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NTU and UNSW open joint center to study microorganisms for water and environment technologies

Get clean water just by controlling the behaviours of the bacteria, or by using bacteria to speed up the water and wastewater purification process.

These will be possible once the researchers in the new Advanced Environmental Biotechnology Centre (AEBC) analyse the biological behaviours of microbial communities. The aim is to reduce the cost, time and energy by 10 to 50 percent to produce clean water and to treat wastewater.

Jointly set up by Singapore's Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Australia's University of New South Wales (UNSW), and supported by Singapore's Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Environment & Water Industry Programme Office (EWI), AEBC will focus on research in environmental biotechnology, bioprocess development and engineering, and marine processes and health.

Drawing on the technology-based bioprocess expertise in NTU and UNSW's strength in microbial and marine ecology, the Centre seeks to address issues on water production, water and wastewater purification, reduce energy usage in these processes and in the reclamation of used water.

The Centre will also develop monitoring capabilities, sensor systems and management programmes to safeguard Singapore's coastal waters as these have impact on desalination, shipping, recreation, and food resources.

Led by Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute (NEWRI) Executive Director Professor Ng Wun Jern, and UNSW Professor Peter Steinberg, AEBC when fully operational will be supported by eight core researchers and nine research fellows.

Besides research activities, AEBC will develop collaborative programmes with other NEWRI centres and industry partners, and participate in NTU's postgraduate education. The Centre plans to train 26 graduate students for the water industry by 2015.

"This partnership will enable the two universities to pool our research expertise and technological resources, bringing us closer to our goal of developing world-class innovations in environmental biotechnology for sustainable water and environmental management. This set up marks the beginning of a strong relationship in and an axis in education and research. This will serve as an important building block for further cooperation not only between Singapore and Australia, but also between academia and industry," says NTU Provost, Professor Bertil Andersson.

"UNSW is greatly honoured to be in Singapore today to launch the Advanced Environmental Biotechnology Centre in partnership with the highly esteemed NTU. The NTU-UNSW-AEBC partnership has grown from academic collaboration between the Faculty of Science at UNSW and NEWRI at NTU in this very important area of research. The opening of this important Centre demonstrates how two leading research teams can benefit from close collaboration, working together for mutual benefit to benefit Singapore, Australia and the region. UNSW wishes to express its gratitude to EDB of Singapore which is strongly supporting this Centre. Through this trilateral partnership we look forward to making significant advances in scientific research," says Professor Les Field, UNSW Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research).

AEBC is the latest facility to be launched under NEWRI which was established by NTU in 2007. AEBC will boost NTU's research efforts in the earth's sustainability and play an important role in Singapore's push to be a global hub of water technologies and innovations.

In order to promote greater synergy and trans-disciplinary R&D among its research centres, NEWRI will house all its research centres and groups at a single location in Singapore's first eco-business park, the CleanTech Park developed by JTC, together with the Energy Research Institute at NTU (ERI@N). Sited next to NTU, CleanTech Park will house a core nucleus of cleantech activities and serve as an epi-centre for research, innovation and commercialisation in clean technology. It will also serve as the primary window through which industry and partners can access NTU's energy, environmental and water technologies capabilities. As the first and anchor tenant, NTU will occupy 7,000 square metres in CleanTech Park, and help to seed R&D activities in the park.

Witnessing the official launch of AEBC are Guest-of-Honour, Dr Amy Khor, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, His Excellency Doug Chester, Australian High Commissioner to Singapore, together with representatives from UNSW and NTU, the water research community, and industry partners.


Contact: Esther Ang
Nanyang Technological University

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