Nurturing 'Thinking Tinkerers' for Pharma Industry

The pharmaceutical sector is an important contributor to the Singapore economy, accounting for more than three per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Singapore is a leading location for best-in-class manufacturing plants, where a wide range of products including active pharmaceutical ingredients, drug products and biologics drug substances are launched and produced.

Industry leaders like GSK, MSD, Pfizer, Novartis, Roche, Sanofi, Shire, Lonza, AbbVie and Amgen have global manufacturing hubs in Singapore, with a combined output of around S$17 billion worth of products for global markets.

To support the growth of the knowledge-intensive pharmaceutical industry, the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) launched the Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Pharmaceutical Engineering in 2015 – the first of its kind in Singapore. Built on an interdisciplinary curriculum that intersects engineering, life sciences and chemistry, the applied degree programme aims to deliver a rigorous education with a strong industry focus.

SIT’s PharmE students are trained to be equipped with the full spectrum of skill sets pertinent to drug manufacturing, ranging from drug development and production to process development, operations, validation, regulation and compliance. In addition, modules to develop students’ business and management acumen are offered to add breadth to the programme.

An integral part of SIT’s applied learning education is the eight to 12-month long Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP), where students apply what they have learnt in the classroom in a real-world setting. Students also have to undertake capstone projects centred on solving industry problems during their IWSP, under the guidance of both SIT faculty and company supervisors.

Students interacting with companies’ representatives during the IWSP Preview.


“Through such exposure, our students learn to be ‘thinking tinkerers’ – constantly looking to improve things and solve practical problems with innovative solutions. We hope to groom them into industry-ready talents to make an impactful contribution to the pharmaceutical industry,” explained Associate Professor Lim Kok Hwa, Programme Director, SIT.

In addition, students have the opportunity to gain a global perspective of industry best practices by embarking on various international programmes, such as the Overseas Exposure Programme and Overseas Integrated Work Study Programme (OIWSP). These include work attachments with overseas pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities, where they can experience working on modern industrial-scale unit operations, as well as learn state-of-the-art analytical technologies for pharmaceutical product monitoring and certification.

Students’ visit to Amgen as part of their applied learning.


SIT is also part of the Pharma Innovation Programme Singapore (PIPS) consortium led by A*STAR to drive the transformation of the local pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. Backed by a S$34-million grant, the programme enables SIT to work with pharmaceutical giants such as GSK, MSD and Pfizer to build innovative practices and contribute to better quality products and value for patients.

This article was adapted from The Singapore Engineers December 2018 publication with the permission of The Institution of Engineers, Singapore.