Agency for Science, Technology and Research

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The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (Abbreviation: A*STAR; Chinese: 新加坡科技研究局) is a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Singapore. A*STAR is the lead public agency that drives mission-oriented research to advance scientific discovery and technological innovation. The primary aim is to create economic growth and jobs for Singapore, and contribute to societal benefits such as improving outcomes in healthcare, urban living and sustainability. As a Science and Technology organization, A*STAR bridges the gap between academia and industry in terms of research and development.

The agency supports R&D that is aligned to areas of competitive advantage and national needs for Singapore. These span the four technology domains of Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (AME), Health and Biomedical Sciences (HBMS), Urban Solutions and Sustainability (USS), and Services and Digital Economy (SDE) set out under the nation’s five-year R&D plan (RIE2020). [9]

The agency has 18 research institutes and several consortia, which are located mostly in Biopolis and Fusionopolis. The total strength of the A*STAR community, including scientists and researchers, technical and non-technical staff, and industry development and commercialization staff was 5,400.


A*STAR was established in 1991 with the primary mission to advance the economy and improve lives by growing the knowledge-intensive biomedical, research, scientific and engineering fields. [10] It was formerly known as the National Science and Technology Board (NSTB) until January 2002.

On 29 September 2003, A*STAR opened Biopolis, Singapore’s hub for the biomedical sciences. A*STAR's nine biomedical research institutes and centres are located at Biopolis, along with other corporate research labs by companies such as Novartis, Danone, Abbott and Procter & Gamble. Over the years, the biomedical sector in Singapore has expanded in tandem with Biopolis. In 2000, the sector contributed 10 per cent to Singapore's manufacturing value-add. In April 2017, biomedical manufacturing was the second largest contributor to total manufacturing value-add at 19.6 per cent. [11]

Fusionopolis One was launched in October 2008, adding a second R&D hub on physical sciences and engineering. The opening of Fusionopolis came as Singapore recorded its highest Gross Domestic Expenditure in R&D (GERD) of S$6.3 billion at that time in 2007. The amount was an unprecedented increase of 26 per cent from the 2006 GERD, and double the amount of S$3 billion recorded in 2000. [12]

In October 2015, A*STAR opened Fusionopolis Two at the one-north precinct. Together with Fusionopolis One which was launched in 2008, the Fusionopolis cluster integrates all of A*STAR’s science and engineering research capabilities and fosters close collaboration between the private and public sectors. The co-location of A*STAR’s research institutes at Fusionopolis and Biopolis brings together researchers and industry partners to work closely on projects. [13]

A*STAR Entities

The agency is made up of:

  • The Biomedical Research Council (BMRC) – Oversees public sector research activities in the biomedical sciences
  • The Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC) – Oversees public sector research activities in the physical sciences & engineering
  • The A*STAR Graduate Academy (A*GA) – Administers science scholarships and fellowships, and coordinates collaborative programmes with universities
  • Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd (ETPL) – Manages the intellectual property created by research institutes in Singapore, and facilitates technology transfer to industry


The current chairman of A*STAR is Mr Lim Chuan Poh. He was formerly the Permanent Secretary (Education) and the Chief of Defence Force. Mr Lim took over the reins of A*STAR from Mr Philip Yeo, who later became Chairman of SPRING Singapore, on 1 April 2007.

The A*STAR leadership also includes Prof Tan Chorh Chuan, Dr, Mr, Dr Sydney Brenner, Prof, Prof Sir, Prof Sir David Lane, Dr, Prof, Mr and Prof.

Research Institutes & Units

Biomedical Research Council

The Biomedical Research Council (BMRC) oversees research institutes and other research units that serve to support key industry clusters in Biomedical Sciences, such as pharmaceuticals, medical technology, biotechnology and healthcare services.

The BMRC Research Institutes focus on building up core biomedical capabilities in the areas of bioprocessing; chemical synthesis; genomics and proteomics; molecular and cell biology; bioengineering and nanotechnology and computational biology.

In addition, A*STAR places great emphasis on translating new knowledge and technologies created at the “benches” into new clinical applications for diagnosis and treatment that can one day be delivered at the “bedsides” of our hospitals and disease centres.

The research institutes and units under BMRC are:

Science and Engineering Council

A*STAR's Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC) promotes public sector research and development in the physical sciences & engineering.

SERC manages research institutes and several state-of-the art centres and facilities with core competencies in a wide range of fields including communications, data storage, materials, chemicals, computational sciences, microelectronics, advanced manufacturing and metrology. These serve to tackle global technological challenges and create future industries.

The research institutes and units under SERC are:

  • Data Storage Institute (DSI)
  • Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences (ICES)
  • (IHPC)
  • Institute of Infocomm Research (I 2 R)
  • Institute of Microelectronics (IME)
  • Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE)
  • National Metrology Centre (NMC)
  • Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech)
  • Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC)

Six out of A*STAR's eight SERC research institutes are located at Fusionopolis One and Two. These include: Data Storage Institute (DSI), Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC), Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R), Institute of Microelectronics (IME), Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) and Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech).

Industry Engagement

A*STAR collaborates with industry partners, public sector agencies and the wider research community to drive innovation and enterprise for Singapore. Between 2011 – 2015, A*STAR worked on 8,965 industry projects, almost six times that of the previous five-year tranche of 1,547. This has resulted in more than S$1.6 billion in industry R&D spending. A*STAR also signed 1,030 licensing agreements over the same period, of which 70 per cent were signed with local SMEs. [14]

By aligning its research with industry demand, the agency has seeded collaborations with multi-national companies such as Rolls-Royce, Applied Materials, Inc., Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., anchoring their presence in Singapore and facilitating the creation of good jobs and high value investments.

In 2014, P&G opened its S$250 million Singapore Innovation Centre at Biopolis to combine P&G’s deep consumer understanding with A*STAR’s expertise in multi-disciplinary sciences and promote knowledge sharing. The innovation centre is poised to support the company’s product development in the areas of beauty, home care, as well as personal health and grooming, with research done here being incorporated into producing products for brands such as Pantene and SK-II. [15]

In October 2015, Applied Materials announced the opening of a new joint R&D laboratory with A*STAR. The five-year agreement included the opening of a S$150 million lab that would be located at Fusionopolis Two. The lab’s research would focus primarily on developing advanced semiconductor technologies for use in future generations of logic and memory chips, found in smartphones and laptops. The collaboration with A*STAR marked the second time that Applied Materials has chosen to conduct product development and commercialisation activities outside its Santa Clara headquarters in the US. [16]

A*STAR grows and strengthens local enterprises with the aim of helping them stay globally competitive. This ranges from long-term research and development with industry groups to helping to enhance the technology competency of individual companies and supporting them to go-to-market.

A*STAR’s Growing Enterprises with Technology Upgrade (GET-Up) programme leverages the technical capabilities of A*STAR’s research institutes to upgrade SMEs through the secondment of our researchers, provision of technical advisory services, and support in technology roadmapping. Since its inception in 2003, GET-Up has benefitted 580 SMEs, and about 700 research scientists and engineers have been seconded to local enterprises to work on over 600 projects. [9]

A*STAR also plays a significant role in the formation of several key industry consortia, further driving collaboration and innovation in key sectors, such as high-value manufacturing. One such consortia is the A*STAR Aerospace consortium, which brings together public researchers and leading commercial players in the aerospace industry to collaborate and develop solutions for technological challenges faced by the industry. The A*STAR Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC) is also collaborating with over 35 industry partners to develop technologies that can be readily adopted by the aerospace industry to address the challenges of high component costs and sustainability. [9]

Future of Manufacturing

To prepare Singapore’s manufacturing industry for the future economy, A*STAR outlined its Future of Manufacturing (FoM) roadmap and initiatives at the Committee of Supply Debate 2017. [9]

The goal is to sustain Singapore’s competitiveness in manufacturing, and become a technology innovation hub, a location of choice for test-bedding cutting-edge technologies, and a thought leader in growth areas. [9]

A*STAR would be establishing Model Factories at two locations: one at A*STAR’s ARTC, and another at A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech). These platforms allow companies to experience the latest manufacturing technologies first-hand in a learning environment, and collaborate with stakeholders to test-bed and jointly develop innovative solutions for their processes.

The agency's Tech Access scheme would provide companies, particularly SMEs, access to A*STAR's base of advanced manufacturing facilities and training expertise to build capabilities in advanced manufacturing through the use of advanced machine tools, new processes, prototyping and testing. Another initiative, Tech Depot, offers SMEs a suite of easy-to-use technologies that can help them improve productivity. It would showcase ready-to-go (RTG) packaged solutions such as inventory-tracking, and business process automation systems. [9]

A*STAR’s ARTC would jointly conduct manpower training sessions with consulting firm McKinsey & Company to groom talent for jobs in advanced manufacturing technologies. These sessions cover areas such as predictive maintenance, digitised performance management, procurement and supply chain. [9]

SIMTech also signed MOUs with the Trade Associations and Chambers, the Singapore Precision Engineering and Technology Association (SPETA), and the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF), to provide their members with training to deepen their manufacturing capabilities for the Future Economy. [9]

Beyond Manufacturing

Food and Nutrition is an emerging sector in Singapore. One of Singapore’s successes between 2011 and 2015 was in growing an R&D ecosystem for the F&N and consumer care sector. This has led to the creation of close to 1,000 new R&D jobs. [9] Leading nutrition companies such as Nestlé (Nestle Research Centre) and Danone (Nutricia Research) have either established new facilities or expanded existing ones in Biopolis, and are working closely with A*STAR to conduct R&D to develop healthier and safer products. [9]

A*STAR also aims to foster a robust medtech and biotech community by seeding the ecosystem with technologies and talent, and supporting local biotech start-ups. [9]

A*STAR’s Diagnostics Development Hub (DxD) was launched in 2014 to cater to the fast growing demand for devices that would make it faster and easier for healthcare professionals to make quicker diagnosis and improve treatment outcome for patients. The hub would help transform innovations into clinically-validated diagnostic devices that are ready for market adoption. [10]

Singapore’s first publicly-funded drug candidate, ETC-159, which was discovered and developed through a collaboration between A*STAR’s Experimental Therapeutics Centre (ETC) and D3, and Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, advanced into Phase 1 clinical trials in July 2015. This drug targets a number of cancers, including colorectal, ovarian and pancreatic cancers, which contribute to a significant proportion of Singapore’s cancer burden. [10]

A*STAR further announced that its second locally-developed cancer drug, ETC-206, which targets blood cancers has advanced to first-in-man trials in 2016. [10] A*STAR would also be building a centre for large molecules, known as the Experimental Biologics Centre (EBC). [10]

In 2016, A*STAR’s commericialisation arm, ETPL opened the first-of-its-kind “open innovation lab” and the incubator known as A*START Central with 10 medtech, biotech and Internet start-ups on board. It can support up to 25 start-ups with conducive infrastructure, mentorship, funding and access to business networks. [10]

Scientific Talent

A*STAR has a diverse community of 5,400 staff from over 60 countries and nurtures a vibrant community of local scientific talent through its fellowships and scholarships since 2001. This has created a steady flow of R&D talent to strengthen Singapore’s competitive edge for innovative technologies and develop its reputation as an international research hub. [10] [10]

Since the inception of the A*STAR scholarship programme in 2001, over 700 scholars have completed their PhD or post-doctoral education and are contributing to Singapore’s R&D ecosystem in various ways. [10]

Some of the scholarships and attachment programmes run by A*GA are listed below:

  • A*STAR Undergraduate Scholarship (AUS)
  • National Science Scholarship (BS)
  • National Science Scholarship (PhD)
  • National Science Scholarship (MD-PhD)
  • National Science Scholarship (MBBS-PhD)
  • A*STAR Graduate Scholarship (Singapore)
  • A*STAR Graduate Scholarship (Post-Doc)
  • Singapore International Graduate Award (SINGA)
  • Singapore International Pre-Graduate Award (SIPGA)
  • A*STAR International Fellowship (AIF)
  • A*STAR-University of Warwick (AWP) EngD Partnership
  • A*STAR Research Attachment Programme (ARAP)
  • Research Attachment for Overseas Singaporeans (RAOS)
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