Nanofilm CEO Dr. Shi Xu named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2017 Singapore

Singapore, 13 October 2017

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Dr. Shi Xu, Chief Executive Officer, Nanofilm Technologies International Pte Ltd has been named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year (EOY) 2017 Singapore by professional services organization, EY.

Dr. Shi Xu, Chief Executive Officer, Nanofilm Technologies International Pte Ltd has been named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year (EOY) 2017 Singapore by professional services organization, EY. This was announced at the 16th EY EOY awards gala held at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore this evening, where Mr. Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) and Second Minister for Defence, was the guest-of-honor.

Dr. Shi, who was also named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Advanced Manufacturing, will be Singapore’s representative at the prestigious EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year (WEOY) to be held in Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2018. He will compete with more than 60 other country winners for the coveted world title. The EY WEOY competition is the hallmark of the awards program, offering a platform to profile local entrepreneurs among the world’s best business leaders.

Please refer to fact sheet A for past WEOY winners

Fact sheet A: World Entrepreneur Of The Year past winners

Past WEOY winners
2001: Paolo della Porta, President, Chairman and Group CEO of Saes Getters S.p.A,. Italy
2002: Stefan Vilsmeier, President and CEO of BrainLAB AG, Germany
2003: Narayana Murthy, Founder and Chairman of the India-based Infosys Technologies Limited, India
2004: Tony Tan Caktiong, President of Jollibee Foods Corporation, The Philippines
2005: Wayne Huizenga, Chairman of Huizenga Holdings, US
2006: Bill Lynch, CEO of Imperial Holdings, South Africa
2007: Guy Laliberte, Founder and CEO of Cirque du Soleil, Canada
2008: Dr. Jean-Paul Clozel, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Actelion Pharmaceuticals, Switzerland
2009: Cao Dewang, Chairman of Fuyao Glass Industry Group, China
2010: Michael Spencer, Group CEO of ICAP plc, UK
2011: Olivia Lum, Group President and CEO of Hyflux Ltd, Singapore
2012: James Mwangi, CEO and Managing Director of Equity Bank, Kenya
2013: Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder, President and CEO of Chobani, Inc., US
2014: Uday Kotak, Founder, Executive Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Kotak Mahindra Bank, India
2015: Mohed Altrad, Founder and CEO of Altrad Group, France
2016: Manny Stul, Chairman and Co-CEO, Moose Enterprise, Australia
2017: Murad Al-Katib, President and CEO of Saskatchewan-based AGT Food and Ingredients Inc., Canada


On winning the top honor, Dr. Shi says:

“It is a great honor to win this award this year. I thank my wife, my children and the rest of my family for their love and consistent support through the peaks and valleys in my entrepreneurial journey. I also thank my partners, management team and staff both in Singapore and abroad. Without their support, contribution and innovation, it would not be possible for me to win this award. Winning is a new start! It is a recognition of my past achievements. More importantly it is an inspiration to my future work. Technology, adaptability, perseverance and teamwork are key to win the race in the face of an ever-changing world.”

In addition to the top honor, EY presented four other EOY category awards:

  • EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Advanced Manufacturing
    Dr. Shi Xu, Chief Executive Officer
    Nanofilm Technologies International Pte Ltd
  • EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Maritime Technology Solutions
    Mr. Chia Yoong Hui, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and
    Mr. Sia Teck Chong, Co-founder, Director and Chief Technical Officer
    Ascenz Pte Ltd 
  • EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Financial Services Technology Enablement
    Mr. Lennon Tan, Group Chairman
    JK Tech Group
  • EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Diversified Engineering
    Mr. Derrick Yap, Chief Executive Officer
    PBA International Pte Ltd

Please refer to Fact sheet B for profiles of the winners and their companies, and their comments on winning the award)

Fact sheet B: EY Entrepreneur Of The Year winner and company profiles

(Information provided by winners’ companies)

a) EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017 Singapore
EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Advanced Manufacturing
Dr. Shi Xu
Chief Executive Officer
Nanofilm Technologies International Pte Ltd

Quote on receiving the category award:
“I thank the judging panel for their selection, kind recognition and belief placed in me and our company! I see this great honor as a strong inspiration for me and our company to leap forward to greater success!”

About Dr. Shi Xu
In 1991, Dr. Shi obtained his PhD in Thin Film Technology from the University of Reading, UK. In 1994, he started research in filtered cathodic vacuum arc (FCVA) technology when he was a lecturer at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

During his tenure of 9 years at NTU, Dr. Shi published over 100 research papers and filed five key inventive patents. Dr. Shi founded Nanofilm based on the award-winning FCVA technology and patented this technology in 1999. Since the spin-off, Nanofilm has developed strong capabilities in production, quality assurance, engineering and R&D

Under Dr. Shi’s leadership, Nanofilm has grown into a multinational technology and manufacturing group with over 1,400 employees, providing unique solutions to many industrial partners in various industry sectors.

Dr. Shi is 53 years old.

About Nanofilm Technologies International Pte Ltd
Headquartered in Singapore, Nanofilm has four subsidiaries in Shanghai, China and Tokyo, Japan. There are currently 1,400 employees.

As an advanced vacuum coating technology company, Nanofilm is currently involved in a wide range of industries from precision molding to printing components, mobile accessories and engine parts. Nanofilm’s technology has helped its clients save costs and enhance their products.

Nanofilm is gaining huge momentum in the China and Japan markets. Its coating technologies have achieved groundbreaking results across a variety of industries and their corresponding applications. Since the development of the FCVA, over 50 patents on FCVA and applications have been granted along with many honors and rewards.

b) EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Maritime Technology Solutions
Mr. Chia Yoong Hui, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Mr. Sia Teck Chong, Co-founder, Director and Chief Technical Officer Ascenz Pte Ltd

Quote (from both winners) on receiving the category award:
“We feel great and it is an honor for us to be the winner for the Maritime Technology Solutions category. The award serves as a recognition of our team’s hard work and a motivation for us to press on in our entrepreneurial journey.”

About Mr. Chia Yoong Hui and Mr. Sia Teck Chong
Ascenz founder, Mr. Chia Yoong Hui has served as Chairman, Chief Executive Officer since the company’s inception in 2008. An innovator in the operational intelligence industry, Mr. Chia provides strategic direction to Ascenz as it leads the international market in the delivery of its Shipulse solutions.

Under his leadership, Ascenz has grown to an award-winning company, well-recognized in the industry for its innovation. He has pioneered ship data analytics on the world stage to further the company’s growth.

Together with Mr. Sia Teck Chong, Co-founder, Chief Technical Officer and Director of Ascenz, they managed to grow from a two-man outfit to a strong team. More than 70% of its business transactions are conducted internationally.

Being a new entrant in the industry, they built a product from ground zero with limited resources and created the demand which allowed them to go international. Even in times of uncertainty, Ascenz continues to expand their market beyond Asia.

Both are 49 years old.

About Ascenz
Ascenz addresses a rapidly growing segment that takes a big data approach on shipping. Today, the world is acknowledging that data and analytics can be used by companies to take a proactive effort towards performance optimization. The shipping industry is no exception as it contemplates how to do more proactive performance optimization with data analytics.

Ascenz is the leading Asian player in ship data acquisition and analytics, with more than 300 vessels installed. They have grown from strength to strength since its initial founding in 2008 with 36 staff across seven offices in Asia.

Ascenz’s target markets are the offshore and marine segments. They serve a variety of vessels including offshore support vessels, harbor crafts, container liners, oil tankers and bulk carriers with customers in many geographies including Southeast Asia and Greater China.

c) EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Financial Services
Technology Enablement
Mr. Lennon Tan, Group Chairman
JK Tech Group

Quote on receiving the category award:
“It is a great honor to be recognized in the Financial Services Technology Enablement category. Every successful business revolves around three key elements: people, product and profit. Without a great team working tirelessly behind the scenes, the other two elements could not have been possible. I want to share this award and these moments with the team of JK Tech Group. Let us scale and reach greater heights together!”

About Mr. Lennon Tan
Mr. Lennon Tan started his career as an engineer in the petrochemical industry before spending 10 years with 3M, an American multinational corporation. His last assignment at 3M was managing and developing the company’s business across 14 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

In 2001, he decided to pursue his dream of becoming an entrepreneur and started Able Group in China. Mr. Tan lived in China to focus on developing his business. He started his business through distribution and professional services in the area of document security products.

His affinity for technologies and innovation led him to venture into product development and manufacturing. Through the years, Mr. Tan grew the business organically and through M&As. The company is now known as JK Tech Group, with its headquarters based in Singapore. The company has made significant achievements, supported by private equity investors. Mr. Tan is 49 years old.

About JK Tech Group
JK Tech Group is a Singapore FinTech company involved in providing smart cards, business process outsourcing, digital payment and identity authentication solutions in the Asia-Pacific region with a vision to improve people’s quality of life through smart technology and continuous innovation.

With more than 2,000 employees, JK Tech Group invests heavily in R&D, with over 200 research employees working in the space of biometric technology for identification and payment authentication, cloud computing, big data processing and analytics, encryption, and smart payment applications. They focus on delivering innovative trusted solutions and services to their clients from all business sectors through technology and product innovation.

Read more:

d) EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Diversified Engineering
Mr. Derrick Yap, Chief Executive Officer
PBA International Pte Ltd

Quote on receiving the category award:
“At PBA, we are focused on ‘3 in 3’ strategy (to be top three in the market within three years), and strive to remain nimble as we grow. We will continue to groom our talent to stay at the forefront of robotics and Industry 4.0.

In the age of technology, speed trumps bulk. For PBA, we see Singapore as a prime example of a small nation that comes out strong in the global platform, and seek to anticipate the flow of technology and economy, while continuously charting new directions for the group in this ever-changing landscape.

The disruption in traditional business models creates business opportunities never seen before. PBA embraces change, like wind stoking wildfire. What starts out as a spark when properly nurtured, could grow into an unstoppable force of nature. At PBA, we focus on triggering and nurturing small ideas that would one day be game changers. We are honored to be able to win the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Diversified Engineering award, and will continue to make a mark in the world and be the usher of the world order.”

About Mr. Derrick Yap
Mr. Derrick Yap began his career with the engineering sales team at PBA before leading the group’s sales team in Singapore and Malaysia. Subsequently, he headed the global distribution and trading arm, linear motor engineering team, and pioneered the group’s contract manufacturing capability to produce ultrahigh precision machines for multinational corporations.

Under his leadership, PBA Group has grown into a large enterprise with over 22 companies, and 500 staff, across 13 countries.

Mr. Yap founded the Robotics Automation Centre of Excellence as an industrial platform to drive the adoption of Industry 4.0 across Southeast Asia. In 2017, he started an incubation lab with the vision to groom the next generation of young leaders in manufacturing, engineering and robotics.

Mr. Yap graduated from the National University of Singapore with a Bachelor of Business Administration. He is a member of the Council for Skills, Innovation and Productivity Committee and a council member in South West CDC.

Mr. Yap is 38 years old.

About PBA International Pte Ltd
Founded in 1987, Precision Bearings and Automation (PBA) started as a bearings and mechanical components trading company, which evolved into a contract manufacturing, aerospace components distributor, spindle repairs services, IT services, robotics and customized solutions company with an annual turnover of almost S$100m and valued at over S$200m.

Since 2015, PBA has acquired more than eight companies and has grown into a multinational enterprise with over 20 companies, 500 staff, and a presence in over 13 countries across Asia.

With the government’s increased emphasis on Industry 4.0 initiatives and the creation of smart factories, PBA is actively involved in the deployment of these initiatives. PBA has a strong focus on industry education as well as the deployment of robotics and automation to be integrated with system solutions to meet industry demands.


An independent judging panel had selected the winners based on their merits in fulfilling the six global judging criteria, namely entrepreneurial spirit, financial performance/value creation, strategic direction, national and global impact, innovation and personal integrity/purpose-driven leadership. The award recipients were selected from about 50 nominations.

Please refer to Fact sheet C for members of the judging panel and details of the judging criteria.

Fact sheet C: EY Entrepreneur Of The Year judging panel and criteria

Judging panel

  • Dr. Robert Yap
    Executive Chairman
    YCH Group Pte Ltd
    EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2007
  • Richard Eu
    Eu Yan Sang International Ltd
    EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011
  • Dr. Kar Wong
    Managing Director
    Advanced Group of Companies
    EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2014
  • Julian Ho
    Egon Zehnder
  • Derek Lau
    Heliconia Capital Management Pte Ltd
  • Professor Annie Koh
    Vice President, Office of Business Development 
    Practice Professor in Finance
    Singapore Management University
  • Poon Hong Yuen
    Chief Executive
    SPRING Singapore

Judging criteria

The following six judging criteria sets the global standard adhered to by each and every country participating in the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year awards.

  • Entrepreneurial spirit
    The individual is a risk-taker who sets very high standards and demonstrates an unflinching desire and determination to succeed despite significant obstacles.
  • Financial performance/ Value creation
    The business has demonstrated strong financial performance and maintains a good track record in raising finance. Coupled with quality investments and its focus on the development of human capital, the business has the potential for long-term sustainability.
  • Strategic direction
    The individual not only creates and turns business visions into realities, but also builds strategic alliances and empowers talents to achieve common goals.
  • National and global impact
    The business has displayed a high degree of potential for growth and expansion into international markets that has made national and global impact in terms of job creation and improved living economics.
  • Innovation
    The individual has pioneered a new approach or technology, embraces changes and continuously innovates.
  • Personal integrity/ Purpose-driven leadership
    The individual earns great respect and is able to communicate ideas and influence the wider community. The individual’s enforcement of socially responsible practices seeks to improve the quality of life. The individual demonstrates a commitment to the highest ethical and quality standards in business activities and operations.


Chairman of the judging panel, Dr. Robert Yap, also Executive Chairman of YCH Group Pte Ltd comments on Dr. Shi’s winning attributes:

“Shi Xu has been able to both identify and realize opportunities, no matter what role or environment he is in. With his scientific background, he spotted existing limitations, invented a new technology, and had the strong business acumen to take it from ideation to commercialization. His belief in innovation continues to drive his investments in research and development. To date, his company has filed over 50 patents and his technology is now applied across a wide range of industries.”

Technology is key driver of innovation and entrepreneurship

According to the EY Growth Barometer, a survey of 2,340 executives across 30 countries, Singapore companies in the middle market, compared to their peers elsewhere, see technology as having a greater impact on them.

Also, almost one in five middle-market companies in Singapore plan to grow their revenues by more than 26% this year, pointing to how middle-market companies, and by that extension entrepreneurial companies, are a vital force for socio-economic growth.

Mr. Max Loh, EY Asean and Singapore Managing Partner, Ernst & Young LLP, says:

“Singapore has been relentless in driving entrepreneurship since more than two decades ago. To accelerate the momentum, the onus is on each and every one of us – whether policymakers, corporates, education institutions or aspiring individuals – to champion new ideas, question conventional wisdom, and reset thinking and boundaries.

In a disrupted environment where size and scale matters no more than resilience and agility, many businesses will falter amid unfamiliar conditions while others, like our winning entrepreneurs tonight, stand tall outside of their comfort zones. A common quality distinguishes them, and that is having the courage to lead astutely and disruptively.”

This year’s EOY winners share how they are capitalizing on technology to innovate and navigate disruption.

Mr. Lennon Tan of JK Tech Group says:

“With technology, companies can gain foothold in a new market without physically being there, and benefit from lower operation costs from a virtual presence. Harnessing big data and data analytics gives rise to better customer service level and efficiency. This gives small companies the chance to disrupt the market, scale within a short time and challenge big global corporations in the same space, which was almost impossible to do in the past.”

Mr. Chia Yoong Hui and Mr. Sia Teck Chong of Ascenz Pte Ltd emphasize the importance of an agile mindset:

“Entrepreneurs and companies have to constantly think and rethink everything they do. We should seek to be the disruptive force rather than be disrupted in the process. To create growth opportunities from disruption, we have to be ready for any radical shift in our business, review our processes and structures as well as the way we interact with customers.”

Mr. Derrick Yap of PBA International Pte Ltd adds:

“In an uncertain and disruptive environment, we must be agile, quick to react and nimble in execution. Resist change and we will be torn to shreds. Accept change and we can ride the growth with minimal efforts. At PBA, we are mindful of fast-changing technology and customer preferences. We build our core team to invest in and research in fundamental technology, while simultaneously exploring upcoming technology.”

Dr. Shi Xu of Nanofilm Technologies International Pte Ltd challenges fears around disruption:

“Disruption means opportunities; there are no breakthroughs without disruptions. In Nanofilm’s ecosystem, we believe in encouraging our people to look into new methodologies, options, innovations and creations that can benefit our customers, stakeholders and even the industry at large. The focus is to form a working community for our people and customers to interact and collaborate to create new solutions.”

Honoring the legacy of Tolaram Group

At the gala, EY and Standard Chartered presented the EY-Standard Chartered Family Business Award of Excellence to Tolaram Group.

Mr. Mohan Vaswani, Chairman, Tolaram Group shared his views on what makes a family business successful:

“Practise meritocracy and invest in good people; align the organization to its core values; and always give your best, but learn to accept that the outcome depends on the confluence of many other factors – some of which are beyond our control.”

Please refer to Fact sheet D for winner profile, eligibility and selection criteria.

Factsheet D: EY-Standard Chartered Family Business Award of Excellence
Winner profile, eligibility and selection criteria

(Information provided by winners’ companies)

EY-Standard Chartered Family Business Award of Excellence
Tolaram Group

About Tolaram Group
Tolaram Group was founded in 1948 in Malang, Indonesia. Headquartered in Singapore, the Group has existing operations in Asia, Africa, and Europe with products exported to over 75 countries. With almost 70 years of entrepreneurial experience, the business has evolved from trading, to manufacturing, to brand-building. While they are established in several industries, they are now focusing on growing their fast-moving consumer goods and digital services business.

In 2016, Tolaram Group was reorganized as a trust with Ishk Tolaram Foundation becoming the majority trustee and 25% beneficiary. The Foundation represents the philanthropic endeavors of the family, focusing on issues related to education, employment, and health care in Indonesia and Nigeria.

Currently, the Group employs over 10,000 employees. Their culture is shaped by their guiding values: Trust, Respect, Commitment, Courage, and Humility. These values stand at the core of everything they do and help to honor where they came from and what they learned along the way.


  • Leadership of the company includes family member(s) from second or subsequent generations, or has multiple branches of a family involved in leadership. (i.e., one individual and first generation would not qualify for the award).
  • The family still has a significant ownership and voting stake and is primarily responsible for setting the strategic direction and values for the firm.
  • The legal form of the company or group of companies is not relevant.
  • Companies may be private or publicly traded.
  • If the shares and voting rights have been transferred to a trust, it will remain to be considered as family business if the family has dominant influence on the trust in a way described above.
  • The business or headquarter of the business is located in Singapore.

Judging criteria:

  • Company shows evidence of a successful, sustainable and long term-oriented strategy.
  • Company has adopted an effective and transparent corporate governance approach, enabling the execution of the desired strategy and living out of family values.
  • Company governance enables unity among the ownership family (i.e., little evidence of significant family disputes impacting the business).
  • Demonstrated the ability of the family to preserve company culture, tradition and values and maintain the entrepreneurial spirit and continued innovation over generations.
  • Evidence shown of exceptional personnel management.
  • Commitment to philanthropic causes or corporate social responsibility.
  • Other exceptional achievements such as business awards, public service etc.


Sponsors and supporters

Standard Chartered Bank joins as a major sponsor of the EOY awards program this year, and is also the co-presenter of the EY-Standard Chartered Family Business Award of Excellence, for 2017 to 2018.

Ms. Judy Hsu, CEO Standard Chartered, Singapore says:

"Entrepreneurs are a critical part of our economy and society. The winners of the EOY Awards amplify the entrepreneurial spirit that businesses and Singapore would need to chart a meaningful future. From passion, leadership, innovation, ambition to foresight – these qualities inspire others to be the best that they can be. Most importantly, the winners also demonstrated that in their journey to success, they showed a lot of heart, caring for and bringing a positive impact to the community."

“Having served entrepreneurs for generations, we are proud to be a trusted partner of these clients, supporting them through our private banking and corporate banking services. Working together, we believe we can be Here for good.”

Other sponsors and supporters include The Edge Singapore (official business publication); The Peak (official luxury lifestyle magazine); Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE); International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore); Singapore Business Federation and SPRING Singapore.

The EY EOY awards program was launched in Singapore in 2002 to honor entrepreneurs who have created and sustained successful business ventures, as well as to coincide with the government’s focus on fostering entrepreneurship and grooming local entrepreneurs. Now in its 16th year, the awards has evolved into a leading business award in Singapore with an international presence and footprint. For more information about the EY EOY program, please visit


Notes to editors

About EY

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

EY refers to the global organization, and may refer to one or more, of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more information about our organization, please visit

This news release has been issued by Ernst & Young Solutions LLP, a member of the global EY organization.

About EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ is the world’s most prestigious business awards program for entrepreneurs. The program makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential and recognizes the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. As the first and only truly global awards program of its kind, Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 145 cities in more than 60 countries.

About Standard Chartered

Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore is part of an international banking group with more than 80,000 employees and a 150-year history in some of the world's most dynamic markets.

We bank the people and companies driving investment, trade and the creation of wealth across Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Our heritage and values are expressed in our brand promise, Here for good.

Standard Chartered Bank has a history of 158 years in Singapore, with its first branch here opened in 1859. In October 1999, it was among the first international banks to receive a Qualifying Full Bank (QFB) license, an endorsement of the Group's long-standing commitment to its business in the country. The Bank transferred its Singapore Retail and SME business to a locally-incorporated subsidiary, Standard Chartered Bank (Singapore) Limited (SCBSL) on 7 October 2013. After the transfer, all banking services offered to retail and SME clients, particularly deposit taking, wealth management services, overdrafts, personal loans, credit cards, auto financing, and mortgages, have been offered by SCBSL. SCBSL is rated one of the highest banks globally: Aa3 by Moody’s and A by Fitch Ratings.

Standard Chartered offers corporate and institutional clients services in trade finance, cash management, lending, securities services, foreign exchange, debt capital markets and corporate finance. The Bank also provides private banking services through its private banking division.

The Bank employs more than 8,000 people in Singapore and has a network of 17 branches, 5 Priority Banking centres and 31 ATMs.

The Bank's global business is managed out of Singapore, as is its global Technology & Operations function.

In 2015, the Monetary Authority of Singapore named Standard Chartered one of the Domestic Systemically Important Banks in the country along with six other local and international banks.