Urban Solutions and Sustainability

RIE2025 Banners3

The Urban Solutions and Sustainability (USS) domain has its roots in two Strategic Research Programmes that were started under the Science & Technology 2010 plan back in 2006. These aimed to turn our water and energy constraints into economic opportunities and establish Singapore as a global hydrohub and clean energy hub. National Innovation Challenges in Energy, and Land & Liveability, were also launched in RIE2015 to kickstart R&D programmes to address our national energy and land constraints while maintaining liveability respectively. These initiatives have enabled us to grow a strong base of scientific capabilities that support our national priorities of water, energy, and land.

In RIE2020, we expanded the scope of the USS domain to address other national imperatives related to the sustainability and liveability of our future city. These include food, waste, urban design and mobility, as well as climate science.


Our RIE investments have contributed to helping Singapore overcome our resource constraints, while improving our liveability and sustainability. For example, we are on track to meeting our national water supply targets, at a lower energy and waste footprint. R&D outcomes in areas such as membrane bioreactor technology, have also allowed us to enhance the water filtration process to reap a cumulative ~$800M in cost savings as of 2015, as compared to using the conventional filtration process.

We are also making progress in meeting Singapore’s carbon emissions reduction targets. For example, our R&D programmes have supported energy savings of up to 60% in our best-in-class buildings. We have also developed models and tools to improve our liveability. One example is the Integrated Environmental Modeller, a 3D simulation model that can map estates virtually. A collaboration between A*STAR and the Housing & Development Board, the model can forecast how environmental factors can affect heat comfort for residents. Another example is a wearable soundscape evaluation system that leverages augmented reality to improve the way city planners design our environment to aural comfort.  

RIE2025 Strategies

In RIE2025, the USS domain will further strengthen our capabilities in building Singapore as a liveable, resilient, sustainable and economically vibrant city.

We will build on our efforts and increase funding support to three areas: (i) understanding, mitigating and adapting to climate change, (ii) developing Singapore as a city that nurtures citizens’ health and well-being, and (iii) transforming our built environment to become more sustainable, while optimising our limited manpower and resources.

In addition, we will position ourselves as the leading centre for green services and solutions to transform and develop sustainable industries and enterprises. This will be done through the development of more industry R&D platforms and innovative enterprise support schemes, to catalyse the translation, deployment and commercialisation of research outcomes.

Understand, mitigate and adapt to climate change

As a small, dense, low-lying city, with limited access to renewable or alternative energy sources, Singapore also faces a perennial battle against rising sea levels and rising urban heat island effects.

USS will adopt a multi-pronged approach to prepare Singapore for the impact of climate change. We will invest in research that deepens our understanding of climate change impact, such as in sea-level rise and changing weather patterns. We will also develop cheaper solutions to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and increase our use of renewables and low carbon technologies such as low-carbon hydrogen and novel carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies. We will also ensure that we are able to adapt and build resiliency to the impact of climate change by protecting our coasts, resources and people against rising sea levels and temperatures. Given Singapore’s strategic location in a region of rich biodiversity, there are also opportunities to conserve and leverage our natural assets to meet our sustainability goals. This includes developing multi-functional greenery and exploring nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The Singapore Energy Story: Clean, affordable and reliable

Over the past 50 years, Singapore’s energy sector has evolved towards cleaner power generation and implemented renewables like solar to address the challenges of climate change. We must change how we produce and use energy to grow sustainably.

The Energy Story sets the vision for a clean, affordable and reliable energy future through the “4 switches”:

(1) More efficient use of natural gas in power generation

(2) Deploy 1.5 gigawatt-peak of solar power by 2025 and 2 gigawatt-peak by 2030

(3) Leverage regional power grids for cost-competitive energy

(4) Explore emerging low-carbon fuel alternatives to reduce our carbon footprint.

We will fund R&D to support the Singapore Energy Story, as well as meet the targets of Singapore’s Long-Term Low-Emissions Development Strategy. These include supporting projects in low-carbon energy technologies such as hydrogen and carbon capture, utilisation and storage; and developing capabilities and solutions to support a future grid with a higher level of renewable energy deployment.

Energy Story
One of the “4 switches”, solar power plays a key role in Singapore’s energy strategy (Photo credit: SERIS, NUS)

What is the “colour” of hydrogen?

Hydrogen has an important role to play as the world transitions to a cleaner energy landscape. But not all hydrogen is created in the same way.

Traditional production of hydrogen through the breakdown of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, resulting in what is known as “grey” hydrogen. “Blue” hydrogen is produced the same way, but the resultant carbon dioxide is captured, stored and utilised – lending a hand in the global fight against climate change. Lastly, “green” hydrogen is produced via the electrolysis of water, powered by renewable energy sources such as solar or wind. 

Build a healthy, safe and resilient city

Good urban planning has allowed Singapore to enjoy strong economic growth and social cohesion, while addressing our resource and land constraints. Going forward, we will deepen our understanding of how urban planning can improve the health, well-being and quality of life in our community.

In RIE2025, we will develop new paradigms for city planning, design and operations to support the needs of the economy and industry, while addressing the health and well-being of the community. In addition to furthering our vision of a City in Nature, we will also deepen our understanding of how city design and urban planning can improve our prediction and monitoring of community health risks. This will strengthen our pandemic response capabilities.

In addition, we will enhance Singapore’s resource resilience, such as in energy, water, and food. This will support our national strategies, such as the 30-by-30 goal to produce 30% of Singapore’s nutritional needs locally by 2030, as part of the Singapore Food Story.

 What is a City in Nature?

Singapore is today one of the world’s greenest cities. This has been a journey of more than 50 years – to integrate nature into the urban fabric and create a better quality of life for our people.

The initial objectives were to build a Garden City, with ample and accessible green spaces. Our vision then evolved to become a City in a Garden, with pervasive greenery across our urban landscape, leveraging biophilic design to restore natural habitats, and engaging the community in sustaining greening efforts.

The City in Nature takes this vision further, by enhancing and extending our natural capital across the island. This includes reconnecting natural ecosystems to enhance biodiversity, re-incorporating nature in our urban landscape, and leveraging nature-based solutions to solve urban challenges.

 The Singapore Food Story: Safeguarding Singapore’s food supply

Singapore imports more than 90% of our food from more than 170 countries and regions. While import source diversification is a core principle in our long-term strategies to safeguard Singapore’s food supply, we are vulnerable to disruptions and changes in the global supply chain.

RIE efforts will support the Singapore Food Agency’s strategies to strengthen food security. Initially, this will focus on developing the capability and capacity of the local agri-food industry to grow local and increase our resilience to supply disruptions, as well as supporting our local companies to expand abroad and export produce back to Singapore. Our R&D objectives include increasing the amount of food produced per unit area by 100% over the current best-in-class solutions and lowering the energy cost of indoor farming by 90%.

Growing our own food supply will safeguard us against disruptions and increase our resilience

Transform the built environment sector

The built environment comprises our homes, offices, national infrastructures, leisure spaces and green areas. To ensure that Singapore continues to harness global trends in this space, we aim to foster a highly productive, integrated and advanced built environment sector that can build and maintain our infrastructure in a more sustainable and resource-efficient manner.

USS will continue to drive R&D for new solutions that will value-add to our construction, facilities management and transport industries. This includes advanced robotics and automation technologies for onsite and offsite operations, additive manufacturing, as well as developing new cost-effective and sustainable construction materials. In addition, we will harness digital technologies to improve project management in the construction sector, and enhance operational productivity, as well as building maintenance and durability.

BETA: Catalysing industry transformation in the built environment cluster

The Built Environment Technology Alliance (BETA) is an RIE initiative to enable enterprises in the built environment sector to access new technologies that can increase their capabilities, value-add to their operations and maintain their international competitiveness. It is a membership-based Research and Innovation (R&I) platform that pools resources to co-create ideas, catalyses industry-led innovations, and translates results into economic value.

In RIE2025, BETA will also serve as the one-stop portal for companies to tap on the Built Environment Living Lab Framework, which facilitates industrial test-bedding of innovative proposals in our urban spaces and living environment, such as at Punggol Town and Jurong Lake Gardens. This will offer opportunities for companies to trial new and innovative technologies, facilitate translation to bring products to market, and support companies via regulatory sandboxes to validate their innovations at scale and address regulatory considerations. 

Contact Point

USS Secretariat at: USS_Secretariat@nrf.gov.sg  


#12-02, CREATE Tower

Singapore 138602

Tel: 6684 2900 Fax: 6684 0384

Email: communications@nrf.gov.sg