THE industrial revolution started with steam power and mechanised tools, then electricity and assembly lines. Next, electronics and computers came along. We are now into the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0 whereby the Internet of Things (IoT) and advanced machine learning algorithms will come together to automate part or most of the manufacturing process, creating “smart factories”.
The Singapore government has been proactive in providing the right environment, incentives and assistance to attract Foreign Direct Investment and help industrialists stay competitive.
Over the years, lead government agencies have extended assistance to companies and paved the path of attracting high-value industries from global multinational corporations to set up their Research & Development (R&D) bases or operating headquarters in Singapore. Together with the recommendations from the Committee of Future Economy (CFE), accelerated efforts of attracting more high-value industries are expected, particularly for the key clusters of growth areas – advanced manufacturing and engineering, urban solutions and sustainability, digital and cybersecurity.
Eight key industries were identified under the Research, Innovation, Enterprise 2020 Plan (RIE 2020 Plan) for advanced manufacturing and engineering – aerospace, electronics, chemicals, machinery and systems, marine and offshore, precision modules and components, biologics and pharmaceutical manufacturing and medical technology manufacturing. Four cross-cutting technologies were also identified as “essential enablers” with the main role of supporting the growth of the key industries – robotics and automation, digital manufacturing, additive manufacturing and advanced materials.
With the government’s vision for the future economy, schemes promoting productivity and innovation have been unveiled to facilitate partnerships or joint collaborations between major industry players and public research agencies to discover new technologies and productivity enhancement.
THE CHANGING FACE OF BUSINESS PARKS
While there are available schemes and incentives to attract high-value industries into Singapore, adequate and quality infrastructure support plays an integral role. To cater to the operating needs of these companies, the industrial property market offers a few types of industrial space for users.
Other than the industrial estates located in Singapore, there are specialised industrial parks that provide industrial space for specific trades including aerospace, medical technology, offshore and marine, etc. These industrial parks provide more suitable alternatives compared to traditional industrial estates, as certain trades are unable to co-locate in mixed-use industrial buildings due to their stringent needs such as sterile premises, storage of dangerous goods, fabrication yard, etc. Such specialised industrial parks are typically situated near tertiary institutions, major seaports or airports. For instance, MedTech Park is located near Nanyang Technological University (NTU); Seletar Aerospace Park is located near Seletar Airport.
Business parks, according to JTC Corporation, are meant for “non-pollutive industries and businesses that engage in high-technology, R&D, high value-added and knowledge-intensive activities”. The ecosystem within business parks facilitates the development of businesses that engage in the use of high technologies and R&D. Companies benefit from co-locating near similar business clusters to collaborate on new solutions, and incubation of new technologies. There is also the added convenience for tenants with the integration of F&B outlets, and other supporting amenities including gymnasiums and childcare facilities within the business parks.
Most of these existing business parks in Singapore are also located near existing research facilities in tertiary institutions or hospitals that provide more collaborative opportunities between the companies and academic institutions. These business parks offer high quality space for qualifying trades and are also supported closely by nearby industrial estates for their manufacturing needs.
Both the specialised industrial parks and business parks provide an integrated community environment, allowing businesses to leverage the synergies and enjoy economies of scale through resource sharing or tapping available networks for collaborative projects.
ROOM FOR TECH ENTREPRENEURSHIP
To encourage the growth of tech entrepreneurs in Singapore, which is lauded as one of the world’s leading centres of tech entrepreneurship, some industrial spaces are being offered for startups and incubators. Qualifying entrepreneurs in the R&D or advanced technologies fields can utilise these spaces, which are located close to research institutions or similar business communities.
JTC LaunchPad @ one-north and JTC LaunchPad @ Jurong Innovation District are two developments that offer such startup spaces within a nurturing ecosystem. In addition, the upcoming business park development in Media Circle by Boustead Projects will also provide spaces for startup graduates from LaunchPad.
More recently, tapping the positive synergies that business communities can offer within business parks, two co-working platforms – URWork and Spacemob – were set up in JTC LaunchPad @ one-north and Ascent in Singapore Science Park, respectively. These co-working spaces offer qualifying businesses ready access to existing local and overseas networks for incubation of new solutions and technologies, as well as the opportunity to share resources within the business parks.
INNOVATIVE, FLEXIBLE SPACES
The introduction of new technologies and improved supply chain manufacturing processes will result in a narrowing gap between the differences of services and manufacturing. As a result, the available industrial space must meet changing demands as well as evolving working trends.
As part of building partnerships for economic clusters and to adapt to changing business needs, the CFE has recommended that greater flexibility in the use of industrial areas be allowed. There should also be more innovation space to support the ecosystem of startups.
In support of the government’s vision for greater innovation, the new Jurong Innovation District (JID) will establish a “live, work, play, learn and create” environment. As the “industrial park of the future”, the JID will serve as a test-bedding ground for innovation, in addition to housing startups, incubators and accelerators, with a focus on advanced manufacturing. The JID will be the host for several key growth areas – advanced manufacturing, clean logistics, robotics, urban solutions and cleantech.
Recognising the increasing need for manufacturing companies to co-locate other business functions such as service centres and R&D functions together with their core manufacturing activity, planning authorities will pilot new strategies or testbeds for flexible industrial use.
Woodlands North Coast will have its first business park in the north and land will be set aside for small-and-medium enterprises in a grid network with flexible size configurations to meet market needs. JTC will also pilot a new land use guideline – a wider range of use allowed in a multi-tenanted building to be developed on a Business 1-white site.
In a bid to facilitate more cross-function collaboration, an Enterprise District pilot scheme in Punggol North will be designated for digital and cybersecurity trades, with stipulated land use at district level instead of at a building or strata-unit level.
Meanwhile, on the private sector front, landlords and building owners are preparing to meet the increasing need for better and higher-specification buildings through the conducting of asset enhancement initiatives or redeveloping their existing properties in established industrial estates. For instance, Mapletree Industrial Trust is developing a multiple-user high-specification industrial building at Kallang Place, while Soilbuild Group is currently constructing two Business-2, high-specification developments in Kallang Way.
With a systematic approach adopted for Industry 4.0, the Singapore industrial landscape will continue to provide strong infrastructure support to companies. The increasing supply of more adaptive and high-specification industrial space will cater to the changing demands and needs of businesses in today’s market. Industrialists and companies will benefit from the resulting greater flexibility and better quality industrial space for their future operations.
- Catherine Ng is director and head of industrial services, and Pearl Lok is senior manager for research at Colliers International