Building Sustainable, Resilient, and Liveable Cities of Tomorrow

Oct 4, 2023

As a city-state with limited land and natural resources, research and development in Urban Solutions and Sustainability continues to be a key national priority so that we can build a sustainable, resilient, and liveable city.  This is especially so as we chart Singapore’s long-term development.

2        At the Urban Solutions and Sustainability (USS) R&D Congress today, Guest-of-Honour Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for National Development and Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration, reaffirmed the importance of strong partnerships between the Government, Institutes of Higher Learning, research institutes and firms, to effectively translate research findings into applicable outcomes.  

3        The USS domain is one of the four verticals under Singapore’s Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2025 plan. It aims to challenges in sustainability, liveability, and resilience, through the transformation of our built environment.  The USS domain has its roots as early as 2006 when the Science and Technology 2010 plan was developed primarily to address our energy and water constraints.  In 2015, the scope of the USS domain was expanded to address other imperatives related to the sustainability and liveability of our future city. These include food, waste, urban design and mobility, as well as climate science.

4        This year, the Ministry of National Development (MND) has partnered the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) to organise the event. This partnership underscores the growing collaboration across USS agencies and a stronger emphasis on environmental sustainability.

5        Themed “Building Sustainable, Resilient and Liveable Cities of Tomorrow”, the Congress features more than 60 eminent speakers from various disciplines, across topics such as leveraging technology for resource circularity, climate adaptation, building cities that nurture citizens’ health and well-being, and building resilience in the built environment sector through automation and digitalisation.

6        At the Congress, Minister Desmond Lee announced several key initiatives to support R&D efforts within the USS domain:

Strategic Collaboration between URA and SUTD on urban planning research

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is working with the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) on a five-year strategic collaboration focusing on urban planning research.  This partnership aims to enhance urban planners’ decision-making processes, support them to better address emerging trends and disruptions in a fast-changing and complex environment, and uplift Singapore’s competency in urban planning and design.  More details in Annex A.


b)    Memorandum of Understanding between the Centre for Liveable Cities and Singapore-ETH Centre to build capability in urban science 

This two-year collaboration enables both parties to share knowledge and translate scientific know-how in the Singapore context to improve urban planning, through adopting the Science of Cities approach. More details in Annex B.


c)    Award of NTU Singapore – French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) Alliance for Research in Circular Economy (SCARCE) Phase 2

The joint laboratory “NTU Singapore – CEA Alliance for Research in Circular Economy (SCARCE)” aims to develop innovative, energy-efficient solutions for the recycling and recovery of resources from electrical and electronic waste. The recently awarded SCARCE Phase 2 (Mar 2023 - Feb 2028) under NEA's Closing the Resource Loop Funding Initiative, will focus on scaling up promising outcomes from Phase 1 to develop integrated scalable solutions for test bedding and industrial adoption.  NEA has pledged $17 million to support this project. More details in Annex C.


d)    Award of project: Comparison of litterfall nutrient cycling between forests and urban green spaces in Singapore

Under the Cities of Tomorrow’s City in Nature research vertical in RIE2025, NParks is awarding its first project to kickstart the long-term monitoring of key ecosystem processes such as carbon and nutrient cycling within our forests and urban green spaces. This will enable us to better understand the long-term impact of our City in Nature efforts and further enhance our existing greenery management strategies. The $1.82m project will be led by researchers from NTU, over a 3-year period. More details in Annex D.

7        Even as we build up scientific knowledge through research, today’s competitive landscape with shorter innovation cycles requires us to actively proliferate innovative solutions to the market for wider adoption.  To achieve this, the USS domain has provided funding platforms to fast track the innovation process, such as the Built Environment Technology Alliance (BETA), Built Environment Accelerate to Market Programme (BEAMP) and the Living Lab (Water) Funding Initiative.  Together with the National Research Foundation, Singapore (NRF) and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), we have also set up the USS Innovation & Enterprise Office (USS IEO), a national platform that aims to bring more impactful technologies from lab to market for the USS domain. The USS IEO does so by facilitating technology translation in partnership with the larger innovation ecosystem, which includes research performers, industry and agencies such as IPI Singapore.

8        The Government has also cultivated public-private partnerships through initiatives such as NEA’s Innovating and Curating Better Automation and Technology for Environmental Services (INCUBATE) partnership programme. The programme offers a platform for the technology providers, service providers, and progressive premises owners to co-create innovative and productive solutions, conduct trials, and scale-up implementation to address market needs.

9        As the science and technology landscape is constantly evolving, the Government will continue to provide support though various RIE initiatives to strengthen the USS ecosystem, so that we can continue to build a more sustainable, resilient, and liveable home.     


Issued by     : Ministry of National Development, Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment
Date             : 4 October 2023

URA-SUTD Strategic Collaboration

1.    In October 2021, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) embarked on a strategic research collaboration. The 5-year cross-sector collaboration provides a sustained platform to develop R&D solutions and capabilities through quick experimentation, test-bedding and implementation of joint research projects. Through this partnership, URA aims to enhance urban planners’ decision-making processes, enable them to better address emerging trends and disruptions in a fast-changing and complex environment, and advance Singapore’s competency in urban planning and design.

2.    This is the first of several strategic research collaborations that URA has been discussing with Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) in Singapore.  

3.    Under the URA-SUTD collaboration, faculty members including PhD students contribute their expertise and lead research projects co-developed with URA officers. URA will support the funding of these research projects and programmes over the five-year period, which will also include knowledge-exchange and capability-building programmes.

4.    One ongoing research project is titled “Computational Modelling for Optimisation of Planning and Urban Design Parameters”, led by SUTD’s Asst Prof Peter Ortner in collaboration with URA’s Design & Planning Lab. Tapping on SUTD’s expertise in computational modelling, this project aims to develop a generative design and optimisation workflow for planners to simulate and test planning scenarios within a shorter timeframe, as well as formulate development control and urban design guidelines more efficiently.

a. Since its commencement in January 2022, the project has demonstrated prototypes that can procedurally generate land parcellation and residential development scenarios as well as optimisation techniques to evaluate and shortlist generated solutions that best fit development constraints.

b. The SUTD team is also developing a proof-of-concept web application which incorporates generative design and optimisation processes with interfaces tailored to the planning workflow. When implemented, this application has the potential to facilitate more efficient work processes for planners.

c. This research project is targeted to be completed in 2025. The outcomes will be progressively integrated within URA’s ePlanner, an in-house geospatial web application that currently serves over 1,000 planners across 40 public agencies.

5.           The URA-SUTD collaboration has demonstrated the benefits of adopting an inter-disciplinary approach to tackle challenges in urban planning. For instance, the use of mathematical algorithms for land parcel generation and optimising urban forms has introduced opportunities for productivity gains as well as new planning insights. As the Whole-of-Government Urban Planning & Design Technology Centre of Excellence (URBEX), URA will continue to partner IHLs and research institutes to translate research outcomes into user-friendly tools that can improve the work of planning agencies across the government.  

ANNEX B: Media Factsheet                                                     


4 October 2023 – The Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC) and the Singapore-ETH Centre (SEC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) dedicated to knowledge sharing and capability building. The MoU was inked at the Urban Solutions & Sustainability R&D Congress, held in Singapore, on 4 October 2023.

2        The SEC is a collaboration between the National Research Foundation, Singapore, and ETH Zurich, Switzerland, as part of the CREATE International collaboratory platform. CLC is a global knowledge centre for liveable and sustainable cities set up with the primary objective of addressing emerging urban challenges.

3        The MoU was signed by CLC’s Managing Director, CLC Ltd, Hugh Lim and Vice President for Research, ETH Zurich, Prof Dr Christian Wolfrum, as co-chair of the SEC’s Governing Board. The signing was witnessed by Minister for National Development, Desmond Lee.

Objectives of the MoU

3         This MoU will help both parties to establish deeper collaborations for capability building on the application of the Science of Cities in the urban planning and governance domain. It will enable both parties to share knowledge, experience, tools, and methodologies on platforms such as at the biennial World Cities Summit, Science of Cities Symposium, and other workshops and conferences. Furthermore, agencies in the MND family and partners of ETH Zurich and SEC will be able to leverage each other’s academic and professional networks to connect with experts globally and tap on subject matter experts to create and share new knowledge on the Science of Cities approach to support liveable and sustainable cities. 

4        The scope of the MOU includes:

a. Capability Development and Training Programmes

b. Knowledge Creation and Knowledge Sharing

c. Academic and Professional Networking

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ANNEX C: NTU Singapore – French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) Alliance for Research in Circular Economy (SCARCE)

1.    The proper management of electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) is aligned to the global drive towards circular economy, which contributes to the fight against climate change. E-waste recycling creates “urban mining” opportunities to recapture precious and critical metals that could replace primary raw materials such as gold, platinum, lithium, cobalt, manganese, and nickel.  Singapore can play our part in the green economy in recovering critical, precious, and rare earth metals from e-waste to generate economic returns while enhancing the resilience of critical resources.

2.    Through the Closing the Resource Loop (CTRL) Funding Initiative in RIE2025, NEA has pledged $17 million to support the NTU Singapore-CEA Alliance for Research in Circular Economy (SCARCE) to research on developing cost-effective and environmentally friendly solutions for recycling e-waste.

3.    This fund enables SCARCE to build on the promising findings of their Phase 1 research (conducted from 2018-2023). The focus of Phase 2 is to integrate the developed processes into closed loop resource recovery solutions for test bedding, leading to their adoption at an industrial scale. SCARCE will also embark on new and innovative research areas, such as recycling of lithium-ion batteries, smart sorting and mechanochemical methods into achieving better material recovery yield.

4.    Under SCARCE Phase 2, three research thrusts will be pursued as follows:


Research Thrust (RT)

Description and plans


RT1: Recycling of lithium-ion batteries

RT1 seeks to develop new end-to-end processes to sort spent lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) based on their types, extract their valuable metals, and regenerate the recovered metals into new cathode and anode materials to make new batteries. This novel approach would be more environmentally friendly, achieve higher yields and be more cost-effective as compared to current practices and methods. This would enable industries to adopt better solutions for their businesses. For example, SCARCE is working with SE-CURE Waste Management Pte Ltd, their industry collaborator to pilot the developed green hydrometallurgy processes – this key development involves using orange peel and mixed fruit peel reagent for dissolution and recovery of targeted metals, instead of traditional strong chemicals.



RT2: Recycling of laminated solar panels

RT2 aims to scale-up first -of-its-kind non-thermal layer-by-layer delamination and recovery process for end-of-life solar PV panels. This process combines hydrometallurgical and mechanochemical approaches to recover more than 90% weight of glass, polymers, silicon and metals (aluminium, copper, silver) from spent solar PV panels, with better performance (e.g. higher recovery yields) than existing solutions.



RT3: Recycling and recovery of strategic metals and rare earth from printed circuit boards (PCBs) and beyond

RT3 aims to develop new processes and tools to automatically dismantle and sort electronic components (ECs) from PCBs and recover precious and strategic metals from similar EC type or elemental EC groupings.


Traditional metal recovery for PCB is challenging due to the low concentration of individual metals within the PCB. Hence, industries tend to selectively recover one or two valuable metals such as gold and copper while disposing the rest. Having such a sorting process would allow for the concentration of the targeted elements for recovery, which enables the subsequent recovery of spent critical metals more efficiently. This would lead to higher recovery rate and purity as compared to conventional recycling methods of treating whole PCBs.



ANNEX D: Comparison of litterfall nutrient cycling between forests and urban green spaces in Singapore by NTU

1.    Under the first RIE2025 Grant Call of Cities of Tomorrow’s City in Nature research pillar, the National Parks Board (NParks) is awarding its first project to the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). The project would kickstart the long-term monitoring of key ecosystem processes such as carbon and nutrient cycling within our forests and urban green spaces. This $1.82m project will be led by researchers from the Asian School of the Environment (NTU), over a 3-year period.

2.    Plants take in and release nutrients throughout their growth and decomposition, and nutrient flows can serve as indicators of ecosystem health. This project aims to establish baseline rates of nutrient release from leaf litter and soil in Singapore’s forests and urban green spaces, and to develop a protocol for continued long-term monitoring. This is key for understanding patterns of nutrient flows across different natural and urban landscapes, and detecting fluctuations due to weather, climate, and urbanisation.

3.    Data from this project will enable predictive modelling of nutrient cycling rates under different environmental conditions and landscape management practices. These insights can then inform the enhancement of existing urban greenery management strategies to optimise urban nutrient cycles for improved climate resilience and ecosystem health. By contributing towards the long-term monitoring of ecosystem health, the project will guide our overall City in Nature efforts to conserve and extend our natural capital, and further integrate nature into the urban environment.

About Cities of Tomorrow’s City in Nature research pillar

As one of the five key pillars under the Singapore Green Plan 2030, the City in Nature vision aims to further restore and integrate nature into Singapore’s urban fabric, so as to strengthen our distinctiveness as a highly liveable city, while mitigating the impacts of urbanisation and adapting to climate change. To provide a scientific foundation to support these transformative efforts, the Cities of Tomorrow Research & Development Programme set up a new City in Nature research pillar under RIE 2025, led by NParks. This new research vertical will build upon existing R&D efforts in greenery and biodiversity, to strengthen our ecological and climate resilience, and will also seek to inform nature-based solutions for social resilience. The vertical has been allocated $17.9m in research funding from NRF’s Urban Solutions and Sustainability domain, from FY21 to FY25.