Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong joined more than 400 international leaders in science, technology and business to celebrate the opening of Fusionopolis, its second major R+D hub. Its first major hub, Biopolis, opened five years ago.
The futuristic 30-hectare Fusionopolis, which will be developed over six phases, is the country's icon for research in the interactive media, physical sciences, engineering and technology.
"Fusionopolis offers a unique and powerful model for research and innovation," said Lim Chuan Poh, chairman of the multi-agency Fusionopolis Steering Committee and chairman of A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research), Singapore's leading public research agency whose science and engineering research institutes will be located at Fusionopolis.
Home to public sector research institutes and corporate labs, Fusionopolis is specially designed to break down the barriers in organisations and allow multidisciplinary teams from both national and corporate laboratories to flourish. This is critical to achieving breakthroughs in the face of highly-complex, large scale societal challenges confronting society today.
Added Lim, "An emblem of community and collaboration, Fusionopolis' physical infrastructure is designed to facilitate interactions and integration of groups of talent with diverse capabilities. This way, it builds a sense of community among the people here, and creates opportunities for them to contribute their capabilities as a vibrant and collaborative community, to impact lives and the world."
Charles Zukoski, Ph.D., who chairs A*STAR's Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC), pointed out, "With Fusionopolis, we are trying to create a new model of doing research that cuts across many different borders. This mixing of different interests and backgrounds will lead to unexpected solutions to problems about which society cares. It is a unique environment that I do not see anywhere else in the world."
Zukoski, a member of the prestigious U.S. based National Academy of Engineering, is the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's William and Janet Lycan Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
Anchoring the development is A*STAR's science and engineering research institutes with world-class capabilities in data storage, materials science, infocomm, microelectronics, chemical synthesis, high-performance computing and manufacturing technologies.
Two research institutes have moved into phase 1 of the development, and another four will move into Fusionopolis by 2011, whereby they will form multidisciplinary teams tackling research that require a unique melding of skills.
The researchers will be joined by at least 13 corporate laboratories, which are located at phase 1 of the development.
These include Vestas, the world's leading wind turbine company; Ubisoft, one of Europe's largest game publisher; Linden Lab, the creator of Second Life; and Nitto Denko, a premier electronics and advanced materials company.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will also open its first overseas research centre at Fusionopolis. Called the Advanced Digital Sciences Centre, it is an extension of two of UIUC's most successful multidisciplinary, information technology focused research units, namely the Coordinated Science Laboratory and the Information Trust Institute.
Altogether, there will be 800 scientists, engineers and game developers in phase 1 of Fusionopolis. This number will increase to 2,400 by 2012 when phase 2 of the development is ready.
The Fusionopolis research community can draw on the biomedical research expertise at Biopolis, which is located just half a mile away and is home to A*STAR's 13 biomedical research institutes, consortia and centres.
A*STAR has been actively encouraging collaborations between its 1,500 physical sciences researchers and engineers, and 1,000 biomedical researchers.
Breaking down barriers further is Fusionopolis' work-live-play-learn environment. The development comprises five levels of retail and F&B outlets, fitness facilities that include a rooftop swimming pool, a 50-unit serviced apartment, 13 sky gardens and an experimental theatre.
These facilities are aimed at creating a dynamic community at Fusionopolis and fostering chance encounters that could spark the next big discovery. Scientific facilities are also shared to encourage greater collaboration among the researchers. In addition, the lifestyle areas also double up as test bedding sites to accelerate the adoption of new technologies.
The opening of Fusionopolis comes as Singapore recorded the highest Gross Domestic Expenditure in R&D (GERD) of $4.2 billion (in Singapore dollars this amount equals $6.3 billion) in 2007, based on the preliminary results of the country's National R&D survey conducted by A*STAR.
The amount was an unprecedented increase of 26% from the 2006 GERD, and double the amount of $3 billion (Singapore dollars) recorded in 2000. GERD as a percentage of GDP rose to 2.61% in 2007, up from 2.31% in 2006 and 1.88% in 2000. Two thirds of this expenditure comes from the private sector.
Both Fusionopolis and Biopolis, which are part of the larger one-north development that is master planned and developed by JTC Corporation, are striking icons of the commitment by the government to transform Singapore into a knowledge-based, innovation-driven economy.
Government agencies with the mandate to grow the economy, including catalysing more R&D activities in the country, are located at Fusionopolis, reflecting the "whole-of-Singapore" approach to transform the economy.
The Media Development Authority is located at phase 1 of Fusionopolis. The Economic Development Board and SPRING Singapore will be located at phase 2A of Fusionopolis.