Water & Wastewater Asia Mar/Apr 2019

Water & Wastewater Asia • March / April 2019 42 | INSIGHT A cornerstone in Singapore’s water industry With a globally recognised research and development ecosystem in Singapore’s water industry that is rapidly expanding to translational activities, it is no surprise that the country is formalising its water value chain. A lthough Singapore is already known as a global hydrohub, according to Dr Adil Dhalla, Chair of the Steering Committee for Singapore’s National Membrane Consortium (SG-MEM), it is only the beginning. Membranes have always been a cornerstone of water treatment and purification, and they are fast becoming an intrinsic part of process technology, not just for the water industry, but others, such as the energy and petrochemical industries. Seeing the opportunities for membrane- based systems, with various companies either specialising in or needing certainmembranes, Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF) came up with the idea of SG-MEM, a consortium created with the sole purpose of bringing all related institutions and industries into one ecosystem. Dr Dhalla and Professor Gary Amy (National University of Singapore), who chairs the Technical Management Committee, were asked to set up and lead the consortium. DR DHALLA A cheerful, unassuming man with a razor- sharp intellect and clear vision for SG-MEM, Dr Dhalla was first tasked with setting up a translational facility for Separation Technologies in 2015. This was the genesis for what has developed into the Separation Technologies Applied Research and Translation (START) Centre, which he and his team have built up since its launch in 2016, and which he leads as its Managing Director. “I had been in General Electric for 15 years and had been heading GE’s water research centre by the time I decided it was time to make my next career move – which I had originally thought would be within GE. “Around that time, one of the things I was excited to hear from PUB and Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) was that they were very interested in taking some of the early-stage water-related inventions in Singapore and bring them to full scale products and processes. Given the significant platform of innovation in the area of membranes and separations, it was a great opportunity to create new technologies with benefits to communities in Singapore and beyond,” he explained. “At the time, we were in a situation where Singapore was known for its inventions, but we also increasingly wanted to be known for our products and processes, not merely discovered, but also developed here in Singapore. “A laboratory discovery is typically in a very early stage of technological readiness. The proof of concept might be there, but in order to bring this to a full scale product is a Dr Adil Dhalla, Chairman of the Steering Committee, SG-MEM, Singapore’s National Membrane Consortium