Singapore water industry's share of GDP to hit $1.25b

Business-friendly environment leads to investment flow; local firms gain $8.4b in foreign deals
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 27 May 11;

INVESTMENTS are pouring into Singapore's water industry.

Over the last five years, projects have been launched that will eventually add $590 million to the country's gross domestic product (GDP). This will take the industry's share of GDP to $1.25 billion - nearly double what it was in 2005.

Experts said the surge in investments is due to Singapore's business-friendly environment, which attracts foreign firms to set up regional headquarters here, as well as more local companies venturing into the water business.

Meanwhile, Singapore-based water companies have made a splash overseas by winning projects worth $8.4 billion.

The figures were announced yesterday at a joint update by the national water agency PUB, the Economic Development Board (EDB) and International Enterprise Singapore.

They come at the half-way mark of a 10-year plan for the Singapore water industry announced in 2006. Then, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong identified environmental and water technologies as a key research area for the country.

The target: $1.7 billion in annual GDP and 11,000 jobs created by 2015. The latest investments have carried the country to more than two-thirds of the way to the finishing line.

Yesterday, the agencies said they are confident of meeting the targets by the deadline.

Ten foreign companies have set up regional headquarters here for water projects since 2006, including engineering giants Black and Veatch, and Siemens Water Technologies.

The firms said they were drawn by the strong government backing in the industry and the ease of doing business here.

Siemens spokesman Yeang Chuan Hui said: 'The Government has made it clear... it wants to stay at the forefront of this industry.'

In 2006, the National Research Foundation committed $330 million in funding over five years for water projects.

In the same year, the inter-agency Environment and Water Industry Programme Office (EWI) was set up to help firms develop their businesses.

A home-grown company that has benefited from the programme is Mint, which creates sensors for water treatment plants. General manager Adrian Yeo, 33, said the initiative halved the set-up cost of his business.

Under the programme, he was given a place to test his technology in PUB's plants, and technical support from the agency's experts. The technology has since been installed in PUB's Bedok Newater plant. 'Now I'm hoping to sell the product to overseas investors at the International Water Week in July,' he said.

The EWI has helped around 100 projects since its inception. Representatives from the programme said these included local companies, and firms from Japan, the United States and Europe.

Singapore-based companies have also burnished the country's reputation in the industry by winning large projects overseas.

Projects in the Middle East and North Africa made up the bulk of the $8.4 billion in overseas contracts won over the last five years, said Mr Yeoh Keat Chuan, assistant managing director of the EDB.

He added that this was because projects there tend to be larger in scale. 'But there is growing demand for water projects in regional countries such as Vietnam, China and Australia,' he said.

Singapore-based companies have made in-roads in all three countries by setting up water treatment or desalination plants.

Over the next few years, the agencies plan to continue Singapore's focus on research and development.

They are also looking to expand their presence in important markets like China and emerging ones such as India and Indonesia.

One strategy could be to serve as matchmakers between water tech companies and financing companies.

'Scientific research and support for companies are our strengths,' said Mr Goh Chee Kiong, director of EDB's cleantech division.

'If the agencies continue to band together to help companies from research and development to exporting their products, I think the industry here will grow from strength to strength.'

Water industry investments doubled in Singapore
Hoe Yeen Nie Channel NewsAsia 26 May 11;

SINGAPORE: Investments in Singapore's water industry have doubled in size in the last five years - up from S$660 million in GDP value-add in 2005.

And the government is confident it can meet its target of S$1.7 billion in annual GDP value-add by 2015.

Over the years, Singapore has turned what used to be a scarcity into its strength and now the water industry is seen as a growth area for the country.

In 2006, the target was to grow the sector such that it will contribute S$1.7 billion in annual GDP value by 2015, and to create 11,000 jobs.

Representatives from the Environment & Water Industry Programme Office (EWI) on Thursday expressed confidence that the target would be met.

The EWI is an inter-agency office, led by national water agency PUB, the Economic Development Board and IE Singapore.

They gave figures showing that investments by water companies in the last five years, when fully realised, will add about S$590 million in value add to the economy, as well as create about 2,300 professional and skilled jobs.

Singapore is now home to about 70 local and international water companies.

At the same time, Singapore companies have also secured overseas projects worth a total of S$8.4 billion.

Key markets include the Middle East and China. For instance, the technology used to recycle water - similar to the technology behind Newater - is being applied to a plant in the Bundamba Advanced Water Treatment Plant in Queensland, Australia.

The EDB said that Singapore's strength lies primarily in research and development as well as providing support for companies.

Yeoh Keat Chuan, Assistant MD of the EDB, said: "The early part of the effort was focussed on rolling out a number of initiatives relating to R&D. That typically takes a longer gestation period.

"We are at the point now where we're hoping to see some of those results, where technologies get rolled out into the marketplace after being test-bedded in Singapore, and that will generate higher value-added projects."

One key activity is the test bedding of new technologies, which Singapore has made easier due to the infrastructure, accessibility and the willingness to take on these often capital-intensive projects.

Singapore's willingness to take on capital-intensive test-bedding projects, is also a draw for foreign companies.

PUB said since 2006, there have been 107 test-bedding projects conducted here in collaboration with PUB and private R&D firms and institutions.

Ng Han Tong, Director of Industry Development at the PUB, said: "In their own country, they find difficulties finding test-bedding sites for their technologies to be tested. That's one reason.

"Secondly, if they need to do test-bedding, they have to travel very far. But Singapore is so compact, so concentrated, they are always in close proximity to their test-bedding."

Over the next few years, government agencies plan to continue Singapore's focus on research and development.

They are also looking to expand their presence in markets like China and emerging ones such as India and Indonesia.

One strategy would be to serve as matchmakers between water tech companies and financing companies.

Goh Chee Kiong, Director of the Cleantech Division at the EDB, said: "They tend to be capital-intensive. And very often, financing is the bottle-neck. Because if they can't raise the financing, even at the governmental level, they'll find it difficult to implement their plans for their populations.

"That will be what we hope could be the value that Singapore can provide to companies and countries in the region."

- CNA/ir/ac

Water sector keeps jobs, GDP taps flowing
Industry on track to hit target of 11,000 jobs created, $1.7b GDP share by 2015
Lynn Kan Business Times 27 May 11;

(SINGAPORE) Investment into Singapore's water industry has doubled over the last five years - up from 2005 when the industry contributed $660 million and 6,300 jobs to the economy.

When these investments secured between 2006 and 2010 are fully realised, they will add $590 million to gross domestic product and generate 2,300 jobs.

The thriving water industry is on track to hit its target of 11,000 jobs created and $1.7 billion in GDP contribution by 2015, said the Environment and Water Industry Programme Office (EWI) yesterday.

The inter-agency EWI - comprising the Economic Development Board (EDB), the Public Utilities Board (PUB) and IE Singapore - was set up in 2006 to spearhead the growth trajectory of Singapore's water industry.

Water-starved Singapore has turned its weakness into strength. In the process, it has created homegrown successes like Hyflux and Sembcorp Industries that compete internationally.

Since 2006, such Singapore-based companies have garnered $8.4 billion in overseas contracts.

They have struck gold particularly in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region, landing 17 large-scale projects worth $6.6 billion.

This compares to the 144 projects in China and the rest of the world that amount to $1.8 billion collectively.

The promise of the global water industry is sparkling, said IE Singapore's divisional director of environmental and engineering services Leong Teng Chau.

'Two key trends will help water companies: rapid urbanisation and industrial development,' said Mr Leong. 'Urbanisation means a demand for the municipal water solutions companies and industrialisation will help the industries-oriented water players.'

The global water market is valued at over US$500 billion.

Over half of this is made up by the municipal water market while industrial needs made up 10 per cent.

Singapore's competitive advantage is offering opportunities 'across the entire innovation chain' - from R&D and testbedding, to manufacturing and to helping companies to commercialise and export their services, said EDB director of cleantech, Goh Chee Kiong.

The strong government-supported water industry has also made the difference.

National water agency PUB is 'experimental' where other public utilities boards err on the side of conservativeness.

'The reasons why foreign companies come here to testbed new ideas is because PUB offers facilities to do so whereas their own countries don't often do. And these sites are close by to them as well,' said PUB's director for industry development Ng Han Tong.

It is perhaps no surprise that the number of testbedding projects has grown from 15 to 107 in the past five years.

Some have moved on to commercialisation, like Grahamtek's reverse osmosis system.

The Singaporean company first piloted its technology at the Bedok NEWater plant in 2004 before launching it into commercialisation in 2006.

Some Chinese water solutions companies, like United Envirotech and Sinomem Technology, have listed here to financing muscle in the stock market.

In addition, the hoped-for 'ecosystem effect' of the marketplace has led to research collaborations and firms forming consortiums to offer comprehensible water solutions and to jointly bid for contracts.

Mr Goh cited the example of Sembcorp Industries' successful bid to build-own-operate a desalination plant in Oman. 'But because of the Singapore ecosystem effect, they are working with Hyflux very closely, who is providing ultra-filtration membranes for the project,' he said.