Food and nutrition research in Singapore will receive a boost as the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and New Zealand's Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) will together invest almost S$3.8 million (NZ$3.5 million) in joint research projects. The research collaboration will foster further cooperation between researchers from both countries and advance Singapore's research in food and nutrition science.
Five research teams were selected to receive funding. They are based in New Zealand and Singapore, and will investigate various aspects of food and nutritional science. This includes understanding Asian consumer insights and optimising diets for infant and maternal nutrition. With Asia experiencing a boom in its middle class, characterised by larger disposable incomes and more hectic lifestyles, Asian consumers are increasingly placing a greater emphasis on nutrition and its impact on health.
To reach out to the Asian market, some of the world's largest food and beverage companies have based their research operations in Singapore, leveraging on its position as a hub for Asia and the ability for its multi-ethnic population to provide valuable insight into consumer preferences. As an export destination, Asia also forms approximately 40 percent of New Zealand's F&B exports by value.
New Zealand has established itself internationally as a leader in agri-food research across a wide range of areas. With a global reputation for high standards of food quality, safety and traceability, New Zealand has also put in place key infrastructure that will aid the development of the food and beverage industry. Its scientific research in F&B is supported by a network of government research institutes like AgResearch, and institutes of higher learning, such as Massey Universtiy, the University of Auckland, and the University of Otago.
Research in food and nutrition has been identified as a key priority for Singapore in the biomedical sciences. In addition to forming partnerships with leading companies, A*STAR has also embarked on several initiatives to establish itself as the research collaborator of choice for the global food and nutrition industry, also establishing Singapore as a global hub for food science and nutrition. These include the setting up of the Clinical Nutrition Research Centre by A*STAR and the National University Health System (NUHS), the first centre in Asia with comprehensive capabilities for food and nutrition research.
Mr Lim Chuan Poh, Chairman of A*STAR, said, "This new partnership will bring together New Zealand's expertise in the development and production of nutritious foods, and A*STAR's strong capabilities in food and nutrition research, to further develop our understanding of the nutritional needs of Asian populations. This bilateral collaboration adds to others that we have established to position Singapore as a global hub for food and nutrition research."
Dr Prue Williams, General Manager, Science Investments at MBIE's Science, Skills and Innovation Group said, "Food and biomedical science are coming closer together as researchers attempt to prove the relationships between food, health, and the risk of developing disease. New Zealand's world-class food and nutrition science capabilities combined with Singapore's excellent knowledge base and access to impressive science infrastructure creates an exciting opportunity for collaborative gains for Singapore and New Zealand."
The Singapore-New Zealand collaboration is a result of an agreement signed between A*STAR and MBIE in June 2013. The collaborative projects will commence in June 2014.