In response to the Committee on the Future Economy’s (CFE) acknowledgement of a changing emphasis in the way companies are operating in terms of embracing new technologies, combined with a further push towards realising the government’s Smart Nation initiatives, it was announced that Punggol North would become an Enterprise District, and the first on the island where new planning concepts will be introduced.
The CFE recognised that in today’s dynamic industrial environment, more and more companies are collaborating with both academic institutions and other companies in order to develop and utilise new technology. Furthermore, the so-called live-work-play-learn environments that have started to become a feature of business parks create the vibrant conditions that play a major role in attracting and retaining bright new talent, which in turn leads to innovation.
The CFE advised in a report, that the Nation should create regions made up of dense clusters comprising of different sized companies living cheek by jowl, that would form mutually beneficial partnerships to reinforce economic activities. The new Enterprise District at Punggol North – which will focus on digital and cybersecurity industries, and will also be a key driver for the government’s plans to develop Singapore as a Smart Nation – will be the embodiment of this.
In an announcement to parliament on March 7th, Lawrence Wong the National Development Minister laid out the plans for the new zone, and explained exactly what would be different in terms of how the land can be used. First of all, the zone will have just one developer in control of all aspects. This Master Developer – as they will be known – is JTC Corporation for Punggol North. Whereas in the current approach to zoning where land use and density for each land parcel is stipulated under strict guidelines, JTC will have a more or less a free hand to optimise land use throughout the whole zone, with the aim of finding ways to integrate and best serve the needs of each user. This results in companies having ready and easy access to shared collaborative spaces.
One of the reasons Punggol was chosen was its proximity to the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT). The business parks will be able to share research labs with the university, as well as learning facilities and incubator spaces. It is planned that the SIT would also be able to help businesses by providing industry research and development facilities and start-up spaces. One way this would work, would be for university owned labs and facilities to be housed within the business park’s buildings, making access simple and pain free.
If this pilot is deemed a success, then it is very possible that this idea of using one Master Developer will be rolled out to other schemes. Mr Wong went as far as saying that it could introduce it to future residential and mixed-use districts. In fact, the advantages of having a Master Developer will not just be felt at a business level. By having more or less free rein over the whole area, the developer will be able to plan, and implement large scale public spaces, pedestrian routes and other connectivity links up front, as opposed to having to do it retrospectively, something that often takes time.
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