Singapore Science Centre – budget constraints, so no shift until 2014

“New Science Centre: Plans delayed for 4 years,” by Victoria Vaughan. The Straits Times, 24 Jul 2010. Centre head cites lack of funds; still under discussion, says MOE

PLANS for the new Singapore Science Centre have been put on hold for four years due to budget constraints, according to the centre’s new head.

This year was supposed to see the launch of a design competition for the centre, with its construction beginning next year. However, its chief executive, Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, 50, has been told by the Ministry of Education (MOE), which funds the centre, that it will now be delayed until 2014.

‘The Science Centre has been postponed, as there is no money, until 2014. We are ready to put out a design brief but the Ministry of Education has the final say on when that will be,’ he said.

One of Prof Lim’s main roles in taking up the post seven months ago was to oversee the development of the new Science Centre. But the delay has left him ‘neither here nor there’ as he intends to stay in the post for only seven years, and doubts he will be able to implement any educational programmes at the new centre.

He added that the reason for staying for only seven years is to allow new talent to come through.

When contacted, an MOE spokesman said: ‘The plans for Science Centre Singapore are still under discussion. More details will be provided in due course.’

The Straits Times understands that the new centre, tentatively set to be built near the Chinese Garden and Lakeside MRT stations, will cost around $500 million.

It will replace the current building at Jurong, which was built in 1977 at a cost of $12 million. The omnitheatre was built at a cost of $17 million a decade later.

Prof Lim says the new Science Centre will be a green building and will require a doubling of its current staff strength of 150.

As well as overseeing the new centre, Prof Lim was appointed to raise the Science Centre’s profile and develop a learning initiative with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research and the MOE called Cradle, which has also been put on hold due to a lack of funding.

With money being the barrier, Prof Lim is planning to push for commercialisation at the centre.

‘I want to get the Science Centre staff to be more entrepreneurial and not to rely on government funding, but to be innovative.

‘We are non-profit, but that shouldn’t stop us from being entrepreneurial,’ he said, adding that such plans are in line with the Government’s Public-Private Partnership model.

With this, he hopes to see Science Centre inventions on store shelves soon – such commercial enterprise would be a first for the centre.

One such invention is a table-top replica of the flame tornado, developed by the centre’s resident inventor, Dr Tsai Her Mann.

The original 6m-high flame vortex will be the centrepiece of the upcoming fire exhibition. A replica will be ignited at the Youth Olympic Games next month as a final torch.

Once it is built, the new centre will be part of the 360ha redevelopment of the Jurong area, called the Jurong Lake District.

The area is set to be completed in eight to 13 years, and was announced by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan in April 2008.

The Science Centre, which saw more than a million visitors last year, is Singapore’s third-most visited attraction, behind the Singapore Zoological Gardens and the Night Safari.

It was built following the advice of the former Science Council of Singapore for the Government to convert the National Museum into an art and history museum and to build a new centre for science and technology education.

The current centre, which sits on a 6ha site in Jurong, was designed by Mr Raymond Woo, the architect of the building. It was officially opened on Dec 10, 1977 by Dr Toh Chin Chye, the then Minister-in-charge of the Science Centre Board.


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