Understanding how Singapore unlocked its future as a technology hub

Singapore is tiny, expensive, has no natural resources to speak of, is a tax haven and has a very small local population. But has become Asia's leading technology hub. How?

Singapore is tiny, expensive, has no natural resources to speak of, is a tax haven and has a very small local population.

But in-spite of its limitations, Singapore has become Asia's leading technology hub, thanks largely to a government policy to make it so.

So how did the Singaporean government go about doing this?

  1. Singapore focused their efforts on 'creating the conditions' under which their vision would materialise - if you want tech start-ups to flourish in your region, the need easy access to talent and money. Singapore focused on attracting and enabling private capital to fund tech start ups through a unique government co-funding scheme. Government matched private capital investment in start-ups dollar-for-dollar up to a maximum of S$300,000.
  2. Singapore encouraged universities and business to work together - to provide appropriate skills and training for future-focused opportunities and risks. The government has gone out of their way to attract the right kind of foreign talent, but as also encouraged locals to get skilled in engineering and technology-related fields.
  3. Singapore had a big vision of the future -  but also adjusted the details of the plan to execute that vision as the future unfolded. 'Key to the nation’s strategy is the government’s ability to plan for and adjust its policies to best position itself for the next wave of technology. While it initially focused on shifting to a knowledge-based economy driven by innovation and research and development in the early 2000s, Singapore has once again shifted its strategy to focus on deep technology – otherwise known as technologies that, when developed, will result in fundamental breakthroughs in science and engineering that will have a profound impact on industries and lives.' - via
  4. Singapore takes innovation seriously and is committed to unlocking the opportunities it offers their economy in the long-term. The government's focus is well and truly on the future of the country rather than internal political battles or protectionism of existing power structures.

'“With the future economy, the focus was on how to position our economy and businesses for the next wave of opportunities and growth, and also to be prepared for the kinds of disruptions that are coming our way,” Iswaran, who up until 2018 was the minister for trade and industry in Singapore, said in an interview with the Post.

“It is not necessarily a bad thing to have a plan, a vision of how and where you want to go … but what you don’t want is a plan that is sclerotic, that is ossified, so how you formulate the plan is important.”

The country is helped by its reputation for being an oasis of stability in the region, with strong legal protections for intellectual property, continuity of government policies and a highly-educated local workforce.' - via

A compelling, plausible vision of the future - money - skills - stability - strong legal frameworks and strong partnerships are just some of the key ingredients Singapore put into the mix to lead the charge of innovation in South East Asia.

Unlike Helen Zille - I certainly, not for one second, would in anyway suggest that this is some magic formula that can just be replicated in other parts of the world. But what is useful from this understanding, for me, is that Singapore started with a strong purpose of where the opportunity was; and developed a compelling, cohesive vision of that future that everyone bought into. They then slowly just surely filled in the necessary needed elements to make it a reality and adjusted things as necessary to stay true to the vision.

Singapores process worked for Singapore alone, but there are certainly elements of it that can be taken as inspiration for other regions and governments also wanting to take advantage of the huge opportunities that the future presents.