Welcome Address By Professor Chong Tow Chong, SUTD President

05 Apr 2018

The SUTD Ministerial Forum, SUTD Auditorium

Good evening
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong,
SUTD’s Board of Trustees, Committee Members, SUTD Family,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
A warm welcome to all of you and thank you for joining us here today.
It is a great privilege for us at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) to host the inaugural SUTD Ministerial Forum with Prime Minister Lee as our guest of honour. We are very pleased that PM Lee is able to make time to come and engage with the SUTD Family, and to share with us his vast experience and insights. I hope that all of us will be able to gain much from this dialogue session.
Introducing SUTD
PM Lee was very much a part of the start of SUTD, understanding that we were to bring something different to Singapore’s education landscape. SUTD strives to advance knowledge and nurture technically grounded leaders and innovators to serve societal needs. We do so by developing a curriculum that brings together cross-disciplinary leaning, global exposure and human-centred education. At SUTD, “Design” cuts across the curriculum and provides a foundation for education and research. For our undergraduate programmes, we have incorporated humanities, arts and social sciences to develop critical thinking and communication skills that go beyond book knowledge. Currently, we also send over 75 per cent of our students for overseas experiences in order to equip them with a holistic and broad-based global perspective. As we believe this will enable our students to design products, systems and services that can help better the world, we aim to provide every SUTD student the chance to go overseas over the next few years.

A recent report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), “The global state of the art in engineering education”, ranked SUTD top in the list of the 10 “emerging leaders” in engineering education programmes in the world, so I suppose we must be doing something right to achieve that. The criteria for making the list include work-based learning, multi-disciplinary programmes and a dual emphasis on engineering design and student self-reflection.
And results speak for themselves. Thus far, we have graduated three batches of students who have been very well-received by the industry. In fact, the annual Graduate Employment Survey recently revealed that our graduates earn the highest starting salaries, and our overall employment rates remained high, with over 90 per cent employed within six months and more of them are receiving full-time employment. I am happy to share that it has been on an upward trend over the past three consecutive years.
Here is an example of how two of our pioneer batch alumni students, Edward Tiong and Olivia Seow, have put their SUTD education to good use and are bettering the world by design. Before graduating, Edward and Olivia co-founded a high-tech wearables company, Ring Theory, and designed a ring that can also be used as a digital wallet to take public transport. They pitched the idea to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority when they were on the SUTD summer programme at MIT and the ring is still being used by commuters there today. More recently, they collaborated with DBS and the SUTD-MIT International Design Centre to design a pocket-sized digital wallet called ‘Pocket Money’ for primary school students across Singapore. This device allows the students to pay for things digitally while learning money management skills. Their design was awarded with this year’s Singapore Good Design Mark (SG Mark) and will accelerate Singapore’s drive towards becoming cashless.  
SUTD was also conceived as a research-intensive university, and to this end, SUTD is building a reputation as a thought leader in multi-disciplinary technology and research. In the Clarivate Analytics’ State of Innovation Report 2017, SUTD is listed as the fifth-most influential scientific research institution in telecommunications, the only Asian university in the top ten list.
The SUTD Growth Plan
SUTD has recently announced its Growth Plan to establish strategic collaborations with industry, government, and academia via a partnership model to develop capabilities in four key areas – Aviation, Healthcare, Cities, Artificial Intelligence and Data Science.
One of the first steps we will take is to incorporate Artificial Intelligence (AI)-related subjects into our undergraduate curriculum in order to ensure that every SUTD graduate will be AI competent in the digital economy. We have also tied up with strategic partners such as the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and Changi General Hospital to not only co-develop programmes to address industry needs but also provide our students with exposure to the relevant sectors through internship opportunities. Deep research collaborations will also be established with these partners. Besides making useful contributions to the growth of these sectors, SUTD will be nurturing graduates who are industry-, region- and future-ready for a rapidly changing world.
On behalf of the entire SUTD Family, I want to thank PM Lee for your personal support for SUTD. To our students, I sincerely hope that this evening’s dialogue with PM Lee will spark some innovative ideas on how, ‘YOU’, our students can contribute to nation building. That you will discover the roles and responsibilities you can take in meeting the challenges facing Singapore and the world, and bettering it by design.
Thank you.