Deep technology drives industrial spaces in Singapore

August 17, 2020 / By  

Global interest in deep technology (deep tech) is rising. With its vibrant start-up community and strong government support, Singapore is at the forefront of becoming Southeast Asia’s deep tech hub.

What is deep tech?

Most tech start-ups are usually engaged in the Internet, mobile and e-commerce work, based on business model innovation, incremental service improvements or the deployment of standardised technologies. On the other hand, deep tech start-ups focus on patent-backed technologies that are based on hardcore scientific research in the fields like life sciences, medical technology, clean technology, renewable energy, urban solutions and autonomous technology.

The commercialisation of scientific discoveries is a high-risk venture, which requires large investments and long gestation periods. Such ventures are usually undertaken by academia and require extensive testing and regulatory approvals.

How is Singapore tapping into deep tech growth opportunities?

The Singapore government is sparing no effort in creating a fertile ground for deep tech start-ups to flourish.

SGInnovate, a government-owned venture firm, was set up in November 2016 to fund and support projects applying deep tech. By October 2019, the firm has reportedly invested SGD 40 million in around 70 local and foreign deep tech start-ups, which, in turn, has attracted SGD 450 million of funding from the market. Besides nurturing start-ups, SGInnovate has also established a 30,000-member deep tech community.

Singapore’s Budget 2020 has also specifically set aside SGD 300 million to catalyse investments into deep tech start-ups.

Meanwhile, several hubs are being developed across the island that will provide the necessary ecosystems to facilitate synergies and collaborations between the academia, start-ups, research institutes and industry professionals, while concurrently serving as living labs for the testing of deep tech prototypes.

Head west and a new 600-hectare Jurong Innovation District cover the Nanyang Technological University, start-ups and research institutes at CleanTech Park, the high-tech manufacturers in the Bahar and Bulim precincts and the new Tengah housing estate. These are being developed to cater to companies in growth sectors like advanced manufacturing, urban solutions and smart logistics.

Figure 1: Jurong Innovation District – Singapore’s new hub for innovation and
advanced manufacturing

Source: JTC, Google Earth, JLL Research

In the northeast, Singapore’s next-generation smart district – the 50-hectare Punggol Digital District – which incorporates a business park and the Singapore Institute of Technology’s new campus – is shaping up as a living lab for cybersecurity, smart living and smart estate solutions. It will stand out for its Open Digital Platform that collects real-time data from the district, to be used by public agencies, companies and students to test green technologies and sustainable urban solutions, among others.

Figure 2: Punggol Digital District – Singapore’s next generation smart district

Source: JTC, Google Earth, JLL Research

Up north, a new 500-hectare Sungei Kadut Eco-District is planned to accommodate new growth industries like agri-tech and environmental technology. Some 18 hectares will be set aside for Phase 1 of a new Agri-Food Innovation Park. It will be meant for companies and research and development centres across the entire agri-tech value chain, as well as for high-tech production segments such as indoor farming, aquaculture hatcheries and alternative protein manufacturers. Another 200 hectares of land is reserved for future growth industries, potentially including deep tech.

These holistic government support schemes should encourage the growth of a vibrant deep tech community and provide a nurturing ground for them to mature. This, in turn, should drive new peripheral and supporting industries and generate new demand for industrial space.

Figure 3: Examples of deep tech start-ups in Singapore

Source: NUS Enterprise, JLL Research, July 2020

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