24 May 2005
The growing number of start-ups and big-name firms taking root in Singapore shows the country’s commitment to photonics.
Although less well-known on the photonics scene than its large Asian neighbors, Singapore is now targeting the sector with a growing number of start-ups and locally-developed products. A recent indicator of this trend was the increased number of domestic firms at the Photonics World 2005 held in Singapore earlier this month. The 3-day event, which took place between 4-6 May, featured 160 exhibitors from about 23 countries.
“We are increasingly seeing the emergence of start-up companies,” said Mr A.B. Goh, President of the Singapore Photonics Association, which was established in 2000 and now has 40 members. “Singapore companies are doing well catering to applications such as display devices for watches, energy saving lighting, plastic lenses, high-quality lenses, objective systems for microscopes and projectors, for example.”
Indeed, Singapore’s core strength seems to be its fabrication expertise in high-precision optics and instrumentation. Capabilities are comparable to and sometimes even better than that available in the US or Europe, claims Mike Leong, secretary of the Association. “Moreover our research institutions are quite strong in the areas of high brightness LEDs and biophotonic sensors,” he added.
Examples of successful local firms include SIF Universal, which specializes in fiber-optic sensors and is a licensed manufacturer of fiber-Bragg gratings (FBG). At Photonics World, the company displayed its new fiber-optic inclinometers for geotechnical measurements.
Opto-Precision Pte Ltd is another example of a local company that has created a niche for itself in the South East Asian market, as well as offering optical thin-film coating services it manufactures lenses, prisms and mirrors. And Wavelength Technology, a provider of laser optics and components, now has manufacturing capabilities in Singapore, China, United States and Europe.
Advanced displays also form a major thrust of the country’s optoelectronics industry. Currently, there is a big push on the development of OLED technology and plastic electronics and Innoled and NESS Display (of Korea) have both set up OLED fabrication facilities.
Importantly, the government has recognized the importance of photonics to future growth of the Singapore economy. “The domestic photonics cluster has grown rapidly in the past 5 years, pervading a host of industries such as medical, information technology, telecommunications and electronics,” said Hawazi Daipi, senior parliamentary secretary for education and manpower. “It is a strategic growth area and the industry has sought to attract manufacturing of key components and advanced materials, high-end coating processes, and the development of new optical devices.”