Complete Property Market Updates of Singapore

June 24, 2008

One-North: A place for a meeting of minds

Filed under: Education,General,Genius Thoughts,Property Add Value — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:57 am

one-north, encompassing Biopolis and Fusionopolis, is Singapore’s icon of the knowledge economy

THERE I was, standing in the middle of a gleaming complex of buildings, with blocks bearing names like Chromos, Proteos, Genome and Matrix. I was, of course, at Biopolis, conceived to put Singapore on the global map of the biomedical sciences industry. Biopolis itself is only one part of a vast development called one-north that is emerging around the Buona Vista area.


Brain space: Biopolis (left) was conceived to put Singapore on the global map of the biomedical sciences industry; global pharmaceuticals corporation Novartis houses its Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases at Chromos. The institute ‘is dedicated to discovering treatments for diseases of the developing world, including tuberculosis, malaria and dengue fever’, says its chairman Paul Herrling

ha area is ‘Singapore’s icon of the knowledge economy’, according to the one-north website. It encompasses Biopolis and Fusionopolis, a sprawling area dedicated to the media and information businesses.

In its widest interpretation, one-north includes Rochester Park, Insead business school and one campus of the Nanyang Technological University. Clearly, it is planned to be a kind of ‘brain space’ and creative nerve for Singapore.

But does the talent really like working here? I approached a man and a woman chatting to each other and posed them that question.

The woman’s answer was emphatic. ‘Yes, it’s convenient. It’s got everything – there are restaurants, cafes, shops. There’s a shared system among all the corporations here, to take care of all our grocery and other needs.’ They declined to give their names but said that they work at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.

And for those who think that the location is somewhat out of the way, there is the view of Edison Liu, executive director of the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS). one-north is practically ‘in the middle of the city’, he said, speaking to BT in a phone interview as he was travelling in the US.

‘We are only some 20 minutes from all the major hospitals and universities. It’s not like some other research centres, where you’re stuck in the outskirts of suburbia.’

GIS is the national flagship programme for genomic sciences, and occupies – of course – the Genome block at Biopolis.

‘Of course I’m biased, but we are always counted among the top 10 genome centres in the world,’ said Prof Liu. ‘Within a 25-hundred-mile radius in Asia, there is no centre with better firepower than us.’ He said that the institute has made its mark in the areas of stem cell genomics, systems pharmacology (which is research related to cancer) and genomic technology.

Slightly more than half of GIS staff is of foreign origin, said Prof Liu, who himself is from the US but is now a Singapore permanent resident. In that sense, the institute shares the international flavour of other big research institutes.

As I walked along the paved streets of Biopolis, it seemed to me that the place, barring the occasional person in a business suit, has the feel of a large university. There is a big food court for the more budget-minded, but also espresso pit-stops and several restaurants.

These eateries are not only great places to grab a meal, but also to swap ideas and contacts, according to Paul Chapman of GlaxoSmithKline. He is head of GSK’s Centre for Research in Cognitive and Neurodegenerative Disorders.

‘While it is certainly possible to have this kind of interaction if you are located on a separate campus, there is no substitute for bumping into someone at the food court or the cafe,’ he said. ‘Those casual interactions, where people get to know each other and then discover their mutual scientific interests, just happen more easily at a place like Biopolis.’

Opportunity for study

Novartis, another global pharmaceuticals corporation, houses its Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD) at Chromos.

The institute ‘is dedicated to discovering treatments for the diseases of the developing world, including tuberculosis, malaria and dengue fever’, said Paul Herrling, NITD’s head of corporate research and chairman.

‘Biopolis’s location in Singapore, a place where dengue is endemic, gives researchers the opportunity to study first-hand the epidemiology of the disease, and enables access to affected patients.’

one-north is not entirely about the medical and biotech sectors. Swissnex Singapore describes itself as a platform of the Swiss Embassy, ‘facilitating knowledge and competencies’ in science, education, art and innovation between Switzerland, Singapore and South-east Asia.

‘Being at Biopolis brings us closer to the stakeholder,’ said executive director Suzanne Hraba-Renevey. ‘We are more visible and accessible to our users and have easy access to our partners from academia, research, government and business.’

The entire Biopolis project itself is yet to be completed, and consists of several phases. Across the road looms Fusionopolis 1, comprising 24 floors, two towers and 120,000 square metres of floor area.

The building, which represents phase one of the Fusionopolis project, is dedicated to infocomms, or media-related firms that use the latest in technology. It is equipped with satellite access and the necessary power and bandwith for intensive computer use. There are also service apartments, a roof-top swimming pool and a performance theatre.

Fusionopolis 1 has just opened its doors to tenants, and Asian Food Channel was the first to make it its home. When I visited the premises of the cable-and-satellite channel on the 12th floor, there were still boxes to be unpacked and everything was spanking new.

‘We think three to five years ahead,’ said managing director Hian Goh. ‘In 12 months’ time, there’s going to be an MRT at the bottom of this building. There will be a Cold Storage and shops. There’s a sky garden – it’s beautiful.’

The new office is bright, airy and full of glass partitions. There is a room at the rear to be turned into a kitchen-cum-studio.

‘That’s where we’ll have people like Gordon Ramsay doing his shows,’ said Maria Brown, managing director of acquisitions and programming. ‘We’ll also be able to invite people over.’

I imagined the celebrity chef, brow furrowing, expletives flying, sticking a knife in a roasted carcass and calling it done.

‘Please invite me,’ I said.

Source : Business Times – 27 May 2008

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