AsianScientist (Mar. 31, 2022) – From cleaning robots that rove around universities and airport terminals to health monitoring wearables that measure a variety of physical parameters, 2021 saw a host of innovative solutions emerging from Singapore.
Designed to address a range of challenges applicable across diverse sectors as well as spur on Singapore’s industrial landscape, three tech offers take centre stage as some of the most popular innovations featured on IPI’s Innovation Marketplace over the past year.
Additionally, as we look ahead to upcoming tech trends, find out what’s next on the horizon in the nation’s innovation ecosystem.
A year in innovation
Practical and unique to Singapore’s current challenges, IPI’s most popular tech offers span across wearables, soft robotics and food technology.
The first is a flexible and stretchable printed battery designed for wearables that provides seamless charging through the wearer’s sweat. While the global wearable electronics market is booming and expected to reach US$74.03 billion by 2026, a major pain point the industry continues to face is battery life. To mitigate the challenges of low-performing batteries, local innovators developed the flexible battery as an alternative to conventional power sources.
Designed to address the limitations of current commercial grippers, the next tech offer is a set of intelligent food-safe soft robotic grippers. Fabricated with 3D printing technologies, the gripper and finger designs have multiple gripping modes, adjustable grip poses and can be customised for specific situations like picking or sorting food products.
Lastly, in the realm of food technology, innovators have developed a pre-treatment process for plant proteins that increases the release and extractability of nutrients and increases yield and nutrient absorption. This method also allows functional protein to be extracted which can serve as a clean-label emulsifier, replacing conventional emulsifiers or gelling and foaming agents. The food industry would also benefit from a protein alternative that is lower in cost with a more complete amino acid profile.
As we look towards the future, a new set of tech trends are set to take the world by storm. Capable of enhancing our interactions with technology, improving our understanding of wellness and protecting the environment, such technologies pave the way for further progress in academia and industry.
One advancement poised to transform the future of society is human-machine interface (HMI) technology. For example, augmented reality and brain-computer interface (BCI) techniques.
Futuristic while remaining highly practical, augmented reality advancements like the development of positioning techniques, sensory, facial and objects detection, displays and more allow us to interact with virtual information in real time. Such technologies are relevant across industries and have the potential to improve productivity, security and efficiency.
BCI, on the other hand, controls the functioning of the machines and their different elements in the external environment using bioelectrical signals like electroencephalography (EEG), electromyography (EMG) and electrooculography (EOG). A boon for research, BCI technologies have been applied to medical, educational, advertising and security fields.
Zooming into the microbiome
Similarly versatile and applicable across industries is research into the microbiome. An ecosystem of microorganisms that inhabit our bodies, this complex collection of microbes can change over time, influenced by diet, living conditions and antibiotic intake.
Over the last decade, through genetic sequencing techniques, much light has been shed on the significant role the microbiome plays when it comes to immunity, mental health and metabolism.
Recently, research into the microbiome has been further catalyzed by investments in genomics and systems biology. In fact, as microbiome research advances, innovators have begun developing methods to assess unique individual microbiome compositions using next-generation sequencing (NGS).
So far, such assessments have allowed for personalized dietary and nutrition recommendations. As the precision medicine market continues to boom, advancements in microbiome research and NGS applications have the ability to further generate emerging avenues for targeted and personalized care.
Interestingly, microbiome developments can also be applied to industries like functional foods, agriculture, livestock, personal care and cosmetics.
Cutting back on carbon
Carbon emission reduction technologies—a field that has been in the spotlight since the UN’s 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement—continues to make headway with new advancements and scalability.
Currently, reduction technologies can be split into two distinct fronts. The first is tackling carbon dioxide emissions at the production level, through alternative energy sources like solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, hydro and biofuels that are clean and renewable. For example, Singapore invested in a 45-hectare floating solar farm that is expected to offset over 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year.
The second method focuses on post-production—mainly carbon capture and utilization (CCU). This method relies on capturing carbon dioxide and converting it into useful products like methanol or methane. Some examples of successful CCU technologies include pyrolysis, electro-reduction, and microalgae conversion. In fact, energy giants like Shell and ExxonMobil have already begun investing heavily in such technologies in order to reach net-zero emissions.
With the UN aiming to reduce global carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 from 2010 levels, and to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, carbon emission reduction technologies may be our best bet at a sustainable future.
With a robust understanding of prior successes and an eye on technology trends, Singapore’s innovation ecosystem is set for another exciting year ahead. Check out more emerging technologies at IPI’s Innovation Marketplace.
Asian Scientist Magazine is a content partner of IPI.