Singapore's Science Complex

Among developing countries that are investing heavily in science, Singapore (is Singapore still a developing country?) stands out. A recent article in Nature profiles a massive new public/private science complex called “Fusionopolis.” This is a physical-sciences counterpart to the existing “Biopolis.”

Although the overall spending rate on science is still small by country standards ($880 million/year), it is impressive on a per-capita basis. Currently, it is spending 2.6% of its gross domestic product on science, and plans to increase to 3% by the end of the decade, which would put it ahead of Britain and the United States.

What struck me in the article was that Singapore is very explicit about it’s goal, and that isn’t knowledge for knowledge’s sake. According to Chuan Poh Lim, chairman of A*STAR, Singapore’s central agency for encouraging science and technology, Singapore recognizes it can’t compete with China or India as a low-cost manufacturer. “In terms of ‘cheaper and faster’, we will lose out. We need a framework for innovation.”

The ultimate goal is to build an economy with a stronger base in intellectual property, generating both new products and also patent royalties.

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