Taking to the skies in times of turbulence: New SIA-NUS Digital Aviation Corporate Laboratory to transform aviation industry

A milestone event in the historic partnership of Singapore Airlines (SIA) and NUS was marked on 10 Jan, with the launch of the new SIA-NUS Digital Aviation Corporate Laboratory.

The Corporate Laboratory was officially launched by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Chairman of the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF).

Situated at the Innovation 4.0 Building at NUS Kent Ridge campus, the S$45 million research facility is the seventh Corporate Laboratory at NUS and follows the signing of two Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) between NUS and SIA, with the University as the Airline’s knowledge partner.

Acknowledging the turbulent times that the global aviation industry is facing due to the stress test of the COVID-19 pandemic, DPM Heng commended SIA and NUS for this momentous collaboration. He stressed the need to keep SIA vibrant and nimble, in line with SIA’ s vision to be the world’s leading digital airline.

“Post-COVID, the global aviation industry will be reshaped significantly. To emerge stronger, we must reset our flight path so that we can soar higher,” he said. “At the heart of such partnerships is the tightening of the nexus between research and industry, enabling both sides to learn and benefit from each other.”

Professor Tan Eng Chye, President of NUS, added that the Corporate Laboratory is a “wonderful opportunity to bring together and to combine the knowledge, expertise and experience of researchers as well as industry practitioners and business managers, to discover new insights and to innovate new solutions”.

 “Together, we will work on areas that are relevant to SIA’s operations, like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, data science and analytics, optimisation, behavioural and sleep science, and industrial design,” Prof Tan added.

Transforming aviation

The Corporate Laboratory is set to co-create and potentially commercialise innovative technologies and solutions to accelerate the digital transformation of Singapore’s aviation sector, and redefine the air travel experience for passengers and crew alike. These include traveller-centric digital services, improved security and safety in air travel, and enhanced organisational effectiveness and workplace productivity for Singapore’s aviation sector.

Featuring state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, such as a cabin simulator and a cockpit simulator with Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies, the Corporate Laboratory will leverage NUS’ wide and deep research expertise across its faculties and research institutes. These include NUS Business School, the NUS School of Computing, the NUS College of Design and Engineering, Duke-NUS Medical School, the Institute of Operations Research and Analytics at NUS, and the Institute for Health Innovation & Technology at NUS.

The laboratory will focus on four areas of research to push the envelope in the digitalisation of Singapore’s aviation industry:

  1. Improving employee wellness by developing an intelligent, data-driven fatigue modelling and prediction algorithm to enhance safety, well-being, performance, and productivity of each individual crew member
  2. Accelerating competency and skill development for pilots and cabin crew by leveraging advanced eye tracking, AR and VR, and post-flight feedback technologies, to improve training standards and crew competency through a wide range of simulated scenarios
  3. Developing real environment cabin simulators to enhance customers’ wellness, comfort and sleep quality particularly on long-haul flights, in order to continue offering the best-in-class on-ground and in-flight experience
  4. Digitalising airline revenue management and dynamic pricing by applying data-driven technologies and analytical tools in demand-modelling, fare pricing, and seat allocation, in order to enhance operational efficiencies in response to the dynamic market environment

Besides research projects, the Corporate Laboratory will also train a pipeline of R&D and engineering talent with deep technical expertise. It will award PhD scholarships to aspiring students to work on projects at the Corporate Laboratory, as well as offer internship opportunities at SIA.

Professor Teo Chung  Piaw, Executive Director of the Institute of Operations Research and Analytics at NUS, and Mr Chan Mun Chung, Senior Manager at SIA’s Digital Innovation Lab, will be the co-Directors of the Corporate Laboratory.

Affirming the project and SIA’s commitment to innovation, SIA Chief Executive Officer Mr Goh Choon Phong said, “Innovation has permeated the way we live and breathe as an organisation. It enables us to offer world-leading products and service, enhance our operational efficiencies, and create new business opportunities.”

“The aviation and travel technologies that [the Corporate Laboratory] develops will accelerate our digital transformation, and help defend our industry-leading position,” he added.