Singapore’s role as an IP Hub along the Belt and Road

GDIP Opening Remarks
Mr Tan Shau En, Assistant Chief Executive (Commercialisation), gave the opening remarks at the Guangdong Intellectual Property Trade Expo 2018.

Mr Tan Shau En, IPOS Assistant Chief Executive (Commercialisation), was invited to give the opening remarks at the Guangdong Intellectual Property Trade Expo 2018 in Guangzhou last month. He spoke on Singapore’s role in facilitating IP and innovation flows along the “One Belt, One Road” between China and ASEAN, and how IPOS is helping to build the innovation ecosystem for the future economy.

He shares with us more in this exclusive interview.

1.              The Belt and Road Initiative, or “One Belt, One Road”, seeks to promote the flow of people, goods, capital and ideas between countries along the overland Silk Road Economic Belt and the sea trading route of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. How is Singapore facilitating the exchanges taking place as part of this initiative?

China is Singapore's main trading partner, and Singapore has been the largest foreign-investor country in China for many years since 2014. Singapore is well placed physically and culturally between East and West to occupy a pivotal position along the Maritime Silk Road.

Apart from the oft quoted physical, financial and legal infrastructure; Singapore has also a well-established Intellectual Property (IP) ecosystem to make a difference to China in the area of commercialising innovation.  As a bilateral state level project, the Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City (SSGKC) is an important conduit to facilitate the flow of ideas and innovation between the two countries.

2.              What are the latest developments in this exchange of ideas and innovation between Singapore and China?

In 2017, the number of Chinese applicants filing patents in Singapore increased by 164% (13% CAGR) that of 2013. Furthermore, the number of patent applications filed in China along the Belt and Road increased by 23% in the first half of 2017, compared with 2016. Among them, Singapore's applications to China ranks first among all countries along the route.

We have also expanded our scope of cooperation on IP commercialisation by offering services and training to local and foreign enterprises in SSGKC with the signing of a recent Memorandum of understanding (MoU).  This further promotes and develops bilateral IP cooperation.

Innovators in Singapore and China are increasingly recognising the trans-border nature of IP and other intangible assets. We are seeing more businesses take proactive steps towards IP commercialisation – a development IPOS seeks to encourage.

3.              We understand that IP and other intangible assets are critical in supporting and encouraging innovation. Could you elaborate on how intangible assets are becoming a key feature of the future global economy?

Take for example, Asian companies such as Didi Chuxing and Grab – their success lies in the rapid scaling of intangible assets, such as patents, trademarks, trade secrets and customer data.

Due to their ability to scale at a low cost and at speed, intangible assets is able to bring innovative technologies and business ideas to a large market for commercialisation. At the same time, when properly managed and positioned, intangible assets play a leading role in strengthening the competitiveness of technology-based enterprises.

In response to global trends, Singapore's Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) recognises that Singaporeans need to improve our ability to innovate and globalise. From enterprises to government bodies, innovation needs to be part of our DNA. For IPOS, we have grown from a registry and regulator to an innovation agency.

The updated IP Hub Master Plan is our response meet the CFE challenge.  It involves growing Singapore’s pool of IP experts, improving our IP and innovation regime, and promoting enterprise growth through IP. These are important cornerstones to create good and well-paying jobs and enable enterprises to be competitive internationally. 

The vision is for innovation in China and elsewhere in the world to be able to access and commercialise their IP in the fast growing ASEAN markets with confidence through Singapore. IPOS is plugged into local and international innovation ecosystems, helping enterprises turn their ideas into assets. We partner venture capital and private equity firms to open up more financing options for innovation-driven companies.

SSGKC and Singapore are nodes and points of entry to the Chinese and ASEAN markets. We look forward to contributing to success of the companies we help and the commercialisation of IP for the region.