Opening Speech by Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Trade and Industry, Guest of Honour for IP Week @ SG 2019

Your Excellencies,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Introduction

1. A very good morning to all of you.

Intangible assets will increasingly drive the next lap of global growth

2. I have two simple propositions to share today. Firstly, intangible assets including Intellectual Property (IP) will increasingly drive the next wave of global growth. Secondly, amidst a fragmented world, Singapore must redouble our efforts to build ourselves as a global trusted hub for IP. Let me explain.

3. As Daren mentioned, innovation and intangible assets such as IP will increasingly drive the next wave of global growth. How is this so? Over the past 40 years, the rate of investment in physical assets such as property and factory plants has fallen by 35%. However, the rate of investment in IP and other forms of intangible assets has grown by almost 60%. Today, the value of intangible assets held by enterprises accounts for more than half of the world economy. This is especially significant for a country like Singapore, where our growth will not be constrained by geographical size or location. Instead, going forward, our growth will increasingly be propelled by intangibles such as IP.

4. This trajectory is expected to continue and it is in Singapore’s favour to continue to develop in this area. Intangible assets will drive the transformation of our industries, change our business models and create new markets for all of us. This includes the sectors of conventional industries such as manufacturing, financial services and professional services. Increasingly, the use of data analytics and IP will determine whether countries and companies thrive and win the competition.

To effectively harness IP and intangible assets, Singapore needs to strengthen our efforts across the IP value chain. 

5. In an increasingly fragmented world, a safe and trusted harbor for IP and other intangible assets is increasingly important. Singapore is known for our strong and trusted IP protection regime. We have been ranked top in Asia for IP protection, rule of law and international arbitration. Together with our strong legal infrastructure and pro-enterprise culture, we have been able to attract many local and international companies to start their operations here and more importantly, locate their IP in Singapore. 

6. However, we must not be complacent. The rest of Asia will catch up soon. There is much more that we can and need to do to strengthen our competitiveness. Not only to service the needs of companies in Singapore, but to use Singapore as the platform to service the region and the world. The IP landscape in Asia will evolve rapidly. It is in Singapore’s interest to make sure that we keep pace and stay ahead of the competition. This is where we must continue to grow our IP ecosystem from creation, utilisation and enforcement.

7. First, creation. There is much that we in Singapore can do better. We are working to better connect public research performers with companies to curate, create and develop IP. Most importantly, for all the monies that we put into scientific research, we must find a better way to translate the research outcomes into commercial outcomes. This is a challenge that is not unique to Singapore, but it is something that we must all be focused in. Many companies and countries are able to translate money into research but very few are able to translate research back into revenue to make it a self-sustaining cycle.

8. Second, management and utilisation. We are improving how we help companies manage and transact IP and intangible assets to drive business growth. Expertise needs to be further developed in areas such as IP valuation as well as IP marketplace and brokerage services. There is much scope for us to strengthen our capabilities in this area, and this is one of the reasons why we are so appreciative of the presence of many experts from around the world to help us strengthen our knowledge in this area.

9. Third, enforcement. Singapore is in a good position to strengthen our capabilities in IP enforcement, given our international reputation for quality judgements and the efficiency of our Courts. Beyond litigation, alternative dispute resolution routes such as arbitration and mediation are also important for IP disputes, and there is room for Singapore to enhance our knowledge in these areas. This is why I am very happy to hear that over the next two days, you will have the opportunity to meet international experts to see how arbitration and mediation are done in the area of IP.

10. The areas above cut across different disciplines and our success will depend on how well we bring together trilingual teams, drawing on capabilities from the business, technology and legal fields. I understand, and we all know, that it is quite difficult, if not impossible, for all trilingual capabilities to reside in one person. That is why our concept of building up capabilities is in teams. We need trilingual teams that understand business, technology and law. Only when these three intersect do we find the sweet spot to grow our IP capabilities. The business and scientific community as well as government agencies such as the Ministry of Trade & Industry and Ministry of Law will need to work closely together to maintain high standards in protection and enforcement while at the same time balancing the need for innovation.

11. In addition to a strong local IP ecosystem, companies also need to have good connectivity and networks with the rest of the world. None of us use our IP only in one particular area. If I may speak on behalf of all businesses here, we would like to see how we can network with international partners such that the IP in one country or one jurisdiction can be mutually recognised across borders. This will save businesses cost and provide help in navigating businesses across different models. This is something that we need to do well, increasingly so in a fragmented world.

12. Besides our well-established physical connectivity in air, land and sea, we are also deepening our connectivity in non-physical areas, including IP. We will continue to work closely with our international partners on this. It benefits not just the companies based out of Singapore, but also the companies in all our jurisdictions if we can harmonise the standards and quality of IP protection across different jurisdictions.

13. In Singapore, we will embark on a four-prong strategy to strengthen our IP ecosystem:

a. Build up the local talent pool.
b. Organise ourselves better.
c. Strengthen our international networks.
d. Work with international experts to level up our capacity.

14. To strengthen talent development in IP, I am pleased to announce the launch of the world’s first national level Skills Framework for Intellectual Property. This framework was jointly developed by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and Workforce Singapore (WGS), together with employers, industry associations as well as education and training providers. It will provide information on the IP sector, career pathways, job roles and skills, as well as training programmes and accreditation. We also hope that it will be of value to those in other countries who are similarly seeking to acquire and deepen skillsets in IP and innovation. We welcome the sharing of this framework with partner countries so that together, we can move faster and better as a team.

15. To better organise our support to companies, I am also pleased to announce that IPOS has merged its training, consultancy and patent examination arms into a single subsidiary – IPOS International. This merger brings over 100 IP and intangible asset experts together, with a common mission to help companies on their innovation journeys. New tools and solutions will be developed for companies, such as bespoke consultancy and training in intangible assets, to help them take their ideas to the market in Singapore and beyond.

16. Third, we will also continue to widen and deepen our IP networks with the rest of the world. Over the years, IPOS has built a network of agreements with over 70 markets, covering 90% of world trade, to facilitate the export and trade of IP. The Global Patent Prosecution Highway programme (Global PPH) and the ASEAN Patent Examination Cooperation programme (ASPEC) already allow companies to halve the time needed to obtain patents in some jurisdictions, allowing them to more speedily enter new markets. There is scope for us to do much more and much better. We would like to start by working closely with our ASEAN partners so that together, ASEAN enjoys the same standard of IP protection for us to remain as an attractive market proposition to partners beyond ASEAN.

17. Last but not least, as part of our international connectivity, it is also important that we continue to welcome global IP talent to work alongside Singaporeans in globally competitive teams. These global IP experts bring with them market knowledge and skillsets across different IP jurisdictions, which will help us to better service the IP needs of companies for the region and beyond. This is the reason why we are so appreciative of the presence of all our foreign guests today. You are part of this global network of IP experts whom we would like to tap on to help us grow our own local knowledge base. With our well-regarded and progressive IP environment, as well as talent development efforts, we continue to welcome IP experts with specialised skillsets and deep knowledge to continue to network with us.

Conclusion

18. Ladies and gentlemen, IP is not just a legal issue. IP, if done well, will propel the next lap of global economic growth. For a country like Singapore, since our independence we have always asked ourselves one very simple question: how does a small city state continue to survive and thrive in an increasingly fragmented world? How do we transcend the constraints of our physical size and geography? In the past, we used to focus on the three physical dimensions of connectivity – air, land and sea. It has done us well over the last 54 years. Over the next 50 years, our challenge is to continue to do well to connect in the air, land and sea dimensions. These are necessary but insufficient. In the next 50 years, our challenge is to make sure that we connect as well in the five non-physical dimensions of data, finance, technology, talent and regulations. If we can do this well, we will have a much better chance to transcend the physical constraints of size and location.

19. When it comes to the last dimension of regulatory connectivity, this is where our IP comes in. If we are able to do this coupled with data connectivity, then Singapore can be that trusted hub amidst the world that is threatened with bifurcation. It does us no good to see the world fragmenting because an integrated world was one that has helped to lift millions out of poverty in the last 40-50 years. In the next 20-30 years, the greatest challenge for the world will be whether we can be an integrated global economy or whether we will end up as a series of localised economies. All of us present here today have an important task and challenge. If we can all work together to help bring the world closer together by adopting the same standards, the same language, the same system to allow our companies to continue to operate in an integrated world, then there is a much higher chance for us to beat the odds of the global bifurcation or fragmentation.

20. Ladies and gentlemen, the path ahead of us is challenging, but at the same time, there lies many opportunities for us. For all fellow Singaporeans here, this is an area where we can help lift the country up to the next higher plane by using regulations, IP and intangible assets to transcend our geographical size and limitations.

21. Thank you very much and I wish you all the best in the two days of intense discussions. We hope to benefit from your wisdom and we hope to build lasting ties with you as part of the global IP network.