Friday, February 26, 2010

Eco-park to be a hotbed of ideas, jobs, business

Singapore’s first eco-business park is expected to create 20,000 jobs and draw some $2.5 billion worth of investments in buildings by its 2030 completion.

CleanTech Park (CTP) will be an ‘epi-centre’ for research, innovation and commercialisation of clean technology from both the public and private sectors, JTC Corporation and the Economic Development Board (EDB) said yesterday as they unveiled the masterplan for the 50-hectare Nanyang Avenue site.

A key initiative of the $1 billion Singapore Sustainable Blueprint announced last year, CleanTech Park is to be ‘emblematic of how businesses can achieve both economic vibrancy and environmental sustainability; function in harmony and nature,’ JTC chief executive Manohar Khiatani said.

At a macro level, CleanTech Park fleshes out the Economic Strategies Committee’s vision of Singapore as a ‘living lab’ for global companies to test-bed and commercialise green solutions, especially for urban and tropical settings. It will also be a significant leg-up for the cleantech industry which EDB sees as a key growth cluster and expects to contribute $3.4 billion to GDP and employ 18,000 people by 2015.

EDB deputy managing director Tan Choon Sian said: ‘We do believe that there will be strong interest from companies, with increased interest in eco- friendly spaces and environmental sustainability.’

CTP broadens the range of options that EDB can offer to the investors it seeks to bring into Singapore too, he said.

While it is a first for Asia, CTP offers a unique proposition even when compared to global parks of similar orientation, EDB director for cleantech Goh Chee Kiong said. ‘First, we have the full continuum of cleantech activities from upstream R&D to commercialisation and test-bedding. Second, we can develop and test-bed solutions for the tropical climate while most innovations are now developed in and for temperate climates,’ he said.

The first of CTP’s three phases of development over the next 20 years kicks off with infrastructural works in July. The park’s total infrastructure investment will be $52 million.

JTC intends to develop the site in an environmentally sustainable manner. Green strategies such as stormwater management, green walkways and sky trellises between buildings, solar panels, conservation zones and green construction methods will thus feature strongly.

By the end of Phase 1 in 2018, about 250 local and foreign SMEs and MNCs are expected to be housed on an initial 17 hectares of land within the park.

Other than pure-play cleantech firms, JTC also hopes to draw eco-friendly product and service sellers, or businesses with a strong green identity. Its first anchor tenant will be neighbouring Nanyang Technological University, which will help seed R&D activities at the park and is expected to catalyse collaborations between industry and academia. NTU already has tie-ups with companies such as Japanese water technology firm Toray.

Mr Khiatani stressed that while ecology and environmental sustainability is the park’s distinguishing mark, commercial viability remains key. The park’s one million square metres of space will thus be ‘priced competitively’, he said.

Colliers International industrial director Tan Boon Leong suggested that government agencies could lead the way to ’show that there are substantial benefits and savings to be had’, while CB Richard Ellis director of industrial and logistics services Bernard Goh thinks a premium of 10 to 20 per cent will be attractive though tax incentives may be needed if costs range 40-50 per cent above other business parks.

Industry players were excited about CTP’s potential to transform the young cleantech sector here.

Edwin Khew, chairman of the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore which represents 140 companies, said: ‘This creates a centre of excellence, a very attractive place to generate business. Investors can meet tech providers, carbon management companies, project managers – all in a single place. ‘On top of that, our technologies can be test-bedded, showcased and demonstrated as entire systems in the park itself.’

Member companies are being encouraged to take out small offices in CTP.

Ron Mahabir, managing director of Asia Cleantech Capital, a private equity firm focused on cleantech, said that he would consider CTP for several companies in his firms’ portfolio such as Zeco Systems and Annex Power.

Source: Business Times, 26 Feb 2010

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