Singapore’s Science Parks and Technology Corridor
Among the Asian technopoles, Singapore has emerged as the most cosmopolitan hub in the region for science, technology, and entrepreneurship. Expanding research and development expenditure from S$2 billion in 1996-2001 to S$16.1 billion in 2010-2015, the Singaporean government has aggressively transformed a 16 kilometer stretch along the country’s southwest into a dense innovation ecosystem known as Technology Corridor. This area encompasses a variety of built environments ranging from the garden-like complex of Science Parks (I, II, III), research building clusters around One North, which is home to the Agency for Science and Technology’s expanding array of research centers, world class universities including the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University, and the Singapore University of Technology and Design, and private companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, P&G, and Affymetrix. In 2015, Singapore ranked 5th in Nature’s Publishing Index in the region and both NUS and NTU ranked 12th and 13th respectively in the QS world rankings.
Much of this success has been through a combination of nurturing a new generation of Singaporean scientists and engineers as well as attracting and retaining a uniquely diverse pool of foreign talent. The intellectual labor force has grown from a humble 23 Ph.D.’s in Science Park in 1987 to over 7,000 Ph.D.’s and 25,000 research scientists and engineers by 2009. Over a decade of A*STAR scholarships is only now bearing fruit with a generation of Singaporean researchers and settling an unprecedented number of foreign students and researchers who become citizens or permanent residents. Intellectual migration and immigration has transformed the island nation into a genuinely multicultural society with networks throughout South, South East, and East Asia and western countries. According to a 2013 White Paper, 45% of Singapore’s 6.9 million population will be foreigners.
This means that the geography of Singapore’s innovation ecology cannot be conceived of as contained within its national borders. Previous research on the country’s research institutions has repeatedly shown that physical infrastructure, investment, and proximity were insufficient to foster collaboration between research and industry. Social networks bringing together complementary expertise is fundamental.
Little is known about the dynamics of these transnational social networks of research and capital and how they change through migration. This case study will combine both quantitative and qualitative analysis of Singapore’s research and business social networks. Compared to other countries where foreign researchers are a marginal percentage, Singapore must uniquely deal with not only a significant ethnic and cultural diversity but also less tangible differences in scientific and business styles.