Tuesday, January 26, 2010

JTC to expand Biopolis, build new cluster for med-tech

SINGAPORE’S thriving biomedical sciences sector is set to get a boost of up to $180million this year for the expansion of buildings and other related facilities.

This will cater to the growing number of companies that need more space for their cutting-edge work in creating new drugs and medical equipment.

The nation’s premier biomedical research hub, Biopolis, near Buona Vista, will be expanded at an estimated cost of about $80million to $100million, providing 40,000sqm of new space.

The plan was announced yesterday by industrial developer and landlord JTC Corporation, which said separately that it will launch a medical technology cluster in Jurong.

This cluster will bring major industry players together in a new facility that will cost $60million to $80million to build initially. It will enable firms there to collaborate and cut costs through cooperation.

Mr Heah Soon Poh, JTC’s director, biomedical and chemicals cluster, said yesterday that the Biopolis expansion would include laboratory design improvements to support the growth of clinical trials.

This new phase – the fourth for Biopolis – follows on the heels of Biopolis3, which is due for completion by year-end.

It brings the total cost of Biopolis to about $700million.

Companies setting up shop in the newly expanded facility can look forward to new facilities such as fitted out laboratories and shared facilities such as air-conditioning.

‘This helps to lower the upfront costs for small and medium enterprises. We are moving up in the value creation for companies,’ said Mr Heah.

The expansion is set to be completed by 2012 to 2013.

Biomedical sciences, though a volatile performer during the recent economic recession, is an increasingly important pillar of the local economy, said research house CIMB-GK regional economist Song Seng Wun.

‘The performance of this sector was quite good through the recession. It had a weak start, then a strong quarter, and even though it had a soft end to the year, we are still seeing companies interested to come into Singapore,’ he said, referring to last year.

The sector contributed $19billion, or 4.3per cent, of Singapore’s economic output in 2008, the latest available figures show, and provided 16,000 jobs.

Mr Song added: ‘It could become a bigger, more productive industry.’

Mr Heah said that looking ahead, the sector is expected to continue expanding, and JTC will provide the real estate to support this growth.

Within the sector, the medical technology sector (med-tech) is expected to drive the rapid growth. It manufactures equipment used in the industry, such as syringes and medical test-kits.

Singapore’s manufacturing output of med-tech products is expected to increase from $2.9billion in 2008 to $5billion by 2015, said Mr Heah.

Med-tech employs the majority – two-thirds – of those in the biomedical science sector, as it is more labour intensive than pharmaceutical production, for instance.

This is why JTC is driving the new med-tech cluster, at Jalan Tukang in Jurong, at which all the main players in the industry will be located – ‘in the same space, creating synergies and reducing costs’, said Mr Heah.

This means manufacturers, suppliers, logistics firms, sterilisation firms and support services will be located fairly close to each other, and will therefore be able to complement one another’s efforts.

The first phase of this cluster, with a built up area of 40,000sqm, is expected to be built by the end of 2013; a second phase of 40,000sqm will be built later.

JTC is also in the midst of discussions for a new biologics facility, which will take up less land because it will be built upwards, said Mr Heah.

Biologics refers to medicinal products produced through biological methods rather than chemical ones.

Irish firm PM Group, which specialises in servicing the pharmaceutical and food industries, is advising JTC on the project.

JTC says it is currently in talks with potential companies to locate to both the new med-tech and biologics facilities.

It plans to launch tenders for both the Biopolis and med-tech cluster expansions for private developers to bid sometime this year.

Source: Straits Times, 26 Jan 2010

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