Transforming university campuses into incubation hubs for local enterprises can be “a catalyst” for the new Singapore, as the campuses are based on “zero land cost”, said veteran architect and adjunct professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Tay Kheng Soon.
Mr Tay was among the panellists in the webinar titled, “The Future and Challenges to the Singapore Economy”, organised by the Future of Singapore (FOSG) via Zoom on 17 Apr.
The webinar touched on topics ranging from the fractured global economy, with Singapore caught between the US and China blocs, disruptive technological revolutions to jobs and global supply chains in artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things, 3D printing as well as future pandemics.
Sharing his insights on the country’s future economy, Mr Tay suggested leveraging the university campuses in Singapore and transform them into incubation hubs for local enterprises.
“We have so many universities, polytechnics, institute of technical education and so on. This relates also to the question of land price. Real estate is making money from property development, which has boosted the land price to such an extent that is very difficult to do startup business.
“So I was thinking, all the universities, educational enterprises and campuses are based on zero land cost, therefore how do we leverage that? Can you imagine seeing a university like NTU becoming a prototype manufacturing centre?
“Imagine that the existing population of 30,000 in NTU is increased by another 20,000 consisting of a lot of new startup businesses, entrepreneurs and business people, finances, venture capital,” he said.
Citing Germany’s dual programmes that combine a university course with practical training or work experience, Mr Tay believes that similar programmes can be applied in Singapore so that “the thinking” of campuses would no longer be just an “ivory tower” but become more realistic.
“This is the transformative process that should come about and because the rents are almost zero with educational benefits to the hosting institution, it’s going to become a catalyst for the new Singapore.
“In other words, new Singapore will come out from enterprise campuses. Because if the best and brightest in Singapore in our campuses are not leverage to this model then I think we are lost,” he remarked.
Mr Tay further explained that enterprise campuses can ignite “the innovative spirit” among the entrepreneurs and students.
“This actually happened in Silicon Valley in the early days when prices were much cheaper. You have the universities there, the highway and all the restaurants, coffee shops there. So everybody meets in the restaurants and that’s where they cook up ideas.
“And then you have the venture capital club that was set up there and they then invited every month a lunch with people who are interested to get the finance and they could present ideas in 10 minutes and if it is a good idea, they get funded and that’s how we grow,” he added.
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