It's been going for only 10 years but the Biopolis research hub has become a prized national asset, as President Tony Tan Keng Yam acknowledged last night. 

Dr Tan told a gathering marking the research hub's anniversary: "The success of Biopolis and the biomedical sciences sector today is symbolic of Singapore's commitment to anchor biomedical sciences as the fourth pillar of (the country's) economic strategy."

The hub signalled the coming of age of Singapore's biomedical sciences industry, which has since developed into an economic powerhouse.

Last year, biomedical manufacturing was the largest contributor to total manufacturing value-add and contributed 5 per cent to gross domestic product. 

Located in one-north, Biopolis hosts nine research institutes under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), and nearly 40 corporate research labs. 

These include facilities belonging to companies such as Novartis and Chugai, one of Japan's leading biopharmaceutical companies.

More than 2,500 scientists and engineers from over 70 countries work in Biopolis, which has 13 buildings and more than 3.5 million square feet of space. 

Since 2000, manufacturing output in the biomedical sciences industry has increased nearly fivefold, from $6 billion in 2000 to $29.4 billion last year.

Employment has also more than doubled, from 6,000 to 15,700 in the same period. 

Last year, manufacturing value-add from the biomedical sciences industry came in at $15.3 billion, or about a quarter of total manufacturing value-add - making it the largest contributor. 

The research hub has traditionally focused on supporting the pharmaceuticals and biologics industries, but is now diversifying into fast-growing new areas, said Dr Tan, who officiated at the opening of Biopolis as deputy prime minister in 2003. 

These new growth areas include medical technology, personal care, and food and nutrition. 

Efforts that began with Biopolis have now "spread to the wider biomedical sciences community in Singapore", said Mr Lim Chuan Poh, A*Star's chairman, at last night's event at the St Regis. 

Where there was only one medical school before, Singapore now has three. The number of biomedical sciences research institutes has also burgeoned, from one to at least 13 today. 

A*Star has given out more than 650 scholarships in biomedical sciences to Singaporeans pursuing research training at institutions around the world, added Mr Lim. 

"Our talent strategy is to build a strong, robust core of local scientists to be complemented by a rich diversity of international scientists."