4 Dec 2019

Carving a Niche—An interview with Dr Lee Teck Kheng of ITE College Central’s Technology Development Centre


Providing an ecosystem for innovation
The Technology Development Centre at ITE College Central helps companies start their innovation journeys by capitalising on their engineering expertise and extensive product development resources.

Creating innovative products that solve complex technological problems is no easy task. Product development is a multi-step process that starts with understanding the problem at hand and coming up with an initial solution. This is followed by the assembly of a proof-of-concept, then characterising its properties and testing its reliability before finalisation and mass production.

To support companies in their product development journey, the Technology Development Centre (TDC) at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central provides a conducive production ecosystem. It does so by giving them access to technical experts and top-of-the-line facilities combined with valuable industry connections.

In the decade since its inception, TDC has designed and created unique products ranging from customised test rigs to RFID event management systems, supporting industrial partners with its product development services. Dr Lee Teck Kheng, Director of TDC, gives IPI a glimpse into the centre’s capabilities and describes ways companies can collaborate with TDC to generate innovative multidisciplinary solutions.

1. What sets TDC apart from technology transfer offices at other institutes of higher learning (IHLs)?

The TDC at ITE College Central was set up to engage industry for research and development. Besides serving as a platform for staff learning, it is also a one-stop technology and business solution centre that provides innovative solutions for industry. This is achieved through integrating different engineering disciplines in the process of problem-solving.

TDC’s facility is equipped with design, assembly, characterisation and reliability tools for product development and the support of innovative collaboration with industries. In addition, TDC provides consultancy on intellectual properties (IP) and event management. Recently, TDC has been recognised as one of the Accredited Mentorship Partners by Enterprise Singapore to support and mentor start-ups.

2. What is TDC’s approach to open innovation?

Open innovation requires the seamless exchange of knowledge and resources to accelerate innovation and boost market adoption. This is why before any engagement, the TDC team strives to understand our partners’ problem statements to readily formulate cost-effective solutions. Aside from coming up with novel solutions, we also adopt existing solutions from external partners and IHLs. Our approach leverages on existing know-how and IP. Thus, by integrating IP and engineering expertise with business models, TDC creates innovative solutions.

3. What are some examples of how collaborations at the centre have helped to benefit companies?

Since its inception in 2008, TDC has received over S$4 million in grants, conducted more than 500 industry projects with a total worth of S$3.2 million, commercialised five products and published 46 articles in journals.

In 2017, the team made a huge leap in its industry collaboration journey by licensing a medical assistive device called the Percutaneous-Access-to-Kidney-Assist Device (PAKAD) to Invivo Medical. This collaborative project brought about an innovative solution that simplifies the procedure to remove kidney stones and is expected to reach the market by 2020.

Currently, TDC is in the midst of licensing applications to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups for industry 4.0, fluid monitoring, healthcare assistance and building security, among others.

4. What kinds of collaborators are you looking for?

As TDC provides multi-disciplinary engineering solutions and business models as a base for product development, we are always on the lookout for start-ups, SMEs and multi-national companies that are keen to scale through technology innovations. An ideal partner would keep an open mind, think big, start small, act fast and persevere in their innovation journey. We will walk the journey with them together towards a long-term relationship.

5. How can companies engage and begin working with the Technology Development Centre?

We welcome companies to visit TDC and view our projects to better understand our capabilities. We would also be happy to help review company projects to see if there are effective multidisciplinary solutions and value propositions.

As the centre is equipped with a full range of engineering services from IP formulation to event management, the TDC can provide a supportive ecosystem for technology development. For big-ticket projects, funding from various sources such as the National Research Foundation, Ministry of Education, Enterprise Singapore and others can be explored. For projects that require resources, TDC is open to sharing its facilities to support companies for their research and development.

TDC’s comprehensive facility for product development is particularly useful for start-ups and SMEs. Companies are welcome to visit us, share their ideas and explore possible opportunities for collaboration.

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