After seven years of development and construction, the Sino-Singapore Nanjing Eco Hi-Tech Island (SNEI) is now beginning to take shape as a prototype for China’s fourth-generation modern city. Leading the Island’s master development was Yanlord Land Group’s Chairman and Chief Executive Zhong Sheng Jian, who believes the Eco Island will become the new industry highlight of Nanjing Hexi New Town, as well as the new gem of the urban agglomerations in China’s Yangtze River Delta.
To date, SNEI is the biggest foreign collaborative project in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province in China. Directed by a “government-supported, private sector-led” approach, it is a flagship project by the Singapore- Jiangsu Cooperation Council, Singapore Yanlord Land Group Limited, Sembcorp Development Ltd, Nanjing City’s Jianye District State-owned Asset Management Group Holdings Limited and Nanjing Hexi New Town State-owned Assets Management Group Holdings Limited.
In a recent exclusive interview with Lianhe Zaobao, Mr Zhong, who is also the Chairman of the JV Company, recalled that Jiangxin Island previously lacked systematic water and electricity supplies. Farming was at the mercy of the weather, and ponding would occur on rainy days.
With the collaborative efforts of the Nanjing City and Jianye District governments, as well as the Singapore partners, through these years, Jiangxin Island has become a modern and beautiful new city. The residents enjoy the benefits and convenience of modern-day urban development, ranging from amenities and transport to greenery and ecological protection.
“This year, Nanjing has experienced torrential rains and floods, but Jiangxin Island has been able to withstand the test,” Mr Zhong said, noting it is clear from this that Jiangxin Island’s infrastructural foundation stands strong.
The Nanjing municipal government sets a progressive positioning for the Eco Island. And parties from both Singapore and China have been working hand in hand to deliver benefits to the residents in stages according to the goals previously set out, said Mr Zhong.
For Mr Zhong, helping to settle the residents into the new homes, improving their living environment, and training them for new skills, re-employment, promoting literacy - these are all in line with the ideas that the Nanjing municipal government has long advocated.
Attracting quality international projects
Changes in the Eco Island are to be seen within the context of the development of urban agglomerations in the Yangtze River Delta today. Mr Zhong believes that upgrading transportation in the Yangtze River Delta and the globalization of Jiangsu Province will make Jiangxin Island stand out from the rest. This will in turn require the Eco Island to set higher standards for its industrial planning.
“Our responsibility now lies in choosing and getting companies with good prospects and sustainable development to set up shop on the Eco Island,” said Mr Zhong. “These businesses will have to be those that will not become obsolete even after 10 years.”
He said that for any profit-seeking company, the environment and infrastructure are key deciding factors. As a result, when the basic resettlement work on the island is complete and as the infrastructure is increasingly improved, the beautiful island will naturally attract companies to move in.
The Nanjing Eco Hi-Tech Island was earmarked as a provincial-level development zone in September 2012, and an independent management committee was set up. In May this year, the new Jiangdao Technology Innovation Centre was officially opened, marking the opening of a new phase for the island as a whole. With the offices of the management committee and the joint venture company in place, parties from both Singapore and China are set to work together more closely.
The Jiangdao Technology Innovation Centre is located in the island’s central business district, covering an area of about 2 hectares and spans a gross floor area of 52,000 square metres.
Functions such as administration, investment consulting, exhibition and corporate training will be integrated. About 5000 square metres of the centre will be set aside to be leased to high-tech innovative enterprises.
In addition, a total of around 20km of urban roads was completed on the island as more than half the demolition work was completed, while 10km of the river channel was renovated and 12km of the Jiajiang riverside scenic belt was renovated. The island is now undergoing the second phase of housing relocation.
As the flagship project of the Singapore-Nanjing Special Projects Cooperation Panel, the Singapore-Nanjing Eco Hi-Tech Island in the next year will be focused on four areas, namely promoting investment, upgrading regulatory plans, increasing infrastructure investment and developing the Nanjing International Water Hub. This will allow the island to get closer to its goal of becoming a world-class leader in China.
In his conclusion speech at the Singapore-Nanjing Joint Commission committee meeting in May, Singapore’s Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon said that the Nanjing Eco Hi-Tech Island has benefited from great support from the Nanjing municipal government since development and construction of the project began in May 2009, and he hopes that against the backdrop of building national independent innovative zones in the Southern Jiangsu province, the Eco Island can be a new model for cooperation and draw even more high-tech, internationally-competitive quality projects to the island.
Using the “One Belt One Road” concept to design cultural tourism
According to the Nanjing Planning Bureau’s regulatory plan of the Eco Island officially released in October this year, the objective of Jiangxin Island was to continue with its existing functions, based on the Nanjing’s Yangtze River Development Strategy and Urban City Cluster Development Strategy in Yangtze River Delta, while being supported by Hexi New Town and linking up with Jiangbei District to develop capabilities in areas such as environmental protection, information technology, cultural tourism, the modern services industry, and ecological living to become an “Eco-City, Low-Carbon, Smart Island”.
Mr Zhong noted that the cultural industry is still a gap to be filled in Nanjing Hexi New Town, and that putting together cultural centres, aquariums, and cultural performances of Zheng He’s voyages to the West will be Jiangxin Island’s response to the opposite Shenzhen Overseas Chinese Town, and the Eco Island’s cultural industry will become a new bright spot in the river plate.
“A city only has heritage when there is culture,” said Mr Zhong, adding that Nanjing Eco Hi-Tech Island has to create a city that has more historical connotations.
At the event which commemorated the 610th year of navigator Zheng He’s birth in July last year, Mr Zhong indicated that establishing the Cultural Tourism Project will enable tourists to experience the historical claim that is “To be open brings prosperity, to be closed off is to be left behind”.
He said the Cultural Tourism Project is an amalgamation of sightseeing, education and holiday activities in a mixed-use development project that will fully tap on the profoundness of Nanjing’s unique history and the abundance of cultural resources of Hexi to draw more tourists.
He said the idea of creating cultural and leisure tourism actually came about when the concept for the Eco Hi-Tech Island was approved, in line with China’s “One Belt One Road” national strategy. The Eco Hi-Tech Island will use the latest techniques to present the story and inspiration of “Zheng He’s Voyages to the West”, filling in the cultural tourism gap in Hexi New Town and spur the development of modern services in the Hexi region.
SUTD collaborates with CAS and SNEI to create a unique entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem
SUTD provost Professor Chong Tow Chong shares the story:
“Established in 2009, the Singapore University of Technology & Design (SUTD) is the fourth public university in Singapore. Its four core degree programmes are Architecture and Sustainable Design, Engineering Product Development, Engineering Systems and Design and Information Systems Technology and Design.
Singapore-Nanjing Eco Hi-Tech Island (SNEI) leverages Singapore's strength in urban planning to attract high-tech, emerging enterprises to the island. The development of the island spells learning opportunities and career prospects for SUTD students. Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is the leading scientific research institution and think-tank in China, which hosts many top-notch researchers.
SUTD plans to set up a regional office on the island to facilitate collaboration with CAS and entities on the island. The tripartite partnership will provide the faculty and researchers of both institutions with more joint research opportunities; as well establish knowledge exchange and collaboration activities among the participating enterprises. SUTD students will also gain exposure to multi-disciplinary, real-world challenges in business and society. The experiences will give students a grasp of the future development of Nanjing and China, and prepare them for future employment.
The initiative will also enhance STUD’s collaboration with Nanjing University and Southeast University through the facilitation of faculty and student exchanges, and joint research and implementation of scientific research achievements.
SNEI will provide the incubation space and supporting infrastructure to catalyse SUTD’s collaborations with the various partners in Nanjing, and stimulate future expansion and development. SUTD hopes that these collaborations will lead to the emergence and growth of innovation on the island, and also contribute towards building a vibrant and unique entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem on the island."
Sembcorp develops Nanjing International Water Hub
Mr Tan Cheng Guan, Executive Vice President & Head of Group Business Development & Commercial, Utilities, Sembcorp Industries, gives an overview of the project.
“Nanjing International Water Hub (NIWH) aims to help water technology companies from all over the world commercialise new and innovative water and wastewater management technologies in China, and harness the technologies to meet current and future challenges in the water industry. Besides drawing more investment from foreign water technology companies, NIWH also hopes to identify and help Chinese companies with promising, innovative water-related technologies to venture beyond China and seek new opportunities in international markets.
The Chinese water market is the largest in the world and its scale can help reduce the cost of these solutions to a more acceptable level. To achieve this objective, Sembcorp will set up several platforms at NIWH. One of these platforms enables companies to test-bed new technologies. Sembcorp will grant third-party water technology developers access to its water facilities in China to facilitate test-bedding of new technologies for the Chinese market. Sembcorp has also invested heavily to build a highly flexible and well-equipped laboratory for companies.
Sembcorp sees NIWH as a catalyst for expanding the water market in China in a sustainable way. We believe that if these technologies can be successfully used in the Chinese market, they can also be widely applied in other rapidly developing economies, such as South Asia and South East Asia.
The Management Committee of Singapore-Nanjing Eco Hi-Tech Island (SNEI) has supported NIWH by providing advice on the various incentives for companies that wish to reside in NIWH, as well as by helping them explore the various business opportunities in China. For instance, the SNEI’s Administration Government is committed to provide a rapid channel for companies seeking fast, legal registration to establish a presence at NIWH, and apply for government incentives.
Playing a key role in the creation of NIWH as a world-class centre of excellence on water technologies, SNEI has created an eco-friendly master-plan for the island and provided the essential infrastructure and utility facilities surrounding the NIWH building.”