- Jean Chia
Innovation districts, where density and proximity were prized for fostering knowledge sharing and innovation, have been fast gaining popularity globally. Between 2016 and 2018, the Singapore government announced plans for Punggol Digital District, touted as Singapore’s own “mini Silicon Valley”, and Jurong Innovation District which was envisaged as an “industrial park of the future”. More than a decade earlier, the government embarked on developing the $15 billion one-north as the centrepiece of Singapore's initiative to promote biomedical sciences and technology entrepreneurship. Adopting a novel approach to business parks, one-north attempted to create a “live-work-play-learn” environment that would in turn engender a culture and community for research and innovation to power a new economic growth engine. Given the high stakes and large public investments poured into developing innovation districts, would they give Singapore a competitive edge in the global economy? What was the role of the public sector in spurring innovation? What were the implications or trade-offs in developing innovation districts? This case study discusses these issues using one-north as the primary example.