Drive north from Singapore across the Johor Causeway, into Malaysia’s second largest city Johor Bahru, and keep going. You’re now in Senai-Skudai, the heart of Iskandar Malaysia. Iskandar is the special economic region marked for rapid development as an Asian commercial hub and, like Guangdong did for Hong Kong and China, it wants to leverage its prime location and local skills base to fire the Malaysian economy over the coming decades. One development hoping to play a significant part in that progress is Senai Hi-Tech Park (SHTP).

Senai Hi-Tech Park, according to its developers, is “an integrated Science and Technology Park offering an ideal location, superb infrastructure with a service rich-environment”, matching Malaysia’s technological skills with innovative companies and research institutions from around the world. Part of the Senai Airport City development, SHTP will eventually form part of a vital technology and logistics hub connected almost instantly to major markets around the world.

 

SHTP Location in Malaysia & Region

SHTP Location in Malaysia & Iskandar Region

At the moment it’s full more of promise and potential than activity, with Stage One of a three-stage project still under construction. But there’s an undeniable hum in the air and the Park has already signed on some major international investors: EQ Solar will build a US$500 million facility to manufacture monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar modules. MOX-Linde Gases will build an industrial gas manufacturing and separation plant, and South Korea’s STX Energy has launched a feasibility study into a solar cell facility.

Progress

“This is a brand new development in its infancy,” says SHTP’s CEO Dato’ Ahmad Shukri, who has done this all before as CEO of Malaysia’s previous high tech venture, the Kulim Hi-Tech Park at Kedah Darul Aman, just east of Penang.

“Everything is progressing well and according to plan so far.”

As ‘Flagship Region E’ under Iskandar Malaysia’s grand vision, Senai-Skudai is Iskandar Malaysia’s main inland development and lacks some of the glamor and eye candy of waterfront development proposals in areas like Johor Bahru City or Danga Bay. This is a region whose glamor will appear in the surge of activity surrounding the new aerotropolis at Senai and technology products set to emerge from SHTP for global distribution.

Most enquiries so far, says the developer, have come from the renewable energy/solar photovoltaic (PV) sector, as well as more ‘traditional’ technology and research sectors like electrical and electronics, as well as logistics. The world’s major industrial players USA, Japan, Germany and South Korea have all shown interest.

 

SHTP 3-Stage Development

 

This is exactly the kind of attention SHTP wants to attract, and its facilities are designed specifically to appeal to the high-tech sector’s needs. Semiconductor manufacturers, alternative energy, medical and scientific instruments, optoelectronics, plus makers of process control and automation equipment would ideally complete the Park’s mix. There’s also the prospect of even newer technologies emerging via contract R&D services based there.

Location and Infrastructure

SHTP’s location was chosen to be an optimal logistics centre for its key industries. It sits on the southern fringe of Senai International Airport, is 55 minutes’ drive from Singapore Changi Airport, and is three hours’ drive from Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia’s busiest container port (and world’s no. 17) Tanjung Pelepas is 45 minutes away, with others like Pasir Gudang and Tanjung Langsat within the region. It’s within easy reach of the Johor Causeway and 2nd Link (bridge) to Singapore, the Senai-Desaru Highway and the KTM Railway. Once in the air, cargo is within a 6-8 hour flight radius from Tokyo, Bangalore, Dubai, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, and Taipei.

Uninterrupted ‘premium power supply’ is promised by Tenaga Nasional Bhd, and solid communications capacity comes via 24 core fiber optic lines, promising 10,000 to 50,000 broadband lines. Clean water comes from the Kota Tinggi Semangar Treatment Plant. Companies looking for a skilled local workforce can recruit from the nearby Malaysia University of Technology (UTM) and Tun Hussein Onn University.

Incentives

As part of the Senai Free Zone, goods imported into SHTP intended for regional distribution will be exempted from Customs and excise duties, as well as sales and service taxes, via the airport or other Free Zone areas including Singapore. Imports and exports will be expedited with a Customs 1-Stop Center and Green Lane status for movements of cargo to Singapore. International procurement centers and regional distribution centers will have full tax exemption on statutory income for 10 years.

Senai Hi-Tech Park is promoting the Industrial land with a leasehold period of 60 years and option to renew for another 39 years. Grants and incentives are controled by the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) which offers numerous tax concessions to firms engaged in R&D, manufacturing and other approved activities.

The Park’s Industrial Zone Phase 1, targeted for completion by Q2 2012, will accommodate the R&D Center, Administrative and corporate offices, ready-built factory space for SMEs, and industrial lots.

 

by Jon Southurst