Speech by Minister Lawrence Wong at the Launch of the Built Environment Accelerate to Market Programme

Feb 22, 2019

I am very happy to join you at the launch of this Built Environment Accelerate to Market Programme this morning. 

All of us know that technology is changing rapidly and disrupting all sectors of the economy. Traditional finance and banking is being disrupted by FinTech. In real estate, we have disruption through PropTech. Even in agriculture now, we talk about AgriTech. 

For a while, I think the built environment sector was feeling left behind. There is tech everywhere, but what about us? In the built environment space now, the pace of technology adoption is picking up.  Innovative solutions are coming to market. It’s not just in construction, but also upstream of the construction process in architecture and engineering, and downstream in facilities management. For example, more and more projects are being designed and built digitally now through the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM).  Architects, engineers and builders can work seamlessly on the same digital model. This helps to raise productivity and save costs, and after the construction, the BIM can also be used to enable smarter facilities management. 

We are seeing new innovative solutions emerging in this BuildTech space. They are coming from companies and start-ups that are not traditionally linked to the Built Environment sector. They are coming from tech start-ups and software companies; a whole range of different companies are now offering new innovative solutions that can be applied in the built environment space. 

For example, Hubble is a software company. They have developed a highly precise indoor tracking system for users to navigate within a 3D BIM environment. This is useful for both construction operations and facilities management. Users can quickly identify problem areas in a construction site or building that requires further attention, and easily indicate these within the BIM model. With this solution, previously manual and time-consuming tasks can now be carried out more effectively and accurately, enhancing overall productivity. Hubble will market this solution within the next few years.

Another local energy tech company Ampotech has built a smart metering system that provides detailed energy consumption patterns of buildings. This allows building managers to detect areas with abnormal energy consumption patterns, and areas with high energy consumption. With the information collected, building managers can take a more targeted approach towards maintenance, and implement more energy efficient solutions. The solution is cost-effective to install, and also does not cause much disruption during the installation process. I understand that this system has already been deployed in several building projects by developers like Lendlease and Ascendas-Singbridge.

These are just some examples that are in the market today. We do want to encourage more of such BuildTech innovations.  The Government is already doing more in terms of R&D. We have put in more resources to support research and development in this space. Our universities have built up expertise in key areas like materials science and engineering.  

But all of the investment in research will only be useful if they are applied and translated into actual projects. Imagine we have such a wealth of research capabilities and it is all left in the research institutions, but does not really get translated and bring about benefits to Singaporeans. I think it will be a real pity. We do need to do more now in the translation efforts and bring more good ideas and solutions to market. That is why I am very happy this morning to launch this Built Environment Accelerate to Market programme.  

It aims to fast-track innovative BuildTech solutions to the market. This will be done through providing start-ups and companies with access to investor funding, business networks, test-bedding opportunities and mentorship. 

As part of the programme, we will connect solution providers with built environment firms, so that there can be quicker deployment of solutions.  In particular, we will identify suitable spaces in selected buildings and estates where companies can test-bed and pilot their new solutions. 

With the BuildTech solutions, you do need a live platform to deploy. We do have buildings for which you can deploy these solutions. I am pleased that several commercial partners have already come onboard this programme. For example, Facebook’s new large-scale data centre will be one platform where promising innovations can be test-bedded. We hope others will come onboard as well. 

BCA has also appointed TNB Accelerator, which is a venture capital firm that nurtures early-stage start-ups, to co-organise and facilitate this accelerator programme. TNB will help to consolidate industry requirements, formulate challenge statements, source for potential innovators, and help them sharpen their business strategies. TNB will also provide innovators with access to investors, prototyping and production facilities, and new markets.  As a start, the government will set aside $6 million to help local firms in developing their solutions. The funding will go towards activities like testing, certification, and purchase of specialised equipment and software. That is the support that we are providing both from the Government’s side and through private partners for this accelerator programme.

We want to encourage more new start-ups through this programme, but innovation is certainly not limited to start-ups alone. All companies, including those that are already within the sector, and especially our home-grown contractors, consultants, and developers play an important role in developing a vibrant built environment sector in Singapore. I encourage all of you to be open to new innovative solutions and to seize the opportunities from this programme to develop, deploy and commercialise better outcomes in your projects. 

In particular, developers will have a major role to play in driving innovation for the built environment. Developers – be it public private – are the ones that lead and shape the building projects they own. So when the developers embrace and push for innovation, the rest of the eco-system, be it the architects, engineers or builders, will naturally follow suit. 

For public sector projects, the government will take the lead. Key public sector developers include HDB, JTC and LTA – they are the major players in the sector. They will take the lead in pushing for greater innovation from the consultants and contractors that they engage for their projects, and this will be reflected in their tender requirements and criteria. 

I encourage private sector developers to also join in this innovation journey.  Be it a residential, commercial or mixed-use project, private sector developers should also think about how they can go about doing things differently – adding greater value for their customers, raising productivity and saving costs at the same times that it can be win-win for all parties. Private developers can also start to engage more with our research institutes to find out what sort of research is being undertaken and how it can benefit their projects. Even better, you can share with the researchers your challenges, and co-sponsor some of the projects and research work that are taking place, so that the research outcomes can be more directly applicable and relevant to industry needs.  

This overall work that we are doing is really to try and bring together an ecosystem where we already have a wealth of research that is building up. We really want that to be translated to the market, and we need industry players to also engage our researchers and help in this translation process. 

All in all, this is about an exciting undertaking to change the way we build and transform the way we build. It is an exciting journey to make a qualitative difference in how we go about building our future Singapore.  We look forward to working with all of you in this endeavour.  Together, let us build an innovative, strong and vibrant BuildTech sector in Singapore. Thank you very much.