Why the world's most innovative businesses are flocking to Singapore

July 11, 2023

A background of Singaporean buildings with the Singapore Museum in the foreground

Singapore is a global hub for digital innovation and tech start-ups

Singapore is a magnet for visionaries and businesses looking for an innovation hub in the Asia Pacific. The nation attracts world-class international organisations to its shores. Its formidable success is because technology is as enshrined within its constitution as multiculturalism.

A growing pool of highly skilled talent, solid government support schemes and advanced IT infrastructure make up the triumvirate behind Singapore’s global competitiveness.

How did it position itself as a leading global innovation ecosystem? (One that is poised to give Silicon Valley and other tech giants a run for their money).

Our article identifies the five main reasons behind Singapore’s success:

#1 Singapore boasts a highly educated and ambitious workforce

Singapore boasts a highly educated and ambitious workforce

Bloomberg recently ranked Singapore as the world's most innovative country, and Startup Genome has recently ranked it the top country for technology start-ups in the Asia Pacific. Also, as the top country in the world for technology readiness ranked by the World Economic Forum,

Singapore is a nation that awards individuals based on achievement and effort. Its population is among the best educated and natives of the digital revolution, brought up in a culture of innovation.

Besides that, Singapore sees the value in investing in talent to further its digital economy ambitions and innovation ecosystem to become a Smart Nation.

The RIE2020 plan focuses on developing a knowledge-based and innovation-driven economy. The $19 billion investment includes fields such as:

  • Services & digital economy
  • Innovation & enterprise
  • Urban solutions & sustainability
  • Academic research
  • Health and biomedical sciences
  • Advanced manufacturing and engineering

This is done in collaboration with Singapore’s leading universities, businesses, venture capitalists and more. The goal is to create a robust human capital community that is a major component behind Singapore’s innovation.

#2 Singapore places digitally driven initiatives at the forefront


To nurture a multifaceted workforce and create an environment that supports a more holistic development, the country has embarked on a Smart Nation Initiative.

This focuses on a nationwide adoption of cutting-edge technologies and emphasises developing an economy powered by digital innovation. This brings us to the next point.

Singapore is also a driving force behind the AzSEAN-Australia Digital Trade Frameworks Initiative. Focus is placed on implementing legal frameworks and standards for digital trade, cybersecurity, data management, etc.

As for the hot topic of artificial intelligence, Singapore is ranked as the third-highest adopter of AI across Southeast Asia in a 2019 IDC report, and in LinkedIn's 2023 Future of Work report, workers in Singapore are recorded as the world’s fastest when it comes to adopting artificial intelligence skills.

It also supports the acceleration of innovation via the development of new tech sectors by creating loosely regulated spaces for these businesses to experiment and take risks without worrying about rules and restrictions.

Singapore has also created so-called innovation sites (such as the JTC Launchpad @ One-North). These are specifically designed to provide start-ups with an environment that encourages growth.

Located close to the city’s research and development and education institutions, these are meant to facilitate and merge the worlds of academia and industry with the nation's dedicated innovation experts close to current project focus areas.

This would be the place if there were a digital technology playground for growth marketers, dev-ops engineers, and full-stack developers to hone their abilities further.

The BIS Innovation Hub Singapore also deserves an honourable mention. Established in 2019, the project identifies technological trends in the financial market, such as suptech, regtech and CBDC.

#3 Progressive immigration regulations facilitate market entry


Singapore is world renowned for its reputation as a highly sought-after market for foreign businesses. Therefore, its immigration regulations are structured to meet this demand.

The island state offers various working visas to accommodate its growing global workforce.

There are currently two types of work visa options available.

The Employment Pass (EP) and the Entrepreneur Pass (EntrePass). Both are valid options for foreign nationals and businesses to live and work in Singapore. They allow the applicant to remain in Singapore for one to two years.

The Employment Pass is meant for non-local professionals who receive a job offer in Singapore. A company's leadership team members who must relocate to Singapore can also apply for the EP.

As of September 1 2023, Singapore has implemented the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) for all new EP applications. For renewals of existing EPs, the regulation will be applicable as of 1 September 2024.

Alternatively, the EntrePass is intended for entrepreneurs, innovators and investors who want to launch a business in Singapore. The company must be registered as a private limited company with Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).

It also cannot be more than six months old upon the EntrePass application date. The registration can take place after a successful EntrePass application.

#4 Open economy and FTAs make it easy to conduct business in Singapore

Open ecnomy and FTA agreementsAccording to the Economic Development Board, 80 of the world’s Top 100 technology companies have business proceedings in Singapore.

This accounts for 6.5% of the country’s GDP.

Singapore is one of the world's most open economies. The 2019 World Bank Report declared it the second easiest economy to conduct business in.

Despite its small domestic market, Singapore’s economy remains one of the most stable in the world. It currently has zero foreign debt, low tax rates (14.2% of GDP), and the second-highest per capita GDP in the world in terms of purchasing power parity (GDP).

A 2022 report also declared it as having a corruption score of 83 (very clean), and it is currently ranked as the fifth least corrupt country in the world. All of these are major contributors to Singapore's stellar economic growth.

Another major draw is Singapore's impressive number of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). It currently has 15 bilateral and 12 regional FTAs and digital economy agreements (DEAs) under its belt. These trade partnerships have been instrumental in helping the country strengthen its cross-border trade.

#5 Digitally motivated governance makes Singapore highly appealing to foreign investors

Digitally motivated governanceSingapore’s commitment to being the world’s most technologically efficient nation touches everything within its parameters, from transportation and education to urban planning and innovation labs.

This is visible in the Smart Nation Sensor Platform (SNSP). An integrated sensor platform that leverages data collection and technology to enable seamless connectivity.

Some of the key deliverables include:

  • Improved city planning
  • Heightened public security
  • A more reliable and efficient public transport system
The National Digital Identity System (NDI) is also being developed as an extension of the SingPass authentication system.

Its purpose? To create better security and convenience during online transactions. It will also give Singaporeans a single digital identity to transact in the public and private sectors.

This transformative ecosystem of innovative solutions makes Singapore a major attraction for global businesses and is a key element to its expansion.

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