Singapore has continued to transform its economy to meet evolving challenges since its independence in 1965.The development of one-north as the epicentre of Singapore’s knowledge and innovation-driven industries symbolises the city-state’s evolution in response to changing economic circumstances and industrial trends.
The overarching challenge for Singapore’s economy in the 1990s was shifting the nation’s growth engine from industries reliant on an abundance of low-skilled labour, to those requiring skilled workers for high-technology industries. The grain of economic and industrial activities was starting to change. No longer focused solely on manufacturing, Singapore’s economy was turning towards design as well as research and development (R&D).
A fundamental review of the economy following its first post-independence recession in 1985 recognised the importance of undertaking structural reforms to promote innovation, enterprise and entrepreneurship. Upgrading economic activities would allow Singapore to continue on its growth path, and transition from a developing nation to a developed one. Diversification was also an area of primary focus in order to help reduce the country’s susceptibility to economic shocks, while creating new growth engines.
Technopreneurship and innovation was heavily promoted to catalyse the change. Technopreneurship, as distinct from entrepreneurship, focuses on enterprises that rely heavily on technology. These enterprises require a talent base capable of creating and commercialising new intellectual property into businesses. Hence, the development of next-generation physical infrastructure to attract the right type of knowledge-intensive activities and human capital was imperative.
Conceptualised as a key element of Singapore’s Technopreneurship 21 initiative, one-north provides an intellectually stimulating and creative environment to attract world-class research talent and investments to drive the next phase of the country’s development. The development of the 200-hectare research hub in one-north would become the beacon of Singapore’s innovation ecosystem.
Planned as a work, live, play and learn environment, the innovation district symbolises Singapore’s response to changing economic circumstances and its transformation into a knowledge economy. one-north was designed to house knowledge and innovation-based industries such as biomedical sciences, info-communications technology and media, supported by capabilities in science and engineering.
Biopolis, the initial cluster to be developed in one-north, was Singapore’s first hub for R&D in biomedical sciences. Until then, Singapore had industrial and business parks clustered by sectors or functions that essentially revolved around manufacturing. Whereas, one-north supports a dynamic ecosystem to translate research and knowledge into something of practical and commercial value.
In terms of challenging existing planning norms, Zaha Hadid’s master plan for one-north pushed the envelope in its search of a new spatial experience to create an intellectually stimulating and creative environment. one-north was not only carefully designed to encourage serendipitous interactions among the research community, but also incorporated residential elements to facilitate community bonding.
With its critical mass of talent, conducive environment for research, innovation and entrepreneurship, one-north’s innovative milieu stands out as a collaborative industry ecosystem, as well as an attractive workplace and vibrant community space. The Urban Systems Studies on one-north: Fostering Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship chronicles the genesis, planning and development of one-north.