SUTD announces new president to drive greater innovation in design and technology | The Straits Times


imageSINGAPORE – The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) will welcome a new president in August 2024 as part of a new strategy to raise its standing as a leader in design and technology education.

Professor Phoon Kok Kwang, who is currently provost, will take over the role of president from Professor Chong Tow Chong on Aug 1.Prof Chong, an electrical engineer by training, will continue to teach as a professor in the university.

The leadership change is part of the school’s new strategy, SUTD Leap, which aims to equip students with more real-world experience in design and technology and help them apply what they have learnt through closer collaboration with industry partners.

Addressing an audience of 120 guests and students, including Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, Prof Chong said: “As we embark on the next leg of our SUTD trailblazing journey, I feel the time is right for me to hand over the baton to the next generation of leaders, with whom I have been working closely to develop the new strategy over the past years.”

Professor Tai Lee Siang, who currently heads the architecture and sustainable design pillar, will be deputy chief president and also serve in the newly created role of chief innovation and enterprise officer, Prof Chong said.

He added that the university is searching for a new provost and chief academic and innovation officer, a role that will be redefined as part of SUTD Leap.

Prof Chong said: “Building upon the strong foundations we have laid, (the new strategy) envisions our evolution to equip our students with the skills needed to excel in an increasingly uncertain and rapidly evolving world.”

Speaking to The Straits Times, Prof Chong said he feels bittersweet about leaving, but strongly believes the new leadership will execute this strategy well.

“I have been with the university since day one, and I still remember personally delivering one student’s offer letter,” Prof Chong said.“I had tea with the parents to explain to them what SUTD was all about, and to get them to believe in the university.”

He added that the university exists to do bold things like reimagine education, and he hopes it will continue to do that.

The university earlier in 2024 announced that all graduates from 2024 onwards will have their undergraduate degrees automatically design-accredited by the Design Business Chamber Singapore (DBCS), regardless of their major.

According to SUTD, this is the first time worldwide that all degrees in a university have been design-accredited.

SUTD will also see its first batch of students graduate from its Design and Artificial Intelligence (DAI) degree programme that was launched in 2020 to prepare students with digital capabilities for an AI-driven economy.This degree programme is the first of its kind in Singapore, said SUTD.

When asked about the new role, Prof Phoon said this is a huge responsibility, as he wants to build SUTD to become a strategic asset for Singapore.

“I personally feel very committed to this role, and ultimately, our goal is to nurture the next generation,” Prof Phoon said.“I want them to feel like superheroes in AI, leading them to fulfil meaningful jobs in the community, and I am motivated to get them there.”

At the event, Mr Chan spoke to SUTD students and research fellows as they presented their innovations, some of which have been turned into start-ups.

One of these is Hearth&Home, an AI-driven platform created by five SUTD students to streamline the interior design process for home owners.

(From left) SUTD students Mah Yi Da, Raphael Yee, Phua Yen Ching, Alexander Koh and Bryce Goh created Hearth&Home to streamline the interior design process for home owners.ST PHOTO: GIN TAY The idea grew out of 27-year-old Raphael Yee’s dissatisfaction with his own home’s renovation process.

Mr Yee, a fourth-year computer science and design student, said his platform allows home owners to select six images from a wider pool of pictures, following which AI will generate a 3D interior design that resembles their “dream home”.

Once content with the generated design, home owners are presented with an AI-based cost estimation using material catalogues from partnering contractors.

Currently, the start-up has helped design more than 300 homes.

Mr Yee said: “The perspective of our team is to always look where the technology is going, and since homes have been around for so many years, we wanted to see how we could use AI technology to enhance this space for the future.”

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