SUTD combines technology, engineering and design for a smarter Singapore

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SUTD/Youtube sceengrab

In 2014, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong launched Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative, which aimed to address global urban challenges by developing people-centric solutions by deploying technology and digital infrastructure.

As part of initiative, the Government decided to raise cohort participation rates in local universities. Technology, engineering and design were recognized as critical fields to focus on for the future economy.

A Smart Nation is defined as “one where people are empowered by technology to lead meaningful and fulfilled lives”. Singapore has already rolled out several initiatives under this campaign and is ahead of the game in terms of merging technology and life to make things more effective for its people. Changi Airport, besides being the world’s number one airport, is on its way to becoming fully automated. The SGSecure national movement, Singapore’s community response to terrorism, aims to “sensitise, train, and mobilise our community to prevent and deal with a terror attack”.

On the education front, the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) that was founded in 2009 “will be a leading research-intensive global university focused on technology and all elements of technology-based design”.

SUTD prioritises the fundamentals of mathematics, science, and technology and supports creativity, entrepreneurship, innovation and global perspectives driven by the social sciences and the arts.

The world of education is changing, and Singapore wants to be at the frontlines. SUTD seeks to marry the disciplines and techniques of the East and West to create a unique Singapore experience.

From the beginning, top collaborators for SUTD were identified. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the world’s highest ranking universities in terms of research and academic strength, was chosen as SUTD’s partner. SUTD also chose to partner with Zhejiang University (ZJU), one of Asia’s leading research universities where entrepreneurship programs are thriving.

From the home turf, SUTD decided to work with Singapore Management University (SMU), connecting the best thinking and programmatic activities in technology, design and management. This powerhouse combination will drive the culture of research and entrepreneurship that SUTD aims to provide.

SUTD moved to a new campus in Changi Business Park and celebrated the graduation of their pioneer batch in 2015. The results were encouraging and impressive, with 85% of graduated students finding employment or enrolling in post-graduate studies at renowned universities. And, according to the annual Graduate employment Survey, SUTD’s engineers were earning among the highest median starting salaries of fresh graduates.

In terms of Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative, SUTD recognises the growing value in the integration of products, services and systems, where the physical and digital worlds meet. SUTD’s approach is to combine innovative mindsets with traditional disciplines, aiming to produce engineers and architects whose driving force will be designing methods to combat the world’s complex challenges.

SUTD, which intends to become “the world’s leading design-led university grounded in technology”, has also set-up partnerships with industries, businesses and other universities, for students to gain experience through projects and internships. It aims to maintain an open mind when it comes to collaboration, keeping its interests aligned with those of its students and faculty members.

For its next growth period, SUTD has set aside a multi-million dollar budget, with support from the Ministry of Education. The focus will be in four strategic fields — healthcare, cities, artificial intelligence/data science and aviation. These will be developed in the next five years to enhance SUTD’s offerings in research and education.