Established in 2012, the company harnesses technology and innovation to provide solutions that addresses food security challenges in Singapore. Last year, the company received the Singapore Standard 632 certification for organic primary produce from Control Union Certifications, the world’s first national standard for organic vegetables grown in urban environments. The standard addresses challenges such as limited natural resources and higher operating costs due to energy consumption and manpower constraints.  

Sky Green’s system of special aluminium troughs on large A-frames allows the farm to grow 10 times as much vegetables using 95% less water as compared to traditional open field farms. The company has filed over 15 patents in Singapore and internationally to safeguard its technology. Trade marks are also in place to protect its branding. 

SKY2

Photo: Courtesy of Sky Greens Pte Ltd

Roshe Wong, Head of Business Development, said, “As a tech company, IP is a must-have, whether you do it offensively or defensively.”

The company now sells its produce to a local supermarket chain and exports to countries like China, Malaysia, Thailand and Viet Nam.

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1 Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, National Intelligence Council
https://www.nea.gov.sg/our-services/waste-management/waste-statistics-and-overall-recycling
3  Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, National Intelligence Council