Industrialisation is a process of social and economic change, that is closely intertwined with technological innovation, whereby a human society is transformed from a pre-industrial (an economy where the amount of capital accumulated per capita is low) to an industrial state.
In the 1960s, when Singapore embarked on its industrialization programme, the government’s critical role was to attract foreign investments to Singapore to boost manufacturing growth and create jobs for the population. In June 2000, the Singapore government decided to make the biomedical sciences industry the fourth pillar supporting the nation’s economy, the other pillars being electronics, chemicals and engineering. This is where science parks like the Biopolis come in.
The Biopolis is a regional and international research and development center for biomedical sciences opened in October 2003. This campus is dedicated to providing space for biomedical research and development activities and promoting peer review and collaboration among the private and public scientific community. Several government agencies, publicly-funded research institutes and research labs of pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies are located there.
In general, the Biopolis has indeed promoted industrialization in Singapore based on the services and facilities it offers. It might be viewed as riding on the success Singapore has already built up over the years preceding the establishment of this institution, but it cannot be denied it has actually strengthened and hastened industrialization.
Reasons against the fact that the Biopolis has successfully promoted industrialisation
It is arguable that the Biopolis has promoted industrialization, but only so because of the fact that Singapore has already made marked improvements and that projects like the Biopolis are simply riding on the success Singapore has already had.
It must be noted that industrialization involves a process beginning from a pre-industrial era. What really brought Singapore through industrialization is that the fact that making the most of its strategic location in a stable and growing global economic environment, Singapore embarked on a programme of rapid industrialization by introducing open trading systems and flexible labour markets to court foreign enterprises to locate manufacturing facilities on the island.
The government’s support for such market-leading policies saw Singapore’s economic development go from being a semi-closed, low wage producer of mainly labour-intensive goods to a very open, high-wage producer of high-technology, capital-intensive products and diversification into value-added business and financial services from the mid-1980s.
This shows that by the time the Biopolis was introduced, Singapore has almost reached the peak of industrialization, meaning that it really has not contributed much to Singapore’s industrialization.
Reasons for the fact that the Biopolis has successfully promoted industrialisation
Although the Biopolis may not have contributed to the entire process of Singapore’s industrialization, it has helped hasten the process of Singapore reaching new heights in terms of industrialization. Besides, to successfully promote industrialization merely means furthering the process of industrialization from where it has initially been.
As the Trade Minister Mr Lim Hng Kiang stated at the Manufacturing Excellence Award 2006 Conference, “Singapore’s success in manufacturing has been our heavy investments in infrastructural projects (like the Biopolis), conceptualized and created to meet industry needs”. Through such projects, Singapore was recently named the world’s most competitive place of business, as well as the world’s easiest place to do business. This is supported by the fact that in less than 18 months after the opening of the Biopolis, the occupancy rate there is at 95% capacity.
The extent of shared services and facilities is what makes the Biopolis one of a kind. Scientists from the public and private sectors share expensive lab equipment and services on a “pay-as-you-use” basis. Besides, the Biopolis offers small animal facilities and quarantined rooms to academic and commercial research groups, meaning research teams can be productive almost immediately, without incurring the time or costs associated with project start-up common to most other locations. The Biopolis also provides a very high level of support for startups including business model development as well as financial, marketing, legal and technical support.
In 2000, the country set a target of the industry producing over S$12 billion in manufacturing output by 2005. Its actual performance in 2005 was S$18 billion, 50% over the target set. This industry’s manufacturing output was 9% of Singapore’s total manufacturing output, and its manufacturing value-added per year was 18% of the nation’s total manufacturing value-added. This makes biomedical sciences the second biggest contributor, in terms of value-added, to Singapore’s manufacturing sector.
Another significant milestone was the arrival of the first pharmaceutical giant from the mid-western region of the United States. In 2005, Abbott Laboratories decided to build a nutritional powder manufacturing plant in Singapore. The S$450 million state-of-the-art facility is Abbott’s first major capital investment in Asia and its largest nutritional investment ever.
2005 was also the year Singapore won its first commercial-scale biologics manufacturing project. A joint venture between Bio*One Capital and Switzerland’s Lonza will be making biologics products for Lonza’s customers worldwide. The Lonza Group is the world’s number three drug-ingredient maker while Bio*One Capital is a leading, dedicated biomedical sciences investment management company based in Singapore with a worldwide presence.
The first phase of the Biomedical Sciences initiative (2000 to 2005) put in place key building blocks by establishing core capabilities in biomedical research, and introducing important human capital and industrial capital development initiatives. For the next phase (2006 to 2010), Singapore will build on this foundation and strengthen its capabilities in translational and clinical research to bring discoveries from the bench to the market, and ultimately improve human healthcare.
Even though there may have been other contributing factors to bring Singapore to where it is today, the Biopolis is an establishment that has successfully promoted industrialization, helping Singapore achieve further more quickly.