Singapore: Will this Nation be the Next Silicon Valley?by Preetipadma January 19, 2021
How is this nation in the Malay Peninsula poised to become new Leader in Tech Innovation?
Silicon Valley of the U.S. has been dubbed as a ground of tech innovation, in western movies, tech conventions, and others. However, with trade wars between US and China, tech experts believe that soon a new epicenter of tech hub may emerge. Reports and surveys cite that Singapore is on the verge of becoming the next Silicon Valley.
Today, Singapore is emerging to be the new home to multinational corporations (MNCs), small, medium enterprises (SMEs), startups, and companies that are driven by technology.
According to last year’s KPMG survey of industry insiders, Singapore had taken top spot as a potential world-leading technology hub. As per the survey, Singapore was noted for its advanced IT infrastructure, strong government support and intellectual property laws, and for its deep talent pool. The city-state claimed the title from New York, which slid to fifth.
Factors that Helped
Though Singapore lacks in size, the country gravitates its efforts to build strong technical infrastructure, investment opportunities and government support under the broader Smart Nation initiative. Launched in 2014, this initiative aims to incorporate more technology into every aspect of the nation’s urban life.
Further, poised as neutral territory and having good ties with US and China, is also helping it expand its business presence. US tech behemoths such as Google, Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Salesforce.com Inc. already consider Singapore as a springboard to the rest of Southeast Asia. Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Bytedance Ltd, of China, are also building up their presence in Singapore after setbacks in the U.S. and India. Apart from that, given the political turmoil in Hong Kong and the introduction of China’s controversial national cyber security law, many enterprises are turning to other emerging hubs to build a more stable business environment in the Asian quarters, while aiming for globalization.
Apart from that, Singapore’s National Trade Platform offers a world-class prototype for connected businesses by linking importers, exporters, banks, logistics firms, customs, shipping agents and other stakeholders—all in a transparent, open-sourced environment. This implies that the nation’s commitment to a strong IP regulatory framework gives companies confidence that their R&D investments will stay protected.
Bloomberg reports that with its economy dependent on trade, Singapore supports a strong American presence in Asia by allowing the U.S. to use its military facilities, while also counting China as its top trading partner. As per a report titled Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2018, by Startup Genome project, a US-based organization, Singapore’s innovative policies can be credited for its success as great start-up ecosystem. Its huge network of startups also avail significant government subsidies. Besides, under Singapore’s Technology Incubation Scheme, the government promises to co-invest up to 85%, or a maximum of $500,000 in approved startups.
Moreover, several government agencies have also been established to support new businesses, like the Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board. All these factors along with proximity to important growth markets (especially China) make Singapore sound more desirable than other hubs.
According to the World Bank’s “Doing Business” 2018 rankings, Singapore is ranked second in the world behind New Zealand. The report highlights that Singapore is ranked sixth out of 190 countries for ease of starting a business.
Meanwhile, enclaves like “Blk71” in the Ayer Rajah area and “The HUB” in Somerset are becoming breeding grounds for startup activity in Singapore.
In August 2016, start-up nuTonomy became the first company in the world to publicly trial driverless taxis guided by Artificial Intelligence (AI), implying Singapore is also exceling in the autonomous vehicles industry. Meanwhile, the Port Authority of Singapore is working on driverless trucks at its shipping terminal, while visitors to Gardens by the Bay are enjoying tours on the self-driving Auto Rider buses. In June 2019, Minister for Communications and Information, S Iswaran, had announced a Government funding of S$40 million (US$29.3 million) to support 5G research and innovation and develop the country as a 5G innovation hub.
The nation has also trialed National Digital Identity (NDI) project, under which centralized biometrics identification system will be implemented to hold biometric information from Singaporean citizens, including fingerprints, iris and facial and voice records. Once successful executed, citizens will only require to register their biometric information once, thus avoiding multiple enrolments for different services.
The government is also working to build an artificial intelligence (AI) hub in the country by developing a dedicated data science consortium. It also launched the Singapore Blockchain Innovation Programme (SBIP), intending to help companies commercialize blockchain technology.
This year, the German vertical farming venture, &ever, will open a plant and R&D center in Singapore, with plans to produce an annual 500 tons of vegetables and herbs. Even Agency for Science, Technology and Research, has agreed to establish a Food Tech Innovation Center with state-owned investment group Temasek Holdings.
Singapore also plans to have centralized systems in Punggol, for handling waste collection, cooling, and logistics. ‘Smart’ thermostats will also be installed in the area that can “detect changes outdoors and adjust the temperature indoors accordingly.
Last year, Economic Development Board announced a new initiative of offering ‘Tech Visas’ to tech entrepreneurs and enthusiasts with industry expertise to join the country’s tech ecosystem. The board revealed that these passes will allow pass holders the flexibility to participate in a variety of activities, which includes starting and operating a business, assuming the role of an investor, mentoring startups, or lecturing at local universities. This work permit also allows holders to switch between employers. The Tech.Pass visa would be valid for two years and renewable for another two years if the holder met the required criteria. This initiative is an extension of the Tech@SG initiative that was introduced in 2019, which aimed to support the expansion of companies with high potential in Singapore.
Such programs highlight the government’s actions to attract top talent to the nation and position it as an emerging tech hub.