Creative Digital District @George Town

The port city of George Town in Penang was established in 1786 by the British East India Company. It flourished as an entrepot, and for a time as the capital and commercial centre of the Straits Settlements. More than 200 years later, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. The city has become a prime tourism destination offering multiculturalism, heritage, and gastronomic experiences. In 2018, Penang received over 6.5 million tourists. The growth of George Town as a tourism destination has, however, resulted in the gentrification of the inner city. While hotels, restaurants, and bars have grown multiple-fold, local retail, traditional trades, and artisans have declined. The city has also experienced a decline in its resident population by over 30% between 2009 – 2019.

CD2@George Town is an initiative to bring life and jobs back into George Town’s historic urban core and to build a new innovation district focused on digital and creative industries that will complement existing industrial and economic hubs in the state and the northern region of Malaysia. The district will be a “city campus” for education institutions, companies, arts and cultural organisations, and talent, as well as a meeting place for the community and their ideas. It will be the hub for Penang’s digital economy, creative industries and start-ups, and a destination for lifestyle, culture and the arts, and learning.

CD² as a Strategy for Renewal and Creation of New Economic Ecosystems

CD2 seeks to create a network of interconnected creative and tech clusters spread across the state of Penang. These clusters are urban Innovation Districts where leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators, and accelerators. The districts will be physically compact, transit-accessible, and technically-wired, and will offer mixed-use housing, office, retail, and lifestyle venues. This mix makes such districts resilient and well-positioned to grow despite the increase in virtual working in the post-Covid-19 world. CD2 rides on mega-trends, altering the location preferences of people and firms. The most creative institutions, companies, and workers crave proximity and interactions that enable the exchange of ideas and knowledge. Our “open innovation” economy rewards collaboration and transforms how buildings and entire districts are designed and spatially arrayed. Our diverse population demands more and better choices of where to live, work, and play, fuelling demand for more walkable neighbourhoods where housing, jobs and amenities intermix.

CD2@George Town – Hub for Penang’s Digital Economy

CD2@George Town is the pilot project under the CD2 initiative. Its aim is to be an Innovation District focusing on digital technologies, for example, software, artificial intelligence, data analytics, automation, and process virtualization. Digital technologies are key in transforming Penang’s economy. For example, there is a need for manufacturers to embrace automation and digital capabilities such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. There has also been a rapid convergence of software and hardware, and the proliferation of software-enabled services. CD2@George Town aims to be an ecosystem of digital tech companies, both large and emerging start-ups, supported by a skilled talent pool.

CD2@George Town – Hub for Penang’s Creative Economy

The creative industry can be widely defined as activities that are focused on creativity, skill and talent; and that have the potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property. Broadly speaking, creative industries encompass art, culture and technology can be a potent force in taking Penang’s economy to the next level. The George Town historic urban core, since her designation as the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, has been home to artists and creative talents around the world. In the past decade, its heritage status has transformed Penang into a vibrant city with myriad creative elements such as heritage, art, culture and literature. It also witnessed the mushrooming of various platforms that benefited the local creative environment, including large-scale festivals like the George Town Heritage Celebrations, George Town Festival and George Town Literary Festival. Building onto the current strength in the creative economy, Penang seeks to establish a culture and design cluster to develop creative talent, products, and services. 

Why Come to CD2@George Town?

The current CD2@George Town enclave is:-

  • Co-location with universities and talent pool in digital technologies and the creative arts
  • Proximity to the next generation of start-ups in Penang
  • Modern offices and co-working and incubation spaces
  • Historical atmosphere in the George Town World Heritage Zone and a waterfront promenade that is being rejuvenated

CD2@George Town will expand beyond its current nucleus at Gat Lebuh China. Plans are underway to identify new spaces and buildings that could be repurposed to meet the needs of businesses of the future. Efforts will also be put into providing amenities and supporting services for a growing CD2@George Town community. Some examples include a greater diversity of dining options, mobility solutions within the district, recreational spaces and green areas, and modern co-living spaces. To achieve its goals, CD2@George Town will continuously seek partners from the public and private sectors, academia and community to co-create the ecosystem.