Opening Address By
Professor Bertil Andersson
President, Nanyang Technological University Singapore
9th International Conference on Materials for Advanced Technologies
Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre
Monday, 19 June 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning! It is my honour to join you this morning at the opening ceremony of the 9th International Conference on Materials for Advanced Technologies 2017 – or ICMAT (pronounced “I-cee Mat”). It is a fantastic crowd we have here, and in particular, I want to welcome those who have come from faraway and different corners to Singapore.
As you all know, I am a simple plant biochemist. But I have done my duty for material science, because my first duty as President of NTU in July 2011 was to open the ICMAT conference. So that was a good start!
And being a biochemist, you might think that I feel be outnumbered here with so many material science experts in this room. But I don’t see it that way. In fact, materials science is related to so many other fields, including my own. Virtually everything that we use in our daily lives involve materials science and technology. Today, at our NTU campus, we have the biggest wooden building in Singapore – so that’s also material science. Materials science is so central to our daily lives even though we may not think about it.
ICMAT is a premier materials science and engineering conference in the world held bi-annually in Singapore. The first conference was held in 2001, and here we are now at its ninth edition. Throughout this period, the hallmark of ICMAT has been the anchoring of contemporary themes by Nobel Laureate speakers and other eminent materials scientists.
From the beginning, the theme of the ICMAT events was “Materials for Advanced Technologies”, underlining the importance of materials in today’s economy. The advanced technologies are truly diverse, ranging from biomedical devices to energy conversion to defence applications and aerospace. It is for this reason that the conference has always attracted thousands of practitioners from both scientific and engineering backgrounds.
As organiser of this conference series, the Materials Research Society of Singapore (MRSS) has served as a forum for scientists and engineers to interact and raised the profile of materials research generally. While the Society’s designation is national, its outlook is global, as its mission is to promote an interdisciplinary approach to materials research.
The first ICMAT in 2001 attracted more than 1,300 participants. It was attended by five Nobel laureates, who agreed because of their confidence in the meticulous organisation of Professor B.V.R. Chowdari. That set the standard for ICMAT, with each incarnation replicating this quality by inviting Nobel laureates, and renewing the program to keep it contemporary and engaging. Subsequent meetings since have grown in size and stature, with this year’s event being attended by in excess of 2,300 delegates. That’s quite a remarkable number I would say!
And this year’s conference is yet another huge success as can be seen by the array of speakers and delegates assembled this morning. They include three Nobel laureates in Professor Hiroshi Amano, Professor Sir James Fraser Stoddart, and Professor Kostya Novoselov. They will share with us their insights and perspectives as part of the conference’s Nobel Laureate Public Lectures and Plenary Lectures.
All this is a tribute to the broad support and enthusiasm of the materials science community. In particular, we acknowledge the long commitment of Professor Chowdari. It is appropriate that Singapore is the host of the biennial ICMAT conference. Although young as a country and small in population, Singapore’s reach in education and research has been extraordinary. Nothing exemplifies this excellence better than its progress in Materials Science and Engineering.
Indeed, the Materials Science and Engineering departments at NTU and NUS are amongst the best in the world. According to the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017, NTU and NUS are ranked 7th and 8th respectively in materials science. These two universities are also placed in the top 15 of the most recent QS World University Rankings – NTU at number 11 and NUS at 15th. And I must add that among the small countries, I think it is only Switzerland that can live up to this high level.
Of course, we need to acknowledge the vision and sustained support of the Singapore government in education and research. It set up various research institutes such as the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), to conduct world-class materials research, in addition to pumping resources into the university sector. The government also provided incentives for MNCs reliant of materials science and engineering R&D to establish a presence in Singapore.
Before coming to Singapore over 10 years ago, I was head of the European Science Foundation. And in my interactions with the European ministers of science, they always talked about investing in Europe’s knowledge society. The difference here in Singapore though, from my experience, is that the Singapore Government walks the talk, and that has been very rewarding.
I am a believer in coupling university activity with various industries to ensure that we address questions that are not only fundamentally interesting, but also to seize opportunities to harness these discoveries for the good of society. It is not either or, it is both. That is why NTU already has partnerships with top companies such as Rolls-Royce, BMW, Delta Electronics, Lockheed Martin and homegrown ST Engineering and SMRT Corporation.
It is clear that the field of materials science and technology will continue to grow in importance in the years to come. I have no doubt many that many formal and informal discussions will take place during the week both inside and outside this venue that will lead to new ideas, new collaborations, new friendships, and new science.
It is now my pleasure to declare the 9th International Conference on Materials for Advanced Technologies 2017 open.
Thank you, and have a good week ahead!