Revised 13 August 2003 Executive Summary The purpose of this proposal is to generate a cultural and industrial renaissance in Singapore fueled by new innovation in the information technology industry. As the world economy begins its recovery and the information marketplace reawakens, Singapore, along with the other developed nations, now has new opportunities to compete in delivery of information technology. But the electronics commodity industry, where Singapore has excelled in the past, is coming under increasing pressure from other countries, especially China. With these emerging dynamics, it is clear that Singapore must act strategically and quickly in identifying the technology winners of tomorrow so as to lead the world once again in this flourishing field.
Along with this awakening, we become increasingly mindful of an urgency to address the pervasive problems of our age, including global health, environment, education, energy, ageing population, crime & terrorism. In the future it will not be good enough to build technology for technology’s sake. Instead we need to build technology that solves problems, and make a profit while doing it. But solutions to pervasive problems will not be simple, and will require the engagement and linking of minds around the world. Accordingly, the technologies that unlock and link minds will be the key in making the world a better place. Our goal is to build those tools that will help to solve the world’s problems while contributing to the welfare and global presence of Singapore.
We conjecture that the greatest need and consequently the greatest opportunity for meeting these challenges is to empower people by building better interfaces to computing machines. During the past decade, few improvements have been made in the way people interact with computers; e.g. people, who are inherently three dimensional, are using still two dimensional and highly coded, non-intuitive computer interface tools such as flat screens and computer keyboards. Further, there are few tools for creating visual and acoustic content and experiences for digital media. We believe that a focus on interfaces can be transformative and, with strategic investment, can posture Singapore at the leading edge to become the nexus of a global industry.
Our proposal builds on the premise that the greatest resource of a nation is the imagination of its children. Accordingly, we propose to build a way to capitalize on the enormous talent and creativity that resides in the Universities within Singapore to fuel this renaissance. Our plan is to develop a Human Interface Technology Laboratory that is modeled after the HITLab at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington USA. The HITLabUS has demonstrated how an effectual bridge can be built between the University and Industry wherein the University becomes an economic engine for the region. The HITLab has been recognized as the leading laboratory in the world in developing human interface technology. It has been successful in spinning off 23 companies in a short span of time along with the delivery of human capital as students graduate with project-based learning experiences. Last year the HITLab model was successfully exported to New Zealand where a major national investment has been made and a Consortium of New Zealand companies have joined the 42 members US consortium supporting the HITLabUS. The students who have developed in these environments have transformed the industrial landscape by starting companies, becoming employees of other companies, and faculty members to teach other students this innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.
We propose to develop a HITLab in Singapore using the HITLab US model. Like the NZ counterpart we plan to start a not-for-profit company (HITLabSG Ltd.) that is a partnership between the Singapore Government (IDA), National Univerity of Singapore (NUS) and the University of Washington (HITLabUS). The HITLabsSingapore Ltd. would franchise and license the HITLabUS brand and model. The IDA would serve as the government focal point for seeding the development of the HITLabSG. The principle operating location would reside at the National University of Singapore. In turn, the HITLabUS Director along with a management team from the US, NZ and Singapore will help organize and advocate the HITLab in Singapore to other world partners. We will organize a Virtual World Consortium of companies within Singapore who will help support and mentor the activities of the HITLabSG. The Singapore members would participate in reciprocal membership activities in the other Consortia of companies in the US and New Zealand. Further, other HITLabs are anticipated in Australia and Europe.
We propose to undertake this effort in several steps. The first step is to form an officical agreement between the NUS, UW and IDA, establish an organizational entity (i.e. the HITLabSG Pte Ltd.) with a board of directors respresenting the partners and commence inital reseach activities at the Mixed Reality Laboratory at NUS. During this phase a comprehensive plan will be developed for phase 2 that will include the formal launching of the HITLabSG and organization of an industrial consortium. In follow on phases HITLabs in US, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico and Singapore will form a federation to work together on joint projects.
The products of the HITLabSG will be human and technology capital. Transition of this capital to Singapore industry will infuse and stimulate a new enterprise, truly exploiting the computer as a creative and communication tool of our age. These new concepts and energy will revitalize old companies and breed new companies. The Lab will also develop content development tools that engage artists and media performers to stimulate the cultural impact of this new industry. The final outcome will be the birth of new industry in Singapore that merges the educational, technology and media arts sectors so as to contribute to the welfare of the nation.