The booming interactive and digital media industry is one that presents many opportunities for Singapore, says Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The value-add of the sector here, now exceeding $2 billion, has grown more than 11/2 times since 2008, and this growth is expected to continue, he said yesterday at the official opening of Sandcrawler, Lucasfilm's new regional headquarters at Fusionopolis.
The California-based company is the world's largest entertainment firm behind movies such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
In his speech to a 100-strong audience including Lucasfilm's founder George Lucas and president Kathleen Kennedy, Mr Lee said the industry was an important one for Singapore.
The Republic is located in the heart of Asia and at the crossroads of East and West, where the presence of diverse cultures is critical to creative pursuits, he said.
Mr Lee spoke at length about how the Singapore government has been actively developing the industry over the years. Besides promoting local production companies and talent, Singapore has also attracted some top players to invest here, including Walt Disney, Discovery Channel and Ubisoft.
Disclosing how Singapore would strengthen its position in interactive and digital media, he said that the Republic was already investing in infrastructure, such as by creating a cluster of companies around Fusionopolis and Mediapolis in One North, which includes Lucasfilm.
"Clustering has promoted engagement and collaboration. Employees from different companies regularly get together to exchange ideas and dream up the Next Big Thing," he said.
The prime minister also spoke of the importance of developing and welcoming talent, both homegrown and from overseas.
More than 100 Singaporeans have been trained under Lucasfilm's signature Jedi Masters Programme, which runs six-month courses in the techniques and technology used by Industrial Light & Magic.
The local polytechnics and universities also offer specialised digital media programmes and degrees, which are growing in popularity among Singaporeans, said Mr Lee.
At the same time, the government encourages companies in the interactive digital and media sector here to assemble "diverse and talented" teams from all over the world.
"(This is) not just to find people with good animation skills or creative talent, but to create a diverse, dynamic mix of cultures and creative influences, from which new ideas and inspirations can germinate and emerge," he said.
In the case of Lucasfilm, its 360 employees hail from 40 countries, including the US, Russia, China, Ukraine, Argentina and Turkey.
Above all, Mr Lee stressed that how successful the industry would become depends on whether it has a society with a vibrant culture and environment - something Singapore is trying to create.
It means promoting a spirit of inquiry, staying abreast of global trends so that Singapore remains relevant to the world, and having an open economy that offers exciting opportunities for Singaporeans and talent from all over the world.
"The magic lies not in the equipment or processes, but in the creative spark that resides in human minds," he said.
"These can only light up in an environment which inspires people, promotes creativity and helps people to realise their dreams and to dream big. That is what we are trying to create in Singapore."