Signing Ceremony for the Memorandum of Understanding with Surbana Jurong Pte Ltd

Speech by Professor Tan Tai Yong, President, Yale-NUS College

at the Signing Ceremony for the Memorandum of Understanding with Surbana Jurong Pte Ltd,

15 November 2017 at Yale-NUS College 


Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry;

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC and Chairman of Chua Chu Kang Town Council;

Professor Lam Khee Poh, Dean of NUS School of Design and Environment;

Mr Poon Joe Keen, Managing Director of Surbana Technologies;

Guests, colleagues and students,


I am very happy to be signing this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Surbana Jurong, where we will work together to prototype a new generation of smart city technologies at the Yale-NUS College campus, building a “Smart City in a Campus”. At first glance, Surbana Jurong and Yale-NUS College may not seem to have much in common but in fact, we do. Built into both our DNAs is a commitment to innovation and the spirit to pioneer new ways of doing things better. Surbana Jurong’s aim to be an Asian-based consultancy for urbanisation and infrastructure developments internationally, resonates with how Yale-NUS, as a residential college located at the crossroads of Asia, aims to redefine liberal arts and science education for the world.

This partnership is an exciting one, as it drives us to keep innovating. Constant innovation and improvement are a key part of our academic and residential living model. This partnership with Surbana Jurong will enable us to use technology to cater for behavioural patterns and bring about a better living experience for our students.

Yale-NUS has some unique offerings that make it an ideal location to test-bed these new technologies. First, our students spend all four years of their college life living on campus, in suites of four to six people within three residential colleges. Apart from students, some residential faculty and staff, including myself, also live on campus. The campus spans 64,000 square metres, with 1,000 student rooms, seminar rooms, a library and a performance hall among other facilities. The College is a microcosm of the larger community and everyday living here mimics that of small residential towns. Our close-knit community also allows for more immediate feedback that can be shared to constantly improve and refine these technological solutions.

Secondly, our research expertise is another area where we hope this partnership will benefit the wider community. Research is a key component of the work that faculty do here, in addition to their teaching responsibilities. Our faculty is organised across three broad divisions – Humanities, Science and Social Sciences – to promote interactions between faculty members of different disciplines, fostering common teaching and research goals that can provide fresh insights to how we look at each of our subjects. Our faculty members can make use of the data gathered here and work with Surbana Jurong to translate these into real world solutions. Our students are also trained to learn and think in an interdisciplinary manner, to develop curious minds and think out of the box. This helps them embrace new technologies and fosters new ways of thinking about how we live. It is these fresh perspectives that we hope will help add value and better refine the prototypes tested. Among our 14 majors, we offer Environmental Studies, Urban Studies, Physical Sciences, Psychology as well as Mathematical, Computational and Statistical Sciences – expertise in these subjects would be highly beneficial for the development of smart city solutions. We are confident that this partnership with Surbana Jurong will lead to more opportunities for translational research by faculty and students to flourish at the College.

Thirdly, this partnership is closely aligned to the ethic of service we cultivate within our community. Feedback and input from staff, faculty and students will contribute to the rigorous enhancements that the prototypes go through, which will enable them to be robust and functional when extended to the wider community in Singapore and the world. Being a part of these smart city solutions and witnessing how their research outcomes can be implemented in real-world scenarios will undoubtedly be an invaluable opportunity for our College. The video screened earlier showed how excited students are about Yale-NUS becoming a smart campus and the potential projects that can emerge from this partnership.

At a national level, Singapore has identified smart nation initiatives as one of the country’s priorities and this partnership provides many opportunities for Yale-NUS students to learn from our engagement with the industry. We look forward to the talks on smart city solutions, as well as internship and career opportunities at Surbana Jurong which will be excellent learning opportunities for Yale-NUS students.

Finally we are pleased to partner with Surbana Jurong to leverage on their expertise to further enhance Yale-NUS’ technological initiatives. MyInfra, a mobile application that the College is piloting soon, is a fuss-free way for the College community to report infrastructure issues they may face, such as blown bulbs or water leaks, so that our infrastructure team can deploy their staff to fix the problems with minimal interruption to the user as they carry on with their day to day activities. Before I end off, I would like to share with you a video that our students produced to show how this app works. Once again, I would like express my thanks to our partner Surbana Jurong and all our guests for being here today.