Mitsui Chemicals' Singapore R&D centre is preparing to commercialise some of its work, just two and a half years after it started up at Science Park.
Having focused on two main areas so far, advanced materials and innovative technology development, the centre is now looking to commercialise some of its work like that of organic nano particles. One example will be to combine polyethylene glycol and polyethylene (one dissolves completely in water, while the second does not) for use as fluorescent probes or sensors for medical applications, said its president and CEO, Terunori Fujita.
Other commercial applications the centre is looking into include film coating, and stimuli-responsive ink or dyes.
For obvious proprietary reasons, it is however not ready to divulge more details at this time.
The US$6 million R&D centre - Mitsui's first such overseas R&D facility covering Asean and India - has started discussions with some potential partners to commercialise its work. "We could see some results in the coming six months or one year," he told BT.
The centre is independent of Mitsui Chemicals' key $1 billion manufacturing hub here comprising some half a dozen plants making intermediates such as elastomers, which are resin modifiers that improve the impact of moulded products like car bumpers. The Japanese group is currently building its latest plant here, Prime Evolue, at Tembusu sector on Jurong Island, which will produce metallocene linear low-density polyethylene used to make various packaging materials.
But the R&D facility helps to provide technical support to the group's manufacturing plants here, Dr Fujita said, adding that its huge manufacturing presence was a major factor that influenced Mitsui to base the R&D facility here back in 2011. "Other plus factors included Singapore's strong intellectual property protection and also the fact that everyone speaks English here."
The latter is code de rigeur in the group's Singapore R&D centre where its team of 24 researchers, hailing from seven nationalities including China, Singapore, India, Malaysia and Japan, have meetings, e-mail and submit reports (including to its Japan headquarters) only in English. They also have to take English proficiency tests, with their bonuses pegged to results.
The taking of such English tests is a growing trend in Japan, as the Japanese start to open up more to globalisation, he said.
"We have plans to increase the number of researchers here, although our current premises at Kendall can accommodate a maximum of 30 at this point," he added.
While small compared with the group's main Sodegaura research hub which employs some 1,000, the Singapore R&D centre has nevertheless managed to register a total of 650 patents to date.