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News & opinion

13 NOV 2019

Creating cities of tomorrow through co-innovation

Singapore's unique constraints of being a city-state requires creative planning to ensure it remains one of the world's most future-ready and mobile cities. But what makes Singapore an inclusive, sustainable and resilient city of the future? How can stakeholders innovate with private-sector players to ensure win-win solutions?

There is a vision for Singapore to become a 45-minute city with 20-minute towns. This means that all journeys to the nearest neighbourhood centre to be completed in fewer than 20 minutes, and nine in 10 peak-period journeys to be completed in fewer than 45 minutes.

Achieving this will save the average peak-period commuter around 15 minutes every weekday. Improving efficiency in first-and-last mile journeys through innovation through point-to-point mobility services is just one of many targets set by the Land Transport Master Plan 2040.

Getting ready for the future

Singapore already has high scores across all mobility dimensions, according to McKinsey's 2018 report which ranks Singapore at the top globally for urban mobility. That said, today's increasingly complex global operating environment, fraught with political uncertainty as well as aging population and climate change concerns, means that the continuous need to ensure adaptable, inclusive and sustainable infrastructure has never been greater.

URA at PropTech Innovate 2019
“It is imperative that we plan for a flexible and resilient Singapore" — Yvonna Lim at PropTech Innovate 2019

"This makes it all the more imperative that we must plan for a flexible and resilient Singapore," shared Yvonne Lim, Group Director for Physical Planning at the APREA-RICS PropTech Innovate conference 2019, where she outlined Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) 2019 Master Plan.

Singapore's urban infrastructure planners face the daily reality and unique constraints of planning for both a city and a country at the same time. This creates the idea of working in an 'urban lab', one in which key city stakeholders innovate hand-in-hand with private sector players for win-win solutions.

Though Singapore is already very built-up, its future-forward and competitive mindset means that there is endless 'tinkering under the hood'. Maintaining a competitive edge translates into an ongoing pipeline of new districts eg Jurong Lake District, new greenfield sites eg Punggol Digital District to develop, enhance and testbed digitally-informed urban solutions.

Such efforts are primarily driven by public agencies, but they are not looking to do it alone.

The Built Environment Technology Alliance

An initiative by BCA and NRF, the Built Environment Technology Alliance (BETA) is a collaborative initiative to encourage and support the development and adoption of technology solutions to boost the capability of built environment firms. BETA will catalyse research and innovation (R&I) efforts in the built environment, acting as the focal point for like-minded industry stakeholders to collaborate and drive R&I, tap into the knowledge of domain experts, and translate knowledge to economic value.

Learn more about BETA

Driving win-win private sector partnerships

An integrated lab-of-sorts, Cities of Tomorrow (CoT) is a multi-agency effort launched to address key urban issues by leveraging R&D in four key areas: advanced construction, resilient infrastructure, new spaces, and greater sustainability.

In the built environment, corporate labs have been setup by leading infrastructure companies such as Surbana Jurong together with Nanyang Technological University, as well as Sembcorp in collaboration with National University of Singapore. These drive research on a diverse range of topics, including digital technologies for building productivity, and sustainable solutions including energy and waste management.

While the concept of partnering with industry players is not new, CoT goes a step further in working with the industry as co-investors and co-developers of research. To date, some 75% of the applications received involve the private sector, not just as vendors, but as co-developers of new, promising and bold ideas.

Building cities of tomorrow requires careful long-term planning and skilful execution. However, beyond that, strengthening public-private partnerships with initiatives to catalyse the development and adoption of innovative solutions to boost the capability of built environment businesses is definitely a step in the right direction.