Govt acts to stay ahead in clean energy industry
$25m scholarship programme set up to ensure future leaders in the field
By Shobana Kesava
THE Government is moving quickly to ensure there are enough technology leaders to keep Singapore at the cutting edge of the fast-emerging clean energy industry.
It has set up a $25 million scholarship programme in the wake of massive recent investments in the industry.
Last month, Norwegian solar energy firm Renewable Energy Corp (REC) said it would spend $6.3 billion in Singapore on the world's largest plant for making solar energy equipment.
The Government hopes the clean energy industry will create 7,000 jobs and add $1.7 billion to the economy by 2015.
The inter-agency Clean Energy Programme Office (Cepo) under the Economic Development Board (EDB) will award the scholarships to about 130 students over the next five years.
The Clean Energy Scholarships, announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday at the launch of the Global Entrepolis @ Singapore, will go to students who pursue master's or PhD degrees.
Mr Lee said Singapore is 'putting in place programmes to build technical power for this new industry'.
Polytechnics and universities are beginning to offer courses with specialisations in the clean energy field.
Mr Lee said: 'On top of that, we will need to nurture a pool of industry and technology leaders.' The scholarships will facilitate this, he said.
The announcement came less than two weeks after Cepo said $50 million would go towards clean technology.
Cepo executive director Ko Kheng Hwa, also the EDB's managing director, told The Straits Times that the latest fund will send the brightest Singaporeans to universities abroad, such as Stanford, Cambridge and Germany's Technical University of Munich for PhD programmes.
Post-graduate scholarships to local universities will be awarded to those of any nationality.
Those who are interested in making mid-career switches are also encouraged to apply for master's programmes.
'They could be engineers or those from any science field who want to move into this new industry,' Mr Ko said.
He said REC and Germany's largest solar-power firm, Conergy, are among those expressing interest.
REC chief Erik Thorsen said: 'Following our decision to locate in Singapore, we would need to build up a strong base of talented engineers quickly to kick-start our Singapore operations.'
Scholarship recipients will have to contribute to the local clean energy sector after their studies. 'When the support is from the Government, they just have to stay in Singapore. But if the scholarship is jointly funded, they'll be attached to the company that supported them,' Mr Ko said.
The bond ranges from two years, when a master's programme is done locally, to four years for those who take up doctorates overseas.
Mr Ko said the EDB is developing specialised programmes with tertiary institutions in Singapore.
He said: 'This is an industry which taps the idealism of the young. It's so different from most sectors that exist. It's a cause - helping to solve a worldwide problem by using the sun's inexhaustible supply of energy instead of burning all this fossil fuel.'
Those interested can check out www.cepo.sg