At his formal
inauguration as the fourth President of Nanyang Technological
University, Singapore (NTU), Professor
Subra Suresh outlined the key themes for his presidency:
Cultivating NTU as a unique global leader through rapid
societal changes arising from technological advances
Positioning NTU as a living testbed for innovation through
its Smart Campus for enhancing the quality of life all community members and
for supporting Singapore’s efforts to emerge as an early Smart Nation, by
interfacing technology with humanity
Upholding its reputation for innovative new ways in which
learning outcomes can be enhanced through technology
Engaging with global industry, and acting as a catalyst for
innovation and an engine for economies, both local and international
In his speech, Prof Suresh announced three new initiatives:
the establishment of a new institute to tackle the challenges that
technological change will bring to society; a new global digital arts prize,
and a new fellowship to attract outstanding early-career scientists.
The NTU Institute
of Science and Technology for Humanity (NISTH) will study the impact of technological
revolution on society. The pace of technological and societal change brought about
by Industry 4.0 is much faster than the previous three industrial revolutions.
“Such changes will impact nearly every aspect of human
endeavour and day-to-day life in the years to come…While the technological
revolution we are witnessing today will reshape the 21st century human
condition in many positive ways, there is also understandable nervousness about
its potential downsides,” Prof Suresh said.
The institute will leverage NTU’s multi-disciplinary
strengths in key areas shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution such as in AI
and machine learning, robotics, internet of things, autonomous systems and
mobility, cyber security, and environmental sustainability.
The new Institute will synergise and coordinate campus-wide
activities at the intersections of technology, natural sciences, social
sciences, arts, policy, regulation and governance, business, medicine and
ethics. It will serve as a forum for discussion groups, research projects,
symposia, educational activities, policy development and as a vehicle for exploration
of how humanity will interface with technologies.
NISTH will focus on three key themes. The first theme, ‘Responsible
innovation’, is about addressing the ethical implications of innovations such
as nanotechnology, personalised medicine, unmanned ground and aerial vehicles,
The second, ‘Governance and leadership in the Technological
Age’ will examine ways to manage the rate, speed and influence of technological
advances on society. The third theme of ‘New Urban Asia’ looks
at how technology is transforming the urban landscape in Asia, and affecting
the lives of people in the world’s most populous continent.
Prof Suresh also announced the launch of an NTU Digital Arts Prize in 2018 to
“recognise global artists and technologists with extraordinary creativity.” The
prize would be open to global competition and awarded biennially at NTU with
the winner selected by a panel of distinguished judges drawn from all over the
NTU is also going to launch the Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship from
the new academic year in 2018, to provide early career researchers and scholars
with a unique academic pathway to start and further their academic careers. The
new Fellowship will provide a highly competitive salary and research grant
package, mentorship and support in an established research group, as well as
the opportunity to work with faculty in mentoring graduate students, and to
gain exposure to the most dynamic and diverse region in the world.
The programme seeks to add to NTU’s recent successes in
talent attraction via schemes such as the Nanyang Assistant Professors
Programme and the National Research Foundation (NRF) Fellows Programme.
Professor Suresh unveiled NTU’s Smart Campus vision in
January this year, aiming to harness the power of digital technology and
tech-enabled solutions to support better learning and living experiences, the
discovery of new knowledge, and the sustainability of resources.
On 21 February, a new learning hub, the ARC, was launched at
NTU. The ARC has 56 smart classrooms, equipped with the latest technologies to
support the flipped classroom pedagogy, wherein students learn the course
content online before class and the face time with professors and classmates is
devoted to collaborative learning. With the completion of The Arc, NTU
now has more than 280 smart classrooms.
Other announced initiatives under the Smart Campus vision
include a Smart Pass embedded with a contactless identity chip to be used for
cash-free payments, and in the near future, for personal identification,
security access and more; trials
for Singapore’s first electric bicycle-sharing service; a cooperation
agreement with Volvo Buses for development of the autonomous electric
buses; and trials
of an ultra-fast charging electric shuttle in collaboration with
BlueSG Pte Ltd.
Professor Suresh said that the goal of the Smart Campus
vision to have the NTU campus and community work together to testbed and deploy
new technologies, policies, and practices that can inform and assist Singapore
to become a Smart City and a Smart Nation.
“This will involve NTU campus becoming a pioneer is the use
of digital technologies for learning, living, working, playing, team-building,
banking, shopping, commuting, parking, accessing healthcare, and much more in a
manner that will enhance the quality of life for all members of our university
community. It will involve the use of machine learning, real-time data
analytics, autonomous and electric vehicles, various last-mile commuting
options, and sustainable use of resources” he explained.
From the new academic year starting in August 2018, all
undergraduate students will take new core educational modules to enhance their
digital literacy. A new undergraduate degree programme in Data Science and
Artificial Intelligence will also be launched.