26 FEB 21
RIDING ON THE COVID WAVE
Didi Gan is the founder of N&E Innovation which looks at innovation in the sustainable and anti-microbial fabric industry. Didi and her team are currently members at Bridge+ Ascent at Singapore Science Park 1. In Feb 2021, Bridge+ partnered with Didi and N&E Innovation to produce customised Bridge+ face masks for our members. The face masks were made out breathable and sustainable bamboo material with natural UV protection properties. Its hypoallergenic properties protects your facial skin from irritation and keeps users dry and comfortable for extended hours.
1. How did N&E Innovation come about?
I used to be the Managing Director of a textile manufacturing mill based in Malaysia. Due to my passion in R&D, I tried to apply what I learnt back in my university days where I studied biomedical science into the textile industry. Back then, the textile industry was usually about efficiency on how the fabrics are made but I was always thinking about how I could innovate to introduce new chemicals to enhance the "lastingness" of fabrics.
When COVID-19 hit, I had a choice to stay where I was, or move back to Singapore and I decided to move back since we weren’t allowed to travel across the borders and we were starting to produce and source for fabrics suitable for reusable masks. Then I had this idea, "why don’t we make our own anti-bacterial masks?" I rallied a few good friends and old suppliers I used to work with, and we co-developed a new chemical compound that is natural 100% natural and has a good antibacterial effect. That was the birth of N&E Innovation.
2. So what are you working on now?
We are currently working on our next product - a one-layer mask that is thin and extremely breathable but still carries antimicrobial technologies. It is suitable for Singapore’s hot and humid weather.
3. What would you say is the biggest challenge you've faced in recent years?
Building a start-up in the midst of a global pandemic. We rushed against time to obtain the CE certification for our medical grade masks before we could launch to market. There were many processes and layers we had to go through in order to achieve that in a short time.
4. Are you on the lookout for any potential partnerships? If so, what kind?
As our antimicrobial solution is made up of an active ingredient that has many uses such as applying it onto surfaces, hand sprays or even things like film wrap to protect your packages, we are looking to collaborate with businesses who might have such needs.
5. How has the pandemic affected the way you work and do you have any productivity hacks to share?
N&E Innovations sprung forth out of the pandemic so in a way it was a good thing for us. However, my entire style of working has been disrupted. I used to travel back and forth Singapore and Malaysia frequently but now I am stationed permanently in Singapore. Even though our office is in Singapore, our labs and much of our work takes place overseas. On our consultants’ side, they are unable to come and take a look at the R&D work. We've had to learn how to tele-communicate and technology has really been a game-changer. Now, our scientists can look at something virtually and make decisions - that is one of the toughest thing we have to go through and I'm glad that we did.
6. Tell us your secret - how do you juggle work and your other commitments?
I think it is very important to meditate. I do meditate about 20 minutes every morning, twice daily. It really helps to calm the mind down and be focused on what is needed. I practice transcendental meditation and it works really well for me.
7. Favourite book!
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike.
8. Favourite place to chill around Bridge+?
I actually like the phone booths at Bridge+ Ascent Lobby B. I love that it’s a small quiet space and it's first-come, first-serve so I don't have to book it ahead of time. Sometimes when I need to relax, I go there and have a coffee.