Some of Singapore’s largest developers have announced tech initiatives in recent weeks as the city-state focuses on creating more efficient and sustainable buildings. That trend continued Monday with CapitaLand announcing a new partner in an innovation lab targeting the real estate sector.
Sydney-based Taronga Ventures, an investment firm specialising in what it calls Real Tech, said its partnership with CapitaLand’s Smart Urban Co-Innovation Lab would help connect Southeast Asia’s first smart cities development lab with a network of emerging tech firms focused on real estate and the built environment.
“Singapore is already recognised as a sophisticated international city with a focus on innovation and efficiency — many of our existing investments are already entering the market and looking to use Singapore as a base to grow into Asia,” Taronga Ventures co-founder Jonathan Hannam said in a release.
CapitaLand, which founded the innovation centre late last month with support from the country’s Infocomm Media Development Authority and Enterprise Singapore, welcomed Taronga’s participation in the tech initiative after the Temasek Holdings-controlled developer had made adoption of digital technologies a primary focus of its “The Next 20” plan for transforming its business over the coming two decades.
Creating a Real Estate Tech Hub
By working with international corporations, CapitaLand’s tech lab aims to create a centre where smart city solutions can be created, tested and ultimately commercialised within a facility that the developer has set up at The Galen complex in the 55 hectare (136 acre) 5G-ready Singapore Science Park.
Heavy hitters such as Amazon, Cisco, TPG Telecom, Microsoft and Schneider Electric are among 30 industry players that have already signed on to work with local startups at the “living lab”, fully outfitted with 5G infrastructure, meeting and testing spaces, and access to building data for more targeted development.
The lab will focus on developing solutions for advanced manufacturing, digital wellness, intelligent estates, smart mobility, sustainability and urban agriculture.
“Our partners can potentially leverage CapitaLand’s significant scale by piloting their projects at our properties in Singapore and overseas,” CapitaLand’s group senior executive director, Manohar Khiatani, said in an October announcement of the lab’s launch.
Bringing Startup Innovations to Singapore
Taronga has established its RealTech Ventures Fund to invest in technology relevant to real estate and the built environment. The company will be relocating one of its co-founders, Avi Naidu, to Singapore because it sees the city as key to expansion in the region.
“Having worked and lived in Singapore for many years, we understand the relevance of a strong regional partner with the calibre of CapitaLand,” said Taronga’s Hannam, who earlier in his career worked in the city as head of Savills’ Southeast Asia operation before taking on a leadership role with ING Real Estate Finance in Singapore.
Among Taronga’s contributions to the innovation lab will be the introduction of its own network of products and partners to support development that benefits real estate operators and owners specifically, aiming to increase efficiency, reduce costs, source new revenue streams and boost sustainable operations.
“Structural adjustments to the way real estate operates, and is consumed, have accelerated due to major shifts in consumer behaviour, rapid evolutions in technology and, most recently, global market shocks that will have an enduring effect,” Naidu said in Monday’s release.
He said the partnership with the CapitaLand venture would extend Taronga’s reach across Asia-Pacific and speed up the company’s ability to identify technologies that institutional players could exploit for the long term.
Among the investments that Taronga expects to introduce to CapitaLand’s innovation lab are systems for improving processes in construction and property management.
Taronga identified technologies such as CarbonCure, a system for reducing a building’s carbon footprint by introducing recycled CO2 into fresh concrete; Ynomia, a real-time sensor technology that tracks machines, materials and people on construction sites; and construction project monitoring software OpenSpace.
On the property management side, the investment fund pointed to Switch Automation software, which is currently deployed in roughly 3,000 buildings worldwide to analyse commercial real estate operating systems at scale.
Developers Chase Tech Advantage
Investment in real estate technology accelerated significantly in 2019, totalling $2.6 billion worth of commitments globally, up from $1 billion three years earlier, according to a study by KPMG. COVID-19 focused interest on proptech even more in 2020, from China to the US and all points in between.
The rise in proptech adoption in the wake, and continuing grip, of COVID means that Taronga and CapitaLand aren’t the only investors in Singapore’s real estate realm searching for a competitive edge through technology.
In October, CapitaLand’s rivals at Frasers Property launched an intelligent building platform at their flagship office tower in Singapore through a tie-up with Microsoft. The joint effort between the developer and the tech giant will make it possible to create a “digital twin” of Frasers Tower to test system operation in the Tanjong Pagar-area commercial building and enable remote management in real time.
Keppel Group also gave a nod to technology this month when it pegged Louis Lim to become CEO of Keppel Land, giving the company reins to a former Bain & Company partner who had served as managing director for technology and innovation at the developer before being named chief operating officer less than two years ago.