THE HANGAR by NUS Enterprise Entrepreneurs Feature — Subnero

In this week’s Entrepreneurs Feature, we speak to team Subnero, which provides innovative solutions to facilitate underwater wireless networked communications. Founded in 2012, the startup licenses technology developed over a decade at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

1. What is Subnero and how did the idea behind it come about?

At Subnero, we focus on enhancing underwater networks and communications, the next frontier in wireless communications. Subnero’s Water Assessment Network (SWAN) uses autonomous robots to monitor the quality of water in reservoirs and lakes. Our mission is to offer high performance underwater communications, navigation, monitoring and sensing solutions for commercial deployments as well as for researchers. Our vision is to become the de facto standard for underwater communication & sensing networks.

The original technology was developed at ARL, TMSI, a research lab at NUS. Much of the technology was originally developed with the goal of helping researchers testbed various underwater communication and sensing algorithms. Once the technology was mature enough, the founders of Subnero licensed the technology from NUS with the goal of commercializing it.

2. Why a robotic swan and not an otter or duck :P?

SWANs are generally associated with clean waters. It also blends well with natural surroundings and is a good fit for PUB’s ABC (Active Beautiful Clean) initiative. Additionally, a SWAN’s dimension is perfect of housing all the sensors and computing devices we need for water quality monitoring.

Photo credit: NUS Enterprise

3. What sacrifices did the team have to make in starting up Subnero?

As our founders are not full time employees (to avoid draining company resources), the major trade-off they had to do was to juggle between their full time work commitments and growing Subnero, till a full time organisational structure was in place.

4. Where does the team see Subnero in five years?

A leading provider of underwater communication & in-water sensing solutions with international customers, across our target markets.

Robot swans developed by PUB, NUS and the Tropical Marine Science Institute that help real-time quality water monitoring (Photo credit: Mediacorp)

5. What was the most fulfilling moment in your entrepreneurial journey?

We recently delivered 5 SWANs to PUB for water quality monitoring of Singapore reservoirs, our first delivery of SWANs. This was a result of almost 5 years of hard work from licensing the prototype technology from ARL, NUS (through the Industry Liaison Office) to building a commercial solution around it and selling to Singapore’s national water agency.

6. What are some of the greatest challenges in the course of your entrepreneurial journey and what did you learn from them?

We have received enthusiastic assistance and guidance at all stages of our development (E.g. NUS Enterprise, Spring Singapore, PUB, MINDEF etc.) and are fortunate not to have encountered any substantial issues so far. We look forward to taking on further challenges and become the de facto standard for underwater communications and in-water sensing networks.

7. What was your most memorable moment in THE HANGAR by NUS Enterprise and why?

Before moving to THE HANGAR, we were located at the Garage along Prince George’s Park and were not sure whether we would be able to secure a place at THE HANGAR. Since we work closely with ARL, a lab at NUS, we wanted to stay in close proximity to NUS campus for mindshare and logistical reasons. In fact, we had even started looking for a place to move to. However, NUS Enterprise was kind enough to offer us a place at THE HANGAR.

We visited THE HANGAR before it was officially opened, to check out the place. I remember thinking that this is awesome and it will be great journey moving forward, along with NUS Enterprise.


Are you an entrepreneur working on a cool product and looking for more than just a co-working space ? Do apply for a hotdesk here and become part of the exciting community that we offer at BLOCK71 Singapore.

For more great entrepreneur themed articles delivered weekly to your inbox, subscribe to the BLOCK71 newsletter here!