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Singapore's SMART Centre to be intellectual hub for global researchers

MIT Provost Rafael Reif and Dr. Tony Tan, Chairman of Singapore's National Research Foundation (NRF), announced Jan. 23 the official launch of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology Centre, or SMART Centre. The SMART Centre is the first entity in CREATE, which stands for Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise, a complex of research centres from Singapore, world-class research universities and corporate labs.

SMART is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) largest international research endeavor and the first research center of its kind located outside Cambridge, Mass. It will offer laboratories and computational facilities for research in several areas, including biomedical science, water resources and the environment, and possible additional research thrusts that encompass such topics as interactive digital media, energy, and scientific and engineering computation.

Besides serving as an intellectual hub for robust interactions between MIT and global researchers in Singapore, the SMART Centre will also provide MIT and Singapore new and unique opportunities to perform interdisciplinary experimental, computational and translational research that takes advantage of MIT's long-standing collaborations in Singapore. The Centre, initially headed by MIT Professor Thomas Magnanti, will be a magnet for attracting and anchoring research talent from Asia and all over the world.

To mark the close collaboration between NRF, MIT and the Ministry of Education (MOE), the MOE will be matching dollar-for-dollar donations and gifts to SMART for the establishment of Singapore Research Professorship Chairs at MIT. These chairs will be held by tenured MIT faculty and principal/senior researchers who are actively involved with research programs in the SMART Centre.

SMART will also create an Innovation Centre linked to the highly successful Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT. This Innovation Centre will identify and nurture innovative ideas from emerging technologies and accelerate their migration from laboratories to practical commercial applications that, in many cases, will occur through the creation of business enterprises with funding from external investors. The Innovation Centre activities will be seamlessly coordinated at MIT through the newly established International Innovation Initiative, or I3, that will provide a platform for establishing educational and research activities with strategic international partners by applying the best practices of MIT's Deshpande Center.

SMART will establish five interdisciplinary research groups (IRGs). The research themes will focus on problems that are of societal significance. The first two IRGs are already operational--one is Infectious Diseases, headed by MIT Professor Jianzhu Chen, and the other is a Center for Environmental Sensing and Modeling, or CENSAM, headed by MIT Professor Andrew Whittle. A third IRG is tentatively scheduled to launch in fall 2008.

The IRGs will be led by senior MIT faculty and researchers who will spend extended periods at SMART. MIT research scientists, postdoctoral students, and graduate and undergraduate students will be actively involved and also spend time in residence. The National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University, with other local research institutions, are partnering with MIT as local principal investigators in the research programs.

MIT Provost Reif said, "MIT is enormously pleased to join with the National Research Foundation in establishing the SMART Centre. We are also both proud and honored that NRF has selected MIT to be the first of several entities to be co-located at CREATE. This groundbreaking collaboration for NRF and MIT provides an excellent opportunity for MIT to engage in research with Singapore and global researchers based here, and reflects our joint commitment to addressing critical issues and developing innovative and creative ways to solve them. We hope the research conducted at the SMART Centre will transform the development of engineering, technology and science in the decades ahead."

Dr. Tan said, "The launch of SMART Centre is a significant milestone in Singapore's research and innovation landscape. It not only seals Singapore's 10-year relationship with MIT through the Singapore-MIT Alliance (SMA), it is also a meaningful tie-up with a renowned U.S. university, whose strong commitment to marry excellent teaching and research with innovation and entrepreneurship has spawned a host of scientific breakthroughs, technological advances and high-growth companies. Our universities must embrace a culture of academic entrepreneurship, like MIT, in order to play an active role in contributing to the economic development of Singapore."

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