Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Keeping industry clean and green

CleanTech Park will be an icon for development and application of clean technologies

IT is a big project befitting grand ambitions. Last month, JTC Corporation and the Economic Development Board (EDB) announced plans to build Singapore’s first eco-business park in the western part of the island.

The 50-hectare CleanTech Park, with one million square metres of space, could establish Singapore as a centre for developing, testing and commercialising green technology, the agencies believe.

The park will be located on a contiguous greenfield site at Nanyang Avenue, and will take some 20 years to be completed, at a cost of $52 million.

The government expects that by 2030, the park would have created 20,000 jobs and attracted some $2.5 billion worth of investments in buildings.

‘CleanTech Park will serve as an icon for the development and application of clean technologies,’ said JTC chief executive Manohar Khiatani.

Business sense

Painting the town green, not red, is making both sense and cents these days. Certainly, the desire to cut carbon emissions and combat climate change is a key motivator behind governments’ push to develop clean technology, or cleantech. Finding environmentally sustainable ways to live has taken on a new urgency as evidence of global warming mounts.

But cleantech also makes business sense. The UK government estimated in 2006 that the global market for environmental technologies will grow to around US$700 billion by this year.

A multitude of sectors can derive greater efficiencies and reduce any negative impact they have on the environment with cleantech. Today’s cleantech industry comes up with new solutions or business models to help the energy, water, transportation, agriculture and manufacturing sectors, just to name a few.

As cleantech companies grow, they may also fuel the development of supporting financial industries, such as those offering venture capital, initial public offering (IPO) or merger and acquisition services.

The amount of money involved in such financial deals can be huge. For instance, Netherlands-based sensor maker Sensata Technologies Holding managed to raise US$568.8 million from its listing on the New York Stock Exchange this month. According to research firm Cleantech Group, this is the largest cleantech IPO since April 2008.

What all this means is that countries can live well, and also earn well by paying attention to the cleantech industry. The Singapore government has identified it as a key economic cluster, which could contribute around $3.4 billion to the country’s GDP and employ 18,000 people by 2015.

Attracting companies

How successful will Singapore’s first venture in creating a park for cleantech firms be? Both JTC and EDB have expressed optimism about the project’s prospects.

‘Companies are increasingly interested in commercial and research space that is eco-friendly,’ said EDB managing director Beh Swan Gin.

JTC’s Mr Khiatani also said: ‘We’re confident at the level of interest we’ve received, so we felt that we should start this rolling.’

CleanTech Park has already secured its first anchor tenant – Nanyang Technological University (NTU). NTU will be right next to the park and will house some of its research and development activities in cleantech there. This arrangement could foster collaborations between academia and private firms.

Siting the park next to the university is significant, said co-director for NTU’s Energy Research Institute, Subodh Mhaisalkar. ‘It will help us work seamlessly with key industry partners in CleanTech Park and allow our students to gain invaluable opportunities for attachment and hands-on experience in state-of-the-art green technologies.’

EDB’s Mr Beh agreed. CleanTech Park’s tenants will ‘benefit from the close proximity to NTU, thereby promoting the cross-fertilisation of knowledge and ideas to facilitate the development and demonstration of systems-level cleantech solutions’, he said.

The agencies will have to reach out to the private sector next. They are targeting not just cleantech firms, but also eco-friendly product and service providers, and businesses which have embraced environmental sustainability as part of their corporate social responsibility.

JTC and EDB hope that by 2018, CleanTech Park would have drawn around 250 local and foreign companies – including multinational corporations and small and medium sized enterprises.

Some industry players have expressed support for the project. According to a BT report last month,the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore’s chairman Edwin Khew said that the park would be ‘a very attractive place to generate business’. The association represents 140 companies and members are being encouraged to take out small offices in the park.

Green features

JTC and EDB will have to ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to developing CleanTech Park – as a space for companies promoting environmental sustainability, the park also has to be eco-friendly.

The agencies will be adopting a ‘minimal land-cut’ principle to conserve trees and landscape. The park itself will also be a test-bed for green ideas such as the sky trellis – there will be plant-covered trellises between buildings to make walking outside cooler.

Space at CleanTech Park will be ‘priced competitively’ even with the focus on the environment, said Mr Khiatani.

CleanTech Park will be built up in three phases. The first phase will create around 17 hectares of business park land from this year to 2018. The second and phase will take place from 2019 to 2025, and the park will be completed at end-2030.

Source: Business Times, 16 Mar 2010

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