Toshiba Corp. (TOKYO: 6502) recently announced that it has set up the Aqua Research Center — its first water treatment R&D center located outside of Japan — at national water agency PUB’s WaterHub in Singapore.

Home to several renowned international and local water-related organizations such as Global Water Intelligence, International Water Association, Singapore Water Association and Singapore Society for Trenchless Technology, WaterHub is also the R&D base of other global research institutes such as Siemens, Nitto Denko, Optiqua Technologies, Memsys Clearwater and Xylem Water Solutions, which are attracted by the vibrant R&D eco-system in Singapore.

The Aqua Research Centrer was officially opened in a ceremony officiated by Chew Men Leong, chief executive of PUB. At the ceremony, Toshiba also inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with PUB to explore a collaboration to develop and test the application of a newly developed adsorbent to remove toxic elements in the used water treatment process for semiconductor plants.

“Singapore’s investments in the water sector in the last couple of years have paid off, with more than 70 local and international water companies and 24 research centers undertaking projects in various domains like membrane, biomimicry and low energy seawater desalination. The addition of Toshiba will add vibrancy to the local water R&D landscape and boost Singapore’s growing status as a global hydrohub,” said Chew Men Leong, who is also the executive director of the Environment and Water Industry Program Office (EWI), which spearheads the growth of Singapore’s water industry.

The Singapore Government has identified water as a strategic growth sector in Singapore with R&D as the key driver. To promote research and development in this field, the EWI is investing $470 million from Singapore’s National Research Foundation in water R&D.  Through funding promising research projects, the EWI aims to foster leading-edge technologies and create a thriving and vibrant research community in Singapore.

In line with efforts to grow Singapore into a hub for water technologies and research, EWI also strives to promote Singapore as a global test-bed. PUB offers opportunities for water companies to test-bed their new technologies and solutions at its facilities under actual site conditions. A total of 114 projects involving the test bedding of water solutions have been facilitated at PUB’s installations, and more than 30 test-bedding projects are currently on-going at PUB’s facilities.

Supporting EWI’s initiatives, WaterHub provides a strategic platform for PUB and the water industry to leverage on for technology development, learning and networking under one roof. Besides growing a strong presence of water-related organizations, WaterHub also develops training programs to raise the competency standards of the water industry, while benchmarking it against best international practices. In addition, WaterHub has steadily expanded its connections across the Asia Pacific to the global water sectors, providing endless opportunities for industry players to network globally.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with PUB and the many water experts and professionals in Singapore. We appreciate the Singapore government’s foresight and initiative in making the country a global hydrohub, and we look forward to making progress in our research at the Aqua Research Center and our collaboration with PUB. We are sure that Toshiba can make important contributions to the treatment of water uses in industrial processes,” said Toshio Masaki, corporate senior vice president of Toshiba.

In 2008, Toshiba invented a new adsorbent named “Functional Powder” which can not only absorb toxic elements from used water, but also extract valuable elements for recycling, including rare metals. The powder can replace the chemicals used in conventional industrial used water treatment processes for the removal of such toxic compounds and is more cost efficient as it can be reused. Toshiba intends to verify this basic technology through field testing and demonstrations under real-life site conditions.

Under the MOU, Aqua Research Center and PUB will explore developing and testing a treatment process technology under which high concentrations of fluoride ions discharged from the semiconductor manufacturing process are removed using the functional powder.

Going forward, Toshiba will promote continued development of the technology towards establishing a global
business in industrial used water treatment.

Toshiba aims to showcase this R&D collaboration at the Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) 2012,
a global water event that brings together the who’s who in the water industry.  Themed “Water Solutions for Liveable and Sustainable Cities,” the fifth Singapore International Water Week, will be held from July 1-5, 2012, in conjunction with the third World Cities Summit and the inaugural CleanEnviro Summit Singapore.