Pushing The Boundaries
In the 21st century, Singapore's economy crossed a new period of intense transformation from being investment-driven to innovation-driven. The multi-faceted demands of the New Economy inspired JTC to become an innovative pioneer of industrial infrastructure development.
The decade began with a symbolic milestone: JTC's relocation into its new, 32-storey headquarters, The JTC Summit, that corresponded with the launch of a new name-JTC Corporation-and a brand new corporate logo. These concurrent moves heralded JTC's expanded role as the key architect of Singapore's industrial landscape. The major decision to divest its portfolio of flatted factories also allowed JTC to focus more intently on a new range of capital-intensive, leading-edge industrial solutions.
The ground-breaking development of one-north for a new breed of investments in biomedical sciences, research & development, infocomm technology and media; the visionary redevelopment of Seletar Aerospace Park to anchor Singapore as the region's premier aviation hub; and the remarkable Jurong Rock Caverns, a bold venture into subterranean economic spaces, marked a journey of inspiration and innovation for JTC and her people.
Jurong Rock Caverns is Southeast Asia's first commercial underground storage facility for liquid hydrocarbons, and one of JTC's most ambitious projects. It is Singapore's deepest known development to date, located more than 40 storeys below the seabed on Jurong Island.
As a small city-state, Singapore has to be resourceful and creative with land usage. Reclaiming land and building high-rise industrial infrastructure have been the key ways to provide more industrial land and space to meet growing industry demand. With the Caverns, JTC spearheaded a new paradigm by exploring underground spaces. Conventionally, aboveground steel storage tanks are built to store liquid hydrocarbons, but these tanks occupy large tracts of land. By utilising subterranean storage spaces, the Caverns saved 60 hectares of valuable surface land for other productive activities such as petrochemicals manufacturing activities.
As a commercial storage facility, it would also complement and enhance the existing network of integrated infrastructure on Jurong Island, strengthening its value proposition as one of the world's leading chemicals hubs. Realising this bold vision was challenging and required patience and persistence. Jurong Rock Caverns took a total of six years to plan - which included numerous feasibility study missions to Europe and Asia and extensive soil and rock investigations - and eight years to construct.
This project is undoubtedly an engineering and construction feat as the project included not only the construction of multiple nine-storey-high caverns, but also long stretches of tunnels, complex piping networks with supporting utilities, and large steel structures. JTC assembled an international team of experts and specialists and employed cutting-edge construction methods, some of which are rarely used locally. At the end of the project, JTC excavated 3.5 million cubic metres of rock. If all the rocks were laid flat, they would be the size of Jurong Island! This project required JTC to venture into unfamiliar grounds and surmount engineering challenges never encountered before. Its successful completion is testament to the resilience to create innovative infrastructure solutions for Singapore.
When one-north was masterplanned by JTC in 2000, the vision was to create a business park and research hub, one that is conducive for collaboration and innovation. The development would house knowledge and innovation-based industries to broaden Singapore's economic base and to ensure that nation would remain competitive. The project called for bold experimentation, a highly flexible approach, and close cooperation with various government agencies. The goal was to mix laboratories, offices, homes, parks and educational institutions into a vibrant social melting pot, to catalyse collaboration and exchange of ideas. To achieve this, JTC spearheaded a new planning approach where the creation of vibrant communities that thrive in innovative work-live-play-learn environments would replace the mere building of infrastructure. To get a fresh perspective in the development of one-north, JTC appointed the renowned masterplan consultant, the late Zaha Hadid, in June 2001. The one-north masterplan unveiled in December 2001 featured unique concepts that promoted vibrancy and facilitated organic growth and evolution.
Another fundamental shift in thinking was the active engagement of the private sector to develop one-north. JTC would kick-start the project by developing the initial land parcels, while the rest of the parcels will be leased to private developers.
Realising the one-north vision
The one-north estate comprises eight precincts, each with their distinct characteristics and industry focus - Biopolis (biomedical sciences cluster), Fusionopolis (science, engineering and infocomm technology cluster), Mediapolis (media and infocomm technology cluster), LaunchPad (startup cluster), Vista (commercial and lifestyle cluster), Wessex (residential cluster), Ayer Rajah (emerging industries cluster), and Nepal Hill (learning cluster). Development in one-north began in 2001 with Biopolis, envisioned to position Singapore as the region's premier biomedical sciences hub. A total of seven buildings housing wet and dry laboratories were developed by JTC by 2003.
These buildings featured connecting sky bridges to further encourage and facilitate multi-disciplinary collaborations. Biopolis also promoted the co-location of public-private research institutes and shared facilities, and later phases by private sector developers added five more buildings. Today, Biopolis hosts a thriving ecosystem of public research institutions and a vibrant community of biomedical scientists carrying out world-class research & development. Companies such as A*STAR, DuPont, P&G, Abbott and Nitto Denko are located in Biopolis today. As the first phase of Biopolis was completed, JTC started work to develop the Fusionopolis cluster for the infocomm, science and engineering industries. The first building, Fusionopolis One, was completed in 2008. Designed by the internationally renowned Japanese architect, the late Dr Kisho Kurokawa, Fusionopolis One is the first integrated work-live-play-learn development in one-north. Fusionopolis Two was completed in 2015 and houses state-of-the-art equipment to support leading-edge research. The Synthesis tower, for example, not only houses the largest R&D cleanroom space in Singapore, but also the first multi-storey cleanroom in Singapore with a vibration sensitivity of Vibration Criterion Class E, or VC-E. Other private sector developments quickly came into the cluster, including Lucasfilm's distinctive Sandcrawler building in 2014. Today, the Fusionopolis cluster, with ten buildings completed, is home to many leading companies such as Lucasfilm, Garena, Canon and Autodesk.
Envisioned as Singapore's infocomm technology and digital media hub, Mediapolis aims to facilitate the clustering of creative minds and talents, with a vibrant ecosystem of multinational companies, startups and research institutes in close proximity. The first development within Mediapolis is Singapore's first soundstage facility, Infinite Studios. Subsequently, national broadcaster Mediacorp also relocated to Mediapolis, opening their new campus in 2015. 18 years on, one-north is home to a vibrant community of knowledge workers, researchers, entrepreneurs and students. The estate is also a living lab where startups, technology owners and research institutions can leverage opportunities to test-bed their latest urban solutions including autonomous vehicles, drones, personal mobility device sharing systems, just to name a few. Today, one-north embodies the true spirit of a work-live-play-learn environment, where the community partakes in regular social and industry events that are specially curated to draw people out of their offices to connect, interact and exchange ideas.
Singapore enjoyed sustained high growth in the aerospace industry in the late 1990s and early 2000s. By the early 2000s, Singapore had a comprehensive Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) cluster of companies offering nose-to-tail services. The aerospace industry was set to grow further with Asia expecting to double its fleet of aircraft. Singapore was also running out of land in Changi and Loyang to support this industry. With this thriving industry set to grow further, it was an opportune time to develop an aerospace park. At that time, there was uncertainty over Seletar Airport's future. Its colonial-era infrastructure was also in need of an upgrade. Singapore saw the potential of Seletar developing into a thriving aerospace park where the entire value chain of aerospace activities could be carried out in one location. Companies could tap the synergies of this proximity to increase collaboration and be more competitive.
In 2007, the Seletar Aerospace Park masterplan was unveiled. The 320 hectare Seletar Aerospace Park would support a new integrated aerospace industry cluster incorporating MRO services; manufacturing and assembly of aircraft engines and components; business and general aviation activities; as well as training and research & development. Seletar Airport would also be upgraded to support the increasing number of aircraft. Additionally. JTC would build a spectrum of space solutions supporting multinational companies, small & medium-sized enterprises and start-ups in Seletar Aerospace Park. The masterplan also took into consideration the retention of the environmental charm and architectural heritage of the black-and-white colonial bungalows, old trees and open fields.
Seletar Aerospace Park's success is evident in how it has helped the aerospace companies attract their supply chain to form a comprehensive ecosystem, which in turn created more good jobs. This is exemplified through the "Queen Bee" effect; in particular, Rolls-Royce's $700 million investment was a breakthrough for Singapore. The establishment of such global companies in Seletar Aerospace Park, besides attracting correspondingly world-class supporting suppliers, has also generated positive spinoff, with local companies expanding into Seletar Aerospace Park to provide services to these global companies.
Today, Seletar Aerospace Park has established itself as Asia's leading aerospace hub, home to more than 60 global and local aerospace industry players, and over 6,000 skilled employees. Beyond physical infrastructure for industries, Seletar Aerospace Park also houses amenities such as the black-and-white colonial bungalows that were conserved and refurbished to form part of The Oval @ Seletar Aerospace Park, a vibrant lifestyle enclave featuring uniquely themed restaurants as well as recreational spaces for the community. Besides creating a conducive environment for businesses and talents, JTC has also been working closely with the Seletar Aerospace Park community to curate industry events and social activities that aim to provide platforms for networking and collaborations, build business resilience, and create a sense of belonging and identity.