Opening Speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Law, Guest of Honour for IP Week @ SG 2017

29 August 2017


Your Excellency, Dr Cham Prasidh, Senior Minister, Cambodia;

Your Excellency, Consul-General, Oman;

Mr Takagi, Assistant Director-General, World Intellectual Property Organisation;

Dr Lai, Chairman, IPOS;

Distinguished guests;

Ladies and gentlemen;



1. It is a privilege to be here with all of you today.

2. I will like to congratulate the organisers for putting this event together, organizing it so well; seeing the diverse make-up of all the participants.

3. IP Week this year is focused on how intellectual property can drive the economy of the future, and how innovation and IP growth strategies can help in that.

4. It’s good to see that IPOS and Deloitte will be signing an MOU later, to drive the growth of innovative enterprises. They will try to build a base of at least a hundred innovative enterprises in Singapore, to help them grow into market leaders in the future.


5. For us, as for many other countries, innovation has become critical. For example, the Committee on the Future Economy has emphasized that.

6. Innovation is more than creativity or invention. It is also about bringing new ideas to the market, transforming the ideas into intangible assets. And then protecting them, using them, in a company in terms of its knowledge base; and of course companies will then hope to get an edge in a competitive field.

7. One good example is Hegen. It used to be a contract manufacturer for over 30 years, making baby-care products for top international brands. Hegen looked at where its business was going, and decided it needed to transform itself, and it developed its own line of products in associated fields.

8. Hegen has transformed quite a bit. It has now designed a new baby bottle with improved features. Of course, Hegen also protects its innovations through design registrations, trade mark registrations, and patents.

9. Hegen’s turnover, from the baseline of 2015, is set to increase by 400%. So this is is one example of how innovation and IP can transform the life-cycle of a company.


10. Our role is to try to provide a conducive business environment which supports innovation.

11. Of course, a poster child for that sort of environment is Silicon Valley. It has many advantages:

          a) Business-friendly laws and regulations;
          b) A large talent pool, which is unlikely to be replicated anywhere else in the world, with some of the best universities and research institutes; and

          c) An extensive collection and network of innovative enterprises, investors and support services – a whole ecosystem that functions well.

12. We are not Silicon Valley. We are very different in terms of size, resources, and the companies we have.

13. But we can constantly improve on what we do and our own set of competitive advantages, to create an innovation-conducive ecosystem.

14. If you look at ASEAN as a whole, comprising of 10 countries, we are looking at an economy that is today, the sixth largest economy in the world, just after the UK and just ahead of France. That is set to grow, faster than either the UK or France, and it will hit US$4 trillion by 2020 or 2021. So you are talking about an economy that is going to grow from US$2.6 or US$2.7 trillion to US$4 trillion, within the next three to four years. That is its current rate of growth.

15. In this context, you can look at our use of English, our laws, and our rule of law, and the kind of ecosystem that provides services. We are in a very good position to provide IP services and the ecosystem for the entire ASEAN region. We are situated between China (which will be the largest economy in absolute terms soon enough), Japan (which is now the third largest economy in the world and will remain so), India (which is the seventh largest economy in the world), and Australia (which we are linked up with).

16. So we are sitting in a sweet spot, where if we get it right, there is a huge potential for us.

A. Good legal infrastructure

17. Our good legal infrastructure – laws and regulations - make it easy for people to do business in Singapore. We have got to keep it that way. We will continuously look at it, and we will try and keep the cutting edge.

18. Internationally, people are recognizing it. The Business Environment Rankings by EIU and the World Bank Doing Business Report 2017 rank us pretty much at the top.

19. We also have a strong intellectual property regime which protects innovations comprehensively and effectively. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report (2016/2017) ranked Singapore as “Number 4” out of 138 countries, and top in Asia, for IP protection.

20. That is a good position to be in, and a good reputation to have. Singapore’s success ultimately depends not on size but on confidence that people have that their assets and monies will be protected, and that there is rule of law. That is fundamental to us, and we have to continue to try to be one of the most pro-business and pro-innovation countries in Asia.

B. Strong research and talent base, with a skilled workforce

21. Second, we have to try and create a strong research and talent base, and train up our workforce.

22. We have: (i) good universities; (ii) in this region, some of the best research institutes; and (iii) a skilled and highly-educated workforce.

23. There is a strong, sustained focus – with industry working with Government and institutes – on research, innovation and supporting enterprises. We can go ahead.

24. For example, our Research, Innovation and Enterprise (“RIE”) Committee, has set the following goals for 2020:

          a) to expand public-private research collaboration;

          b) to help our companies better absorb new technology; and

          c) to strengthen our research and innovation workforce.

25. Unlike many other places in the world, the RIE has actually put a lot of money on the table, to try and achieve these.

C. Network of innovative enterprises, investors and support services

26. Third, we are trying to create a network of innovative enterprises, investors and support services to come together to help the ecosystem. We will continue to focus on that.

27. On this front, IPOS has been helping to develop IP strategy and management expertise for our businesses:

          a) IPOS has developed the Master of IP and Innovation Management; working with the Singapore University of Social Sciences.

          b) IPOS also runs the IP Professional Conversion Programme, which provides funding for Singaporeans who want to acquire skills, to convert to the IP industry. Not many places do that.

          c) IPOS, through its subsidiary IPValueLab, is also providing business IP advice to companies. In the last five months, over 30 companies have been assisted in that way.


28. Many companies do recognize these advantages in our ecosystem, and have started locating some of their IP activities in Singapore. We encourage more companies to do that.


29. Local companies and businesses ultimately are the key. The Government can only provide a framework, funding, and try and push. But in the end, whether it succeeds or not depends on the innovators, the entrepreneurs, and the businesses.

30. We hope local companies and businesses will try to leverage on the advantages we have in Singapore, and innovate and develop an IP management strategy.

31. Let me end with an example of one such local company – Cyclect.

32. Cyclect started 74 years ago as an equipment repair shop. If it had stayed that way, they may not be in business now. But they have transformed themselves into a turnkey solutions provider in the infrastructure, industrial manufacturing and marine sectors.

33. Cyclect came up with several inventions since 2000, for example, a heat exchange system between ambient air and Liquefied Natural Gas to cool the ambient air for future use.

34. They now have a portfolio of various patents and registered trademarks.

35. They are a well-deserved winner of the WIPO IP Enterprise Trophy, and the IPOS Award for IP Champions. We congratulate them.


36. In closing, I will also like to congratulate all the WIPO-IPOS IP Award winners of 2017 for their successful achievements.

37. I wish all of you a good conference and a very pleasant stay in Singapore.

38. Thank you.