A*STAR Aerospace helps the Singapore aerospace industry to maintain a technological advantage through its Aerospace Research Consortium.
Could you describe A*STAR’s core focus and operations in the country, and how these contribute to Singapore’s continued growth and development?
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is Singapore’s lead public agency that spearheads economic-oriented research to advance scientific discovery and develop innovative technology. With 5,400 staff, research is largely organized under two entities: the Science and Engineering Research Council and the Biomedical Research Council. The research entities are primarily located in Fusionopolis and Biopolis respectively.
We collaborate with partners in both the public and private sectors and catalyze research in the industry through joint innovation. The science and engineering research entities conduct research within clusters such as Electronics, Chemicals, Marine and Offshore, MedTech, Biologics and Aerospace. Our research focuses on creating economic growth and jobs and enhance lives by contributing to societal benefits, such as improving outcomes in healthcare, urban living, and sustainability. We work closely with the Economic Development Board of Singapore to support the industry in Singapore and collaborate with global partners.
A*STAR plays a key role in nurturing and developing a robust and diverse innovation workforce for Singapore’s research, innovation and enterprise ecosystem through our scholarship and talent development programs.
What is the importance of the aerospace sector for A*STAR comparatively to other industries and what is the vision for the sector moving forward?
A*STAR supports Singapore’s vision to be a leading aviation hub through innovative research and development. The aerospace sector is an important sector for Singapore which has seen a steady growth of 8.6% CAGR over the last 20 years and employs some 20,000 staff, 90% of which are skilled jobs. A*STAR collaborates with the aviation industry through its Aerospace Program, and the flagship for this effort is the A*STAR Aerospace Research Consortium. Launched in 2007, the Consortium undertakes pre-competitive research to address challenges in the Aerospace Industry. Through this platform, members can leverage on A*STAR’s research resources and state-of-the-art infrastructure.
Led by A*STAR’s physical science and engineering research institutes, the consortium engages in all aspects of aerospace R&D from advanced materials, manufacturing processes and automation, information and communication, inspection and non-destructive testing, computational modeling and dynamics. Starting with just four founding members, the consortium now has 15 members, which include many, if not most, of the leading commercial aircraft and engine manufacturers, component and specialized aviation materials companies, and leading local enterprises. To-date, the A*STAR Aerospace Program has undertaken more than 100 multi-disciplinary projects.
Could you outline some of the projects that have been undertaken by A*Star?
The scope of aviation research is very broad due to the range of memberships in the Consortium, which literally covers most commercial aviation interests. A*STAR possesses strong competencies in various areas of specialization through our research institutes (RIs) which are well equipped. Some of the projects include research into new materials, ranging from the treatment of pipelines to prevent coking, to new materials with special properties useful for aviation. This includes conductive composites, which may one day replace the current approach of protecting composite structures of the latest generation aircraft against lightning strikes.
In electronics, we are innovating designs for harsh environments, such as high-temperature packaging, in order to meet the future needs of more-electric aircraft, for which current designs are inadequate. Smart sensors that enable continuous and on-line monitoring of engine oil levels, an improvement on the current off-line periodic checks, is another example. In coatings, we research super-hydrophobic materials as well as ice-phobic coatings. There is an interest in Direct-Write technologies, which will allow for efficient and cost-effective health monitoring of modern aircraft. We undertake research to improve internet connectivity and capacity to meet the needs of modern society. There is also an interest in exploring possibilities beyond wireless communication. Touch-up painting repairs on aircraft structures are also a challenge to be addressed in a deterministic way through technology. Today it is done through human judgment, which has its limitations.
Could you highlight a few of A*STAR’s aerospace partners?
We collaborate with various aviation companies, many of which have research or operations within Singapore. One them is Rolls-Royce. Our partnership dates back to 2004, when Rolls-Royce established an Advanced Technology Centre in Singapore and signed a master agreement with A*STAR to collaborate on research to address a broad portfolio of technology challenges. The relationship between both parties deepened over the years and Rolls-Royce was one of the four Founding Members of the A*STAR Aerospace Program, the other founding members being Boeing, Airbus (then EADS) and Pratt & Whitney. Four years ago, Rolls-Royce invested in a $700 million Singapore dollar manufacturing facility at Seletar Aerospace Park to produce some of their latest products.
What are your views on the regulatory framework which supports the aerospace industry?
The aerospace industry, from an engineering and MRO perspective, is highly regulated and international in nature. Although there are country-to-country nuances, most of the Western World practices are regulated under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Space Agency (EASA), and the two are largely similar in requirements.
Work done in Singapore has to meet the requirements of the Civil Aviation Authorities of Singapore (CAAS) and, depending on the market where the work is intended for, it usually has to meet the FAA’s or EASA’s requirements as well as the country requirements of the end-user. These requirements relate more to engineering developments and MRO. Certification would be done at the product development stage. To facilitate recognition of work done in Singapore, for example, the CAAS has a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) with the FAA, which outlines a mutual acceptance of design and production certifications. Companies which have work certified through the CAAS might benefit from this cross-recognition.