A US citizen's reflection on Singapore innovationBY BAILEY MONTE
Heading to Singapore I didn’t know what to expect. Asia? I’d never even been out of my country (the US) but Asia? That seemed extensive. At least my mother thought so.
But after my first morning I knew that I had come to the right place. In fact, I had determined pretty quickly that Singapore was easily the coolest place I’d ever been.There are multiple reasons I have come to this conclusion, but at the forefront is the fact that Singapore is beyond innovative, beyond progressive, beyond cool.
For example, the architecture? There are new buildings everywhere, and they continue to get both more interesting looking as well as more efficient and innovative. The giant shopping malls, with multiple levels underground and many of them interconnected? Brilliant. Orchard Road is beautiful. It puts my hometown of Chicago’s equivalent, Michigan Avenue, nicknamed “The Magnificent Mile,” to shame.
Not only this, but Singapore has undoubtedly become a HUB of technology start-ups. This might actually be the most obvious area in which Singapore has become increasingly forward- thinking and acknowledged for world-wide.
John Bittleston, Singapore permanent resident for more than thirty years and British businessman who sold his company, Cerebos Pacific Ltd (CPL) in 1990 to Suntory of Japan concedes that Singapore is a remarkable phenomenon but also believes that the country didn’t really have a choice.
“It was do or die,” Bittleston said. “Singapore had no option but to do something really dramatic or it wasn’t going to exist.” This is when I began to look for answers. What has Singapore been doing since its birth 47 years ago to be so progressive and forward-thinking?
For one, there is the loud construction that I have woken up to every morning and have heard from every office building I have attended a meeting in while being here. The construction in Singapore seems to be endless. Old buildings are constantly getting torn down and new ones are being put in their place.
Unlike Chicago however, almost every new architectural project here seems to be bigger, better, and more beautiful. In the states, developers are most often concerned with functionality; maximizing space and profit. This might get a good turn-around, but it doesn’t make for the same awe you experience when looking up at Singapore’s CBD at night.
To put it into perspective, it was a big deal when the Trump Tower was built in Chicago and since then there have been intermittent projects of the same sort, but not at a constant rate as they are undertaken here. There is one ultimate goal here in Singapore that seems to be on everyone’s mind: progress.
In US cities, progress and innovation are certainly valued, but they are not nearly as stressed as they are here in Singapore. If that were the case, there would be tons of brand new, architecturally creative and efficient buildings in cities across the US.
When you look at New York City for example, you think of a history, as opposed to the future (as you do here in Singapore). Not only is progress heavily encouraged and aided by the government (through grants like those allotted by MDA), but Singapore has been noted as number one in the world for innovation, well ahead of the US.
This is where the cyclical movement comes in. The numerous projects here and innovations that all seem to trump each other can be partially attributed to the cyclical movement of people that Singapore witnesses.
Often times it seems that a person of interest will come to Singapore with plans for another architectural endeavor or to invest in the latest tech start-up, and will then move on and leave Singapore. This is just what happens when you become a world destination for business and technology.
So why should any of this even matter to business in Singapore? To me, it seems important to be informed when you are doing something right. So this is me doing exactly that.
Singapore business should only continue to do what it is already doing. It should push for the next best thing every single day because it will only attract more business and more excited participants as a result.
As a student I am currently considering what I want to do in the world, and where I want to be doing it. Singapore has changed a lot for me. Coming here has made me excited about where our world is headed. It is refreshing to see a place so full of energy and forward momentum.
Singapore should only hope to continue on its already innovative path as I can easily see an exodus of US students coming here. Singapore business can expect an influx of young people in the upcoming years coming to Singapore to participate in the next best thing.