Singapore's industry-friendly landscape for businesses
In central Singapore lies a gleaming cluster of complexes – including Nanos, Genome, Helios, Chromos, Proteos, Matrix, and Immunos– whose names hint at the cutting-edge developments taking place within. The 15 complexes form Biopolis, a world-class biomedical research hub where experts from both industry and academia have converged.
Through the construction of this – and other – specialized hubs for various industries, the Singapore government has, over the past few decades, made a concerted effort for its urban plans to go the extra mile for businesses setting up shop.
In general, Singapore has created a conducive environment for industries to set up shop here in two key ways: by locating industrial parks close to key research institutions, and by providing state-of-the-art facilities where businesses can hit the ground running.
Biopolis was constructed at a cost of over S$570 million (US$404 million), and is now home to the laboratories of world-renowned research institutions and multinational corporations (MNCs), including Procter & Gamble (P&G), GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Chugai and Takeda. Here, an international community of scientists from both the public and private sectors work side-by-side, an arrangement which so far has been a boon for biomedical industry players.
Biomedical Sciences Hubs in Singapore (All information correct as of June 2016) © Singapore Economic Development Board
A similar hub for the chemicals industry – Jurong Island – was officially opened 17 years ago, and now hosts major players in the chemicals industry such as Sumitomo Chemicals, Dupont and Mitsui Chemicals. The off-shore man-made island developed specifically for the use of the chemical industry, boasts state-of-the-art integrated infrastructure – such as service corridors, warehousing and logistics solutions – and also provides third-party utilities for businesses to share.
Jurong Island Chemical Hub (All information correct as of 2016) © Global Business Reports
CleanTech Park, Singapore’s first eco-business park, is another example of such strategic planning: the 50-hectare park, located adjacent to Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, allows businesses to develop and test-bed various novel technologies – such as driverless vehicles and remanufacturing technologies – for early adoption.
Success by design
These efforts have helped boost companies in their push to move to the next level. Strategic partnerships with research institutions and government organisations have paved the way for the development of innovative products and new business opportunities, while the availability of state-of-the-art facilities and technologies have enabled companies to get up and running quickly, and at a lower cost.
By positioning itself as a global hub for innovation and development, Singapore has also caught the attention of global tech companies who are revoluntionising their operations.
One such firm is U.S-based Emerson Electric Co., an MNC that specializes in getting companies tech-ready for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Its Pervasive Sensing Center of Excellence, the S$13.1 million (US$10 million) facility which is the first of its kind in Asia, analyses data gathered from wireless sensors installed in manufacturing plants in order to enhance employee safety and improve cost and risk reduction.
A recent addition to its regional headquarters here is the customer-focused Emerson Solutions Center. Set up in November last year, it specializes in demonstrating the capabilities of Emerson’s Plantweb digital ecosystem, the industry’s most comprehensive Industrial IoT automation platform.
By offering made to measure automation solutions for its customers, the center hopes to push the Industrial IoT agenda and help ease the transition for companies as they undergo digital transformations.
Singapore’s focus on innovation also puts it in good stead as the city-state makes its push towards Industry 4.0. According to the World Economic Forum’s Readiness for the Future of Production Report released in January this year, Singapore was shortlisted as one of only 25 countries across the world well-positioned to benefit from Industry 4.0.
It ranked second on the drivers of production scale, which measured indicators such as human capital, technology and innovation, demand environment and global trade and environment. Singapore’s strong showing in the report stemmed from its ability to help companies, both the multinationals corporations and local firms, to adopt advanced manufacturing.
One of the biggest advantages Singapore has is in helping companies test-bed new products in an environment representative of the diverse consumer landscape in Asia.
Another is aiding companies in establishing strategic partnerships.
Tessa Therapeutics—the brainchild of immunologist John Connolly and oncologist Toh Han Chong is just one such example of a timely opportunity borne as a result of strategic partnerships.
Focusing on cancer-fighting therapies, the outfit currently has two treatments in patient studies— one of which is in the final stage required for regulatory approval.
The company is looking at a likely initial public offering (IPO) in the near future, valuing the company at over S$500 million (USD$379 million).
Said Connolly in an interview with Bloomberg: “One of the main differences here in Singapore is that they build the infrastructure and connect that with industry and talent from all around the world. That we went from a meeting between two enthusiastic scientists to running such a big clinical trial speaks to the strength of Singapore’s investment into the sector.”
Businesses across various industries also stand to benefit from readily-available innovative technologies like dry-ice blasting. Founded in Singapore, the process enables companies to lower their costs of production by increasing the lifespan of product components—a trait that would benefit companies in the aerospace, oil and gas, energy, and automotive industries.
Multinationals have also benefited from the ready access they have to a compact community of local Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Such SMEs are dynamic, agile and often make great strategic partners for multinationals. P&G, for example, works with a Singapore SME, GWIA, which manufactures small quantities of P&G products that are undergoing testing.
In an interview with the Straits Times, P&G’s Director of Corporate R&D said the company had chosen to partner with SMEs because of their flexibility, agility and willingness to collaborate.
Moving into the future
The benefits of Singapore’s industry-friendly landscape are plain to see, and plans for the country’s urban development show a commitment to continue providing the same benefits for businesses looking to establish a presence here in the future.
The Singapore Government recently accepted the recommendations of the country’s Committee for the Future Economy (CFE), a 30-member committee comprising members across various industries, which published a report in 2016 with specific recommendations on how the country’s urban plans can continue to be industry-friendly, among other things.
To cope with an increasingly complex urban environment, Singapore will design and plan for more economic centres outside the city centre.
One such initiative is the up-and-coming Jurong Innovation District which will serve businesses in the fields of advanced manufacturing, urban solutions, CleanTech and smart logistics.
Maximizing land use is also a top priority for the government. For example, the JTC Chemicals Hub allows tenants to utilise multi-level storage and chemical production—reducing both land use and overhead charges in the process.
Aside from putting in place a strong infrastructure and support network, helping companies adopt Industry 4.0 technologies remains a key priority for Singapore.
To this end, the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) developed the Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index (SSIRI)— a tool that helps industrial companies maximise the potential of Industry 4.0 in a systematic and comprehensive way.
By helping companies to better understand their market position, the index plays a pivotal role in enabling them to plan steps for the future in order to reap maximum profits while staying competitive and industry-relevant.
As the global business environment becomes increasingly complex and competitive, large corporations need to stay ahead by constantly innovating and keeping their operations lean. Singapore’s landscape – finely tuned over the last few decades – allows businesses to tap on a wealth of valuable expertise and state-of-the-art infrastructure, making for nimbler businesses ready to move into an uncertain future.