Primed For Progress
The 1990s ushered in rapid economic growth amidst booming foreign investments and thriving industries. The decade saw the move towards anchoring high value added economic activities that promised more technology and knowledge-intensive jobs for Singaporeans.
This raised the bar for JTC as new game-changing economic strategies demanded more robust and innovative engineering solutions. An exciting wave of new investments and economic trends inspired unique and untried solutions. A broad spectrum of very complex and complicated projects that marked a new economic dawn was undertaken by JTC: the spearheading of wafer fabrication parks, and the massive amalgamation of seven offshore islands to create Jurong Island for the petrochemical cluster. Abroad, JTC's subsidiary, Jurong Environmental Engineering (JEE) began exporting its expertise and co-developing the 7,000 hectares China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park in a bid to go regional to tap new burgeoning markets to stay relevant and competitive.
Beyond its core mission, JTC also grappled with the national issue of future land scarcity. In 1997, JTC launched the Industrial Land Plan for the 21st Century (IP21), which spelt out key strategies in addressing industrial land use in Singapore. These included: enbloc redevelopment programmes for older estates; new concepts like stack-up factories to intensify land use; the introduction of land productivity initiatives; and better stewardship of economic land with priority given to companies that engaged in high value-add activities.
With these increasing economic demands came the gilt-edged opportunity for JTC to expand its capabilities and expertise. The 1990s primed JTC and her people for long-term progress in tandem with Singapore's global growth and expansion.
In the 1990s, modern high-technology businesses were characterised by the integration of various business activities within a single operational set-up. The entire spectrum of a high-tech manufacturing business, such as design, development, manufacturing, marketing and distribution were all located under one roof. Acknowledging the need for a mixed-use development with a high-quality working environment for high-technology companies, JTC sowed the idea of developing business parks. Business parks were a new land-use type that JTC pioneered to fast-track the nation's strategy of anchoring investments and businesses at the cutting edge of technology.
The challenge was to create an environment that would facilitate the development of businesses that engage in high-technology manufacturing, research and development, high value-added and knowledge-intensive activities. In 1988, JTC initiated a study trip to visit business parks in the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Japan to learn from the experiences of others. JTC and fellow government agencies then formed a Business Park Working Group to establish the planning guidelines for Singapore's business parks. A 36 hectare site in Jurong East was then selected for the pioneer business park - the International Business Park - with JTC drawing up a comprehensive master plan of the site. Development work at International Business Park began in 1992.
The business park was specially developed within a conducive and lush green working environment. JTC's first multi-tenanted building at International Business Park, The Synergy, was completed in 1996. ER Mechatronics (S) Pte Ltd, Informatics Holdings Ltd, and the German Centre for Industry and Trade Pte Ltd were among the first few companies to take up land sites within International Business Park to construct their own buildings.
Following the success of International Business Park, JTC launched the 66 hectares Changi Business Park in July 1997. Two years later, as the demand for high-end, high-tech business space grew, JTC stepped up the development of ready-built facilities in the business parks, constructing two more multi-tenanted buildings - The Strategy at International Business Park and The Signature at Changi Business Park. The two vibrant and bustling business parks have attracted many well-known corporations such as Creative Technology, MobileOne, Acer Computer, Honeywell, Citi Group, DBS Bank, UBS, IBM, and more.
With keener competition from neighbouring economies and the demands of a fast paced world, there was increasing pressure on JTC to ensure a continued supply of industrial facilities in land scarce Singapore - at competitive rates - to sustain the growth of the manufacturing sector. One of the key objectives for JTC's Industrial Land Plan for the 21st Century (IP21) initiative in 1997 was to raise the yield from Singapore's industrial land bank by intensifying the use of our limited industrial land supply. As such, IP21 laid out ways to make more productive use of industrial land to stay ahead of the curve and ensure "more room for growth". Under IP21, JTC made better use of existing land through new factory designs that do not take up large tracts of land.
It also worked with customers to improve land use by providing incentives, including cash grants, to improve land productivity, encourage better use of land and discourage retention of excess land. It also spurred JTC's en bloc redevelopment (EBR) programme, a comprehensive land intensification effort centred on rejuvenating old industrial estates with low plot ratios.
Five EBR locations were identified, in Terusan, Kranji, Kallang, Tanjong Kling and Tukang. With redevelopment, the land in these areas would become better utilised, with more advanced facilities in place, thus transforming the old industrial parks into modern land-efficient spaces to better support manufacturing activities.
Building Benchmarks Through Woodlands Spectrum
JTC's efforts to intensify land use also laid the foundation for Singapore's first stack-up factory concept, Woodlands Spectrum.
The objective was to reach a higher plot ratio of 2.05, achieved by adding levels - or 'stacks' - to the development. It was also crucial that every tenant on every level could enjoy the convenience of 'first-floor' access. JTC delivered with driveways and ramps capable of accommodating large 45-foot container trucks, offering direct loading and unloading at all levels of Woodlands Spectrum. Woodlands Spectrum's smart space allocation ramped up overall productivity with a total floor area of 342,600 sqm that comprised 174 units of detached, semi-detached and terrace factories. This unique and innovative concept - unseen on such a scale - set a new precedent for maximising land use and even the private sector took to offering similar factory setups in Singapore.
The success of Jurong Island is the result of grit, courage and powerful synergy between government agencies such as the Economic Development Board (EDB) and JTC. The seed of the petrochemicals hub was sown in the late 1960s, where pioneering petrochemical companies such as ExxonMobil (then known as Esso), Shell and the Singapore Refining Corporation recognised Singapore's strategic location at the crossroads of Asia's thriving trading hub. The Singapore Government identified seven offshore islands in the south-western part of Singapore for the companies to set up their refineries.
Buoyed by the increasing demand for petroleum products and the growing presence of both upstream and downstream chemicals companies located in Singapore, a steady stream of renowned global companies also started to make these islands their home. This led to an increased demand for land to further grow the industry. Hence, in the early 1990s, the idea of amalgamating the seven islands into one to create a chemicals cluster. The strategy was to bring mutually supporting industries together into one cluster to maximise efficiency and achieve economies of scale.
For Jurong Island, that meant developing the land into a specialised petrochemical hub with shared infrastructure such as service corridors, logistics and warehousing, outsourced utilities, storage and terminal facilities, and supporting services such as process maintenance and training. These would catalyse an integrated ecosystem where one's product becomes the feedstock of others by supplying "over the fence." JTC was tasked to undertake the ambitious project of joining seven southern islands with an initial area of 1,000 hectares to form a reclaimed land mass of 3,000 ha. With determination and hard work, Jurong Island soon started to take shape. Millions of tons of sand turned into hectares of possibilities for the industry.
In the short span of a few years, and even while Jurong Island was still largely seawater and a few underutilised islands, EDB successfully convinced leading corporations such as DuPont, ExxonMobil, Eastman, Mitsui Chemicals, Sumitomo and Vopak to invest in Jurong Island.
Today, Jurong Island is home to more than 100 leading global petroleum, petrochemical and specialty chemical companies and it is the heart of Singapore's chemicals industry.
In a 1993 Regionalisation Forum address, then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong emphasised the importance of Singapore going regional with its expertise and knowledge transfer. The objective was to work together with neighbouring countries, plug into the thriving regional economies and to grow with them. "Singapore can transfer its experience in master planning, development and operational management," said then-PM Goh, who also highlighted that such projects could become "the flagship of economic cooperation" and "generate goodwill and business opportunities for Singapore."
Having accumulated a wealth of experience in large-scale integrated township development, JTC, through its subsidiary Jurong Environmental Engineering (JEE), moved swiftly to respond to the increasing need for physical infrastructural development in the newly emerging economies in Asia. JEE began exporting its expertise regionally, participating in joint-ventures to develop large-scale industrial parks and townships in countries like China, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam. This helped to forge strategic alliances that would enable Singapore to plug into the robust economic growth in Asia.
In 1994, JEE was part of a 19-member Singapore consortium that jointly invested in the development and management of a 7,000 hectares industrial township in Suzhou, China. What set this apart from the other overseas projects was that it involved the transfer of management 'software', with top-level support and commitment from both the Singapore and Chinese governments. JTC's involvement in the 'software transfer programme' covered areas such as land use planning, land allocation, facilities and estate management, lease management and customer management. The spin-off benefits from such cooperation were significant for all parties involved. By working closely with the Chinese authorities, JTC gained a better understanding of doing business in China and helped it identify business opportunities and facilitate investments there. Chinese partners were able to develop an economic model for achieving growth without the pitfall of social disorder brought about by haphazard development. JEE was renamed JTC International Pte Ltd in 1995 to reflect its international business of industrial park development in emerging Asian countries. That year, JTC International doubled its commitment in regional investments to $170 million in 11 joint-ventures in China, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Tuas Biomedical Park is a prime example of JTC's push to support knowledge-intensive biomedical manufacturing activities through the provision of specialised infrastructure and facilities. The $62-million biomedical hub was specially designed to enable companies to set up manufacturing operations quickly. To achieve this objective, deliberate efforts were made to provide 'plug-and-play' efficiency.
This included infrastructure such as roads, power lines, water and telecommunications, sewer pipes and water and gas supplies, as well as ready-built spaces at JTC Space @ Tuas Biomedical Park. The Park's integrated concept not only enabled companies to set up their operations with minimal lead time, it also effectively improved the logistical synergy between the pharmaceutical, biologics and medical device manufacturers there.
Today, Tuas Biomedical Park is home to major global pharmaceutical plants such as Abbott, GlaxoSmithKline, Lonza and Pfizer. Its success would not be possible without the close partnership with the Bio-pharmaceutical Manufacturers Advisory Committee (BMAC), which comprises companies located in the Park. The Committee works hand in hand with JTC to improve the operating environment and to foster a collaborative and vibrant community in the park, through initiatives such as sharing of best practices for energy efficiency, and organising events such as community runs.
Singapore emerged in the 2000s as one of the first few places in the world with advanced wafer fabrication capabilities, and part of this achievement was due to the focus in 1995 by JTC and other government agencies to develop wafer fabrication parks that would attract key players in the industry and expand the sector. The target was to have more than 200 hectares of land to accommodate 25 wafer fab plants by 2005.
To start, the team sourced for optimal land sites that met the exacting conditions required for the industry. The land had to be vibration-free due to the precise nature of wafer fabrication operations. One such site identified was in Woodlands. As the site was already leased out as an industrial park, JTC's resettlement team went to great lengths to work out a special relocation package for the 560 tenants, and accelerated factory building programmes nearby to accommodate them.
Work began on Woodlands Wafer Fab Park on an intense schedule. In just one year, in 1996, three plants operated by Singapore Technologies and TECH Semiconductor were up and running in the new 50 hectares Woodlands Wafer Fab Park. This consolidation strategy set a new standard for efficiency, segmenting high-capacity wafer fabrication operations from general manufacturing activities. Woodlands Wafer Fab Park was quickly joined by the 96 hectares Tampines and 60 hectares Pasir Ris Wafer Fab Parks. Today, Singapore is home to renowned global corporations such as Micron, GlobalFoundries, UMC and NXP Semiconductors.