Open Innovation Paves the Way for Sustainable Development in Singapore

March 28, 2018

“Not all smart people work for you,” claimed Henry Chesbrough in his classic article on the merits of open innovation back in 2003. Since the founding of the company, Quercus Group has believed that an open and collaborative approach should be adopted in multi-stakeholder partnerships between local governments, universities, businesses, and other public bodies in order to solve complex challenges and accelerate sustainable development worldwide.


Photo by Shaun Garrity, Flickr


Quercus Group is proud to be part of the Smart City World Labs (SCWL) consortium, together with Climate-KIC and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). The purpose of SCWL is to prepare and support start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from the Nordics and the rest of the EU for entering the Asian markets and solving urban challenges in Singapore through strategic engagement with public and private stakeholders and collaboration between living labs.


Singapore is a small and extensively urbanised island nation, with a population of just over 5.6 million. It offers an interesting example regarding the development and implementation of urban solutions. Sustainability has been at the heart of Singapore’s national development agenda long before this became a buzzword. As a small city-state, Singapore has had to develop its own solutions to address challenges such as land constraints and a lack of natural resources. By using innovative urban planning and technological and governance models, combined with the right focus and resources, Singapore’s ambition is to become the world’s first Smart Nation and lead the climate change and resiliency agenda in the region.


The current phase of SCWL has been expanded to include the Singapore Urban Challenges 2018 competition, aimed at introducing and co-innovating technologies and impactful climate solutions from the Nordic region to meet specific challenges within design, architecture, energy, waste and water, for which there are no known solutions available in the Singaporean market.


Partner and Singapore-Denmark liaison at Quercus Group, Bettina Yanling Tan Fjældhøj, who has been shaping the project and challenges as part of the project management team, urges Nordic companies to get involved: ”This is a unique opportunity for innovative Nordic start-ups and companies to test the value proposition of their solutions or products in a highly competitive, international market, and co-develop their solutions in close collaboration with potential Singaporean buyers and business partners to actually meet the needs of the market.”


Three urban challenges have been crafted in close collaboration with Singaporean stakeholders, including Nanyang Technological University, one of the world’s leading technological universities; PSA International, one of the leading global port groups handling containers and with port projects spanning across Asia, Europe and the Americas; and Surbana Jurong, one of the largest Asia-based urban, industrial and infrastructure consulting firms.


  1. Due to land scarcity, Singapore is heavily reliant on energy and food imports. To lessen this dependence, zero-energy buildings and urban food production are two of the main sustainability targets. To meet these marks, Surbana Jurong has posed challenges that aim to combine enhanced energy efficiency in buildings with architecturally aesthetic solutions, as well as increasing the uptake of renewable energy while promoting urban farming communities in public housing. As part of the Nordic Clean Energy Week, held in conjunction with the Clean Energy Ministerial 2018 in Copenhagen and Malmö, Surbana Jurong will be presenting this challenge and inviting stakeholders to co-create solutions at the Sustainable Urban Solutions Conference on 23 May 2018 in Copenhagen.

  2. The second challenge, by PSA International, is crafted to support the ongoing efforts towards creating the port of the future. This includes building a longer lasting energy system for automated guided vehicles, which will be rolled out in the fully-automated future Tuas Port. To be completed by 2040, this will more than double the capacity of the Port of Singapore.  

  3. The third challenge comes from Nanyang Technological University, directly supporting the university’s EcoCampus initiative. This aims to make NTU the greenest campus in the world by developing a novel campus-wide sustainability framework, with demonstration sites to achieve a 35% reduction in energy, water and waste intensity by 2020 (baseline 2011).


Partners in the SCWL consortium visit the Port of Singapore



All three challenges target different urban issues. Together, they address a wide range of sectors that can substantially contribute to Singapore reaching its sustainability targets, in partnership with relevant Nordic solutions providers. Read more about the Singapore Urban Challenges 2018 at




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