For evidence of the lengths to which a national government can go to support and foster an environment in which start-ups can flourish, we need look no further than one of Australia’s northern neighbours.
Visitors to Singapore’s JTC LaunchPad @ one-north – a 6.5 hectare ecosystem located within a much larger estate for innovation – cannot help but be impressed with the amenities and the opportunities provided for emerging businesses to work together.
In short, it’s a wonderland for start-ups. And it’s the work of the Singapore Government, as part of its mission to encourage innovation.
JTC is Singapore’s lead agency with responsibility to spearhead the planning, promotion and development of the nation’s industrial landscape.
Since its inception nearly 50 years ago, JTC has played a major role in Singapore’s economic development by developing land and space to support the transformation of industries and create quality jobs.
Over the past five decades, JTC has pioneered industrial infrastructure solutions to meet the evolving needs of companies with each new phase of growth, in the process developing more than 7,000 hectares of industrial land and 4 million square metres of ready-built facilities.
Among its many projects is ‘one-north’, a 200-hectare estate developed specifically to provide a place where knowledge workers can work, live, play and learn within a vibrant community.
The estate was envisioned to be a world-class research facility and business park space that would attract and host globally-renowned researchers and cutting-edge innovations.
one-north has grown into a vibrant hotspot for research, innovation, and test-bedding. Its world-class business park facilities are designed to promote research and development in the areas of biomedical sciences, infocomm and media, supported by science and engineering capabilities.
Located in the heart of the estate is the JTC LaunchPad @ one-north, which is home to a vibrant community including accelerators, incubators, start-ups, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs.
Officially opened by Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2015, JTC LaunchPad @ one-north offers incubation and start-up space to support the various stages of entrepreneurship from idea generation to starting up.
Over the past two years, JTC LaunchPad @ one-north has gained traction and the community has almost tripled to about 4,300 people in close to 800 start-ups and 50 incubators. There is also a more diverse range of start-ups from different industries, including engineering, biomedical, financial technology and urban solutions, beyond the infocomm and media sector when LaunchPad first started.
In 2016, start-ups in LaunchPad had raised close to $130 million in disclosed funds, of which 20% had raised Series A and B funding (funding in the range of S$1 million to more than S$10 million).
More recently, the success of LaunchPad has attracted international and corporate incubators, such as Trendlines Medical Singapore, to set up operations here to better tap into the new technologies developed by start-ups that can be commercialised regionally and globally.
A “landing pad” was also established for Australian start-ups to provide access to a network of contacts in Singapore and ASEAN, as well as in-market business development, investment and mentorship opportunities.
LaunchPad provides a range of facilities to encourage collaboration between businesses in what has developed into a close-knitted community.
These include collaboration spaces, sports facilities, shared meeting rooms and a range of food outlets – all aimed at creating natural gathering spaces where start-ups can network and grow.
The Meeting Point is the hub of LaunchPad, where tenants can meet and network. Event halls and meeting rooms cater for formal and informal discussion areas as well as community events, while communal spaces featuring games and work benches where tenants can interact have been provided in each of the buildings.
Graffiti walls in the lobbies allow businesses to promote upcoming events and profile themselves.
Basketball and futsal (hardcourt soccer) courts are provided for tenants to encourage and promote healthy activities and friendly competitions.
Timbre+ is the park’s 2,200m2 gastropark, housing 21 hawkers and 14 restaurant brands, with entertainment provided so people can unwind and network.
Not missing an opportunity to showcase cutting-edge technology, Timbre has introduced an automated food management and dishwashing system. Food trays are RFID-tagged; when a diner returns their tray to the return point equipped with auto-sensors, they receive a $1 refund. The trays are then sent to an automated dishwashing system for washing, reducing labour requirements by an estimated 50%.
LaunchPad is also supported by a range of agencies and departments of the Singapore government, while tenants can tap into nearby universities and business schools for a ready pool of talent, expertise, knowledge and resources.
The diverse start-ups in LaunchPad form a community that generates ample opportunities for knowledge sharing and collaboration, which in turn helps accelerate their growth and facilitates success in the marketplace.
To be eligible for a place at LaunchPad, start-ups must be Singapore-based, no more than five years old, and a stand-alone business rather than a subsidiary of an established company.
The concept has been so successful that in March this year, JTC LaunchPad @ one-north has added another three new blocks to the community. With even more space being made available over the next few years, LaunchPad @ one-north will have the potential to house up to 1,000 start-ups and 60 incubators.
JTC LaunchPad @ Jurong Innovation District (JID)
The JTC LaunchPad @ Jurong Innovation District (JID) will provide space to cluster start-ups, incubators and accelerators from the clean technology, advanced manufacturing and engineering industries.
The development will feature a do-it-yourself workshop and fabrication studio where entrepreneurs and even hobbyists can tinker with new technology and have access to experts, machines, tools and software – all aimed at helping to accelerate the commercialisation of new technologies.
Like the first LaunchPad, JTC LaunchPad @ Jurong Innovation District will be located in close proximity to institutions of higher learning, along with a network of corporations and research institutions to ensure collaboration and cross-fertilisation of ideas.
Singapore’s LaunchPads, as hubs for innovation, help start-ups get ‘business-ready’, and provide a blueprint of what can be achieved if innovation is placed front and centre of the policy agenda.
The presence of diverse start-ups, incubators, venture capitalists and professional services clustered within the LaunchPad creates a vibrant community, generating ample opportunities for knowledge sharing, business collaborations and deal-making.
These strong networks and partnerships help to accelerate the growth of start-ups and facilitate their success in the marketplace.