Outstanding Ladies in the Singapore Additive Manufacturing Start-up Space

“A world full of empowered women isn’t one where men are marginalized. It’s a world where everyone thrives.”

― Purnima Mane, President and CEO of Pathfinder International, a global non-profit humanitarian organisation

The Ministry for Social and Family Development has declared 2021 as the Year of Celebrating SG Women. Achieving gender equality has always been a progressive affair for many societies. Oftentimes, discrimination is not apparent on the surface. In Singapore, a great amount of collective effort has been spent on providing equal opportunities for all genders, eradicate patriarchal mindsets and practices. In recent years, Singapore has seen significant progress in the position of women in areas including education, representation in Parliament and contributions to the economy [1]. Last September, the government announced a legislative review on issues affecting women. A White Paper would subsequently be published with recommendations to create a more inclusive nation.

In the Additive Manufacturing industry, it is currently known that women make up approximately 13% of the industry globally [2]. In embracing emerging technologies of Industry 4.0 for the future of manufacturing, the cross-industry nature of Additive Manufacturing technology can be deeply enriched by diversity in the workforce, with the myriad of applications with the technology. One of the largest advocates for gender equality in the Additive Manufacturing space is Women in 3D Printing, a global organization dedicated to promoting, supporting, and inspiring women who are using Additive Manufacturing technologies.

Nora Toure, the founder of Women in 3D Printing has expressed her strong support for celebrating women in the Singapore Additive Manufacturing start-up space. She stated, “As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2021, we are glad to partner NAMIC in their initiative to feature the women trailblazers in Singapore! There are of course many more women in the Singapore AM community worth highlighting. The featured ladies have all made significant and leading contributions in their respective space. We are proud to be associated with them and congratulate them on their achievements. Through such publicity, we hope this will inspire more ladies to join the STEM industry.”

Commemorating Diversity in the Singapore AM Start-Up Space

Florence is a Pharma executive turned Deep-Tech start-up practitioner and evangelist. Since leaving the pharma industry, Florence has been involved in the Singapore start-up ecosystem as a venture capitalist, commercial strategist, entrepreneur, start-up mentor/ advisor. Florence is currently co-founder of KosmodeHealth – a NUS Food Science Technology spin-off incorporated to expand access to health from nature, by impacting 2 industries – the agri-food and biomedical industry. Florence is also a Lean LaunchPad Medtech Track Instructor, mentor, grant review panel member in NUS Enterprise industry, and Industry Advisor at Singapore Biodesign.

Within the 3D cell culture market of the biomedical industry, KosmodeHealth formulates Protein Protein Composite (PPCTM) bio-ink and customises 3D printing of scaffold in accordance to the growth specifications needed for different cells & tissues.

Recently, KosmodeHealth has launched its proprietary W0W™ Noodles, a starch-free, cholesterol-free healthy noodle alternative, aimed at addressing the issue of aging population and high prevalence of diabetes in Singapore.

Daphne is the co-founder of Siege Advanced Manufacturing, and has graduated from the National University of Singapore with a degree in Chemical Engineering. She found additive manufacturing to be an up and coming manufacturing method and decided to join the industry. In Siege AM, She handles operations and customer-facing roles, helping to close the technical gap between clients and the company. More recently, she also started a plastic recycling brand called The Erde Co, which aims to repurpose plastic waste produced from the 3D printing process back into something useful.

Siege Advanced Manufacturing is Singapore’s largest 3D print farm which specialises in mass manufacturing of customised end-parts across various industries.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Siege AM focused a majority of their 3D printing efforts on producing and donating thousands of face shields to several hospitals both in Singapore and overseas, and over 40,000 ear savers to local beneficiaries.

Q1. How is it like being in a field that is stereotypically deemed to be dominated by men? Did you face any challenges?

F:  Whilst it is true that Additive Manufacturing is a field dominated by males, I did not experience any specific challenges as a woman. I feel that there is a lot of mutual respect in the field. I greatly respect the people I meet for their technical expertise and there are often healthy exchanges of ideas. In fact, the males in the field have been very supportive and patient. It has been a great learning experience.

D: I’ve noticed that quite a number of people naturally assume that I am a male when conversing online. And occasionally, I catch a glimpse of a shocked response (that I’m a female) when meeting people face to face. But I have been quite fortunate not to have experienced any demeaning or discriminatory actions or language. We are quite fortunate that Singaporeans are relatively open-minded and aware of gender equality. In fact, I’ve worked with many other females who are all in the STEM industry during my time at Siege AM too. Ultimately, it boils down to a person’s work ethic and abilities.

Q2. What made you decide to venture into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) industry as a career choice? Who, or what, is your inspiration?

F: I really hate to disappoint but the truth is, I did not make a conscious decision to venture into STEM. I guess as a Marketing major from NUS Business School, I found the work in the finance house that I had joined upon graduation pretty unexciting. The market dynamics in the Finance industry then (long, long ago when I first graduated) was very different; customers come to us and there was no need to do aggressive marketing.

My interest in marketing led me to join the Pharma industry as a ‘drug peddler’. I was given the responsibility to launch the first few biologics in the industry (Interferons and Granulocyte Colony Stimulating Factors). It was really tough learning scientific and chemistry terms, but it was nonetheless very rewarding when I managed to hold my ground in scientific discussions with the specialists. Every industry, STEM included, requires commercial expertise. I happen to have the commercial expertise to be able to contribute in a very technical industry.

D: I graduated not too long ago, and I’ve always been in the STEM streams since my school days. I graduated from NUS Chemical Engineering and have been teaching GCE ‘A’ level H2 Mathematics for the past 9 years, so it was natural for me to choose the STEM industry as a career choice. I don’t have a particular inspiration, but I generally like Science and Mathematics and knowing how things work. I also think it is very important to have a good sense of numbers in everyday life!

Q3. Do you have any words of encouragement for other ladies who wish to pursue a career in STEM but may be daunted to do so?

F: Go with your heart, be led by your passion. Failures may be encountered but challenges can be overcome as long as one is willing and open to learn.

D: If you are interested in a STEM career, go for it! There are plenty of opportunities and resources available, so do not be afraid to ask for help. Rather than over-worrying on the gender difference, I think it is more important to hone your skills and abilities. There are many people who are very willing to help and share their experiences. If you are able to bring good ideas and solutions to the table, the rest will come naturally.

Q4. Could you share some of your entrepreneurship experience/contribution that attributed to the success of your company?

F: It might be too early to call KosmodeHealth a success. At best, KosmodeHealth has been making good progress. You might be aware that KosmodeHealth’s core expertise is in plant extraction. Our foray into 3D Bioprinting was due to a corridor conversation between my co-founder, A/P Huang Dejian and a fellow NUS prof who was complaining of the absence of bio-ink which can be used for her precise 3D bioprinting technology that prints 3D scaffold of sub-micron scale for 3D cell culture.

We would not have extended our technology platform into Plant Protein Composite Bio-ink formulation if A/P Huang did not take the corridor conversation seriously, think ‘outside the box’ and offer to formulate bio-ink with extracted plant protein.

The lesson here is that opportunities are aplenty. As entrepreneurs, we must be constantly looking out for problems that need solving, and not be afraid to experiment with solving these problems. No man is an island, our ability to succeed is often driven by support from partners within the network. Be open minded, be ready to offer support and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Success belongs to those who work together, not to individual champions.

D: I joined Siege Advanced Manufacturing when it was still a very young startup, at around 6 months. I came up with a structure to track all 3D prints that goes through our printers. It would otherwise be very difficult and disorganised as we deal with thousands of prints per month. Last year when COVID-19 first struck, I came up with the idea for the donation of face shields and ear savers, and subsequently facilitated all the donations. On a day to day basis, I bridge the technical gap between us and the customers, and help them better understand the manufacturing process.

But these are just some of the few things that goes on behind the scenes at Siege Advanced Manufacturing. There are also many other people who have guided us on our entrepreneurship journey. My team members at Siege AM, our mentors and friends that we met along the way are as important. For example, for the COVID-19 face shield donations, while I arranged and liaised the donations, my co-founder Chi Jie helped source for the resources during lockdown, and my team packed and readied the shields. Our mentors guided us on the finer details of the donations that we had missed out on, and helped us connect to the people in need. Meanwhile, our friends also lent us their support in various ways. Everything really is a team effort.

Q5. Could you share one interesting fact/hobby about yourself that other people might not know about?

F: As a bio/medtech advisor, instructor and entrepreneur, many people would assume that I am a Science graduate. Many are often surprised that I am a business school graduate but I guess those who are well-acquainted with me would already be aware of this. However, not many people know that I have no Science background at all and that I even failed my biology in my GCE ‘O’ levels. The message that I would like to give is: one must not be limited by our training or past failings. Grab whatever opportunity that opens up, put your heart, soul and mind into it and triumph would be yours.

D: I love the outdoors, and have loved it since young. From taking part in biathlons and triathlons and being an Outdoor Adventure Leader in Secondary School, to being a part of the Outdoor Adventure Club in Junior College, and partaking in canoeing in university, it is a part of me. In the past 4 months, I’ve explored 12 new hiking trails and went on several intertidal walks (marine walks). I love that Singapore has so many interesting hidden places to discover! I also took up diving and enjoy being underwater, observing the marine life. It is very calming to be in the nature.

This is also partly the reason for me starting up The Erde Co – so that the plastic used in the 3D printing process will be more productive, and hopefully contributing in a small way to preserving our natural areas.

 


 

References:

[1] ‘International Women’s Day: Progress being made in workplace diversity, say top female executives‘ by The Straits Times, 8 Mar 2020.

[2] Women in 3D Printing

 


 

KosmodeHealth Singapore

Address: The Curie, 83 Science Park Drive #02-03/4 Singapore 118258

Phone: +65 8125 6829

Contact Person: Florence Leong, Co-founder, Director

Email: florenceleong@kosmodehealth.com

LinkedIn: KosmodeHealth Singapore

Website: www.kosmodehealth.com

 

 Siege Advanced Manufacturing

Address: 38 Ang Mo Kio Industrial Park 2 Lobby A #06-05 Singapore 569511

Phone: +65 9846 0876

Contact Person: Ms Daphne Ting, Co-Founder

Email: daphne@siegeadvancedmanufacturing.com

LinkedIn: Siege Advanced Manufacturing

Website: https://www.siegeadvancedmanufacturing.com/

 

KosmodeHealth Singapore is listed in NAMIC’s AM Business Directory, find out more:

 

 
Siege Advanced Manufacturing is listed in NAMIC’s AM Business Directory, find out more: