27 Aug 2019
Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the WTO and WIPO, Ambassador Tan Hung Seng, was invited as a panellist for the session entitled “Collaboration amongst Innovation Hubs: A Win-Win or Zero-Sum Game?” on 27 August, during IP Week@SG 2019 in Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands. Ambassador Tan elaborated on the raison d'être behind collaboration among innovation hubs, approaches to make such collaboration effective and the role which multilateral organizations can play. His remarks are in full below.
IP Week@SG 2019 (27 - 28 August 2019) is the world’s premier IP event. IP Week@SG brings together the world’s foremost IP thought leaders, legal experts, and innovative companies to gain first-hand insights into IP commercialisation and winning strategies that can help business expand into the global markets.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for inviting me to participate in this panel session, which addresses the important issue of collaboration among innovation hubs. This topic is important and timely. It is important because innovation is increasingly becoming the key driver of economic growth globally. The topic is also timely because technological transformation and innovation are happening at an increasingly rapid and relentless pace. Consequently, innovation hubs that bring together scientific research organizations and businesses to connect and collaborate with each other, must also strengthen inter-hub collaboration in order to maximise their ability to achieve “breakthrough innovation”. We may think that all innovation represents a breakthrough, but the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2015 made an interesting distinction by defining “breakthrough innovation” as those innovations “that have a really transformative impact on the economy and society, and in particular those that lead to significant economic growth”. In this context, a successful innovation hub will include elements such as the commercialisation of innovation, a commitment to diversity and integration into global innovation networks.
2 Having established that it serves the interests of innovation hubs to collaborate, let us now turn to today’s question - Is collaboration amongst innovation hubs a win-win or zero-sum game? Undoubtedly, the answer will be that collaboration is a win-win for all parties. Over the next ten minutes, allow me to elaborate by addressing the following three questions:
Why is collaboration amongst innovation hubs a win-win for all?
3 Let me begin with the first question, namely, why is collaboration amongst innovation hubs a win-win for all? First, collaboration among innovation hubs is a necessity. The rapid technological transformation brought on by the 4th Industry Revolution necessitates more, not less, collaboration and openness amongst innovation hubs.
4 Advances in frontier innovation, including artificial intelligence (AI), are moving at an unprecedented pace. AI techniques such as deep learning has witnessed patent filing increase by 175% between 2013 and 2016. Many AI-related technologies have been created, enhanced and applied across a wide spectrum of industries, ranging from telecommunications to life and medical sciences, from transportation to agriculture. Against the backdrop of rapid technological advances, it has become imperative for innovation hubs to collaborate in order to find solutions to problems, to bring new ideas to market, and to share information and best practices. It is only through such collaboration can innovation hubs stay ahead of the technological race. A good example would be the Global Innovation Alliance initiative in Singapore, which is intended to strengthen Singapore’s connection to major innovation hubs around the world. This is achieved by close collaboration with partners around the world to create (i) Innovators Academy to facilitate overseas internships for students; (ii) Innovation Launch Pads to support Singapore entities looking to establish in-market presence or partnerships; and (iii) Partnership Forums to build new bridges with overseas experts.
5 Second, collaboration among innovation hubs is mutually beneficial. Collaboration enables innovation hubs to tap on each other’s expertise, resulting in time and cost savings. As a case in point, IP policy makers have devised a good way for collaborating, in the form of patent work-sharing initiatives. One such initiative is the Global Patent Prosecution Highway (GPPH), which enables 26 patent offices around the world to make use of the work product from each other for patent search and examination. This collaboration has significantly shortened the process and enabled applicants obtaining a second patent grant in another jurisdiction to do so in as little as 3 months. This is especially important for fast moving sectors, such as ICT, where ideas can lose their market value if not patented and commercialized in a timely fashion. Another important benefit is that, the examiner of the patent application benefits from the expertise of more than one patent office, thereby improving the quality of the final report. In this connection, Singapore has also established bilateral Patent Prosecution Highway arrangements with China, Mexico and the European Patent Office (EPO). In our region, we have the ASEAN Patent Examination Co-cooperation (ASPEC) programme, which is the regional patent work-sharing programme amongst ASEAN member states. Through ASPEC we have significantly reduced the time taken for the granting of patents in the region. Singapore was an early adopter of the programme, and is honoured to be the country lead for this initiative. We have received positive feedback from enterprises around the world, which have found ASPEC to be useful and beneficial.
How can innovation hubs collaborate effectively to ensure a win-win outcome?
6 Let us now move on to the second question, which is “how can innovation hubs collaborate effectively to ensure a win-win outcome?”. First, innovation hubs can establish joint ventures or partnerships as an effective way to leverage on each other’s comparative advantage. At the most basic level, knowledge-sharing can play an important role in promoting effective collaboration among innovation hubs. The World Intellectual Property Report 2015, published by WIPO, clearly documented the importance of knowledge-sharing in enabling innovations to flourish. Knowledge sharing can be on the basis of free-sharing, as seen in open-source communities in 3D printing and robotics; or using a proprietary approach through cross-licensing as in the case of semiconductor patents.
7 The sharing of best practices represents another important avenue of collaboration. Since its establishment in 2005, the WIPO Singapore Office has played an instrumental role in sharing valuable lessons learnt among the ASEAN Member States to help ASEAN strengthen our intellectual property development. This has helped to catalyse the accession of many ASEAN countries to WIPO treaties and enhance innovation in the region. The WIPO Singapore Office in collaboration with IPOS, under the Singapore Cooperation Programme, also conducts regular capability building and information sharing workshops for countries in the region. For example, in April this year, about 40 countries attended a seminar in Singapore to share best practices and improve their understanding of Libraries, Archives, Museums and Educational and Research Institutions in the field of copyright.
8 Second, innovation hubs can collaborate to establish platforms that enable businesses and scientific research organizations to come together to co-create solutions. Among themselves, businesses are entering into more joint ventures than ever before to pool resources, knowledge and ideas in order to create breakthrough innovations. In fact, 68% of the respondents in a McKinsey survey expect that joint venture activities of their companies will increase over the next five years.
9 Third, innovation hubs must work closely with Governments, which play an important role in ensuring the success of such partnerships. Among other things, Governments can help businesses in managing and commercialising the intangible assets that would arise, and through novel policies that would tackle complex areas such as IP financing and securitization. Governments can also help in driving investment to develop breakthrough developments. According to the 2015 World Intellectual Property Report, Governments have been pivotal in enabling research into 3D printing, nanotechnology and robotics, among others.
What is the role that multilateral organizations, such as WIPO, play to facilitate such collaboration?
10 Finally, what role can multilateral organizations, such as WIPO, play to facilitate win-win collaboration among innovation hubs? Here, I would like to highlight three points.
11 First, WIPO can play an important enabling role by providing a conducive environment for innovation hubs around the world to share their knowledge and best practices as well as develop new normative frameworks for IP. As a global international organization with 192 Member States, WIPO is the ideal forum for inclusive discussions regarding the normative IP agenda. In fact, the global IP system as embodied in WIPO, enables knowledge sharing by providing a flexible tool for innovators to decide which technologies to share, with whom, and on what terms. In this context, WIPO is an extremely important multilateral platform to drive innovation and economic growth. Hence, Singapore greatly values our long-standing partnership with WIPO, and we are firmly committed to supporting efforts to strengthen WIPO. For example, Singapore hosted and chaired the final round of negotiations for the Diplomatic Conference on the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks more than 10 years ago, which helped to establish common standards for procedural aspects of trademark registration and licensing. Today, Singapore chairs the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related rights at WIPO, where important work is being done to move the long-standing Broadcasting Treaty towards adoption. Singapore will continue to work closely with fellow Member States to engage actively and constructively in efforts at WIPO to facilitate successful collaborations between countries.
12 Second, WIPO continues to provide quality and timely international services, such as the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), and the Madrid and Hague systems, which play a critical role in enabling access to innovation protection and information flow. WIPO has shown tremendous dedication in growing its international services, which displayed strong growth for the ninth consecutive year in 2018. PCT filing crossed a record milestone of over a quarter million (253,000), representing an increase of 3.9% from 2017. Similarly, Madrid applications grew by 6.4% and Hague applications by 4%. These are no mean achievements and we look forward to working closely with WIPO in its pursuit for continued excellence .
13 Third, WIPO has the potential to provide technological solutions to overcome global barriers faced by innovative hubs. A good example is the introduction of WIPO Translate, which is an AI driven system used for translating patent documents. This has allowed patent information to be more easily accessible to global users. WIPO is also expanding this AI technology to conference services, so that audiences worldwide can enjoy easier access the discussions in WIPO committees in Geneva. In addition, WIPO has introduced other useful initiatives, such as the Digital Timestamping Service to provide a digital notary for timestamping documents. We encourage WIPO to continue with such technological innovations, which facilitate greater collaboration among innovation hubs.
14 In closing, let me emphasise that the global innovation space is rapidly growing in size and complexity. Therefore, innovation hubs have much to gain from collaborating with one another, including through knowledge and information sharing, forming joint ventures, and establishing regional and global innovation networks and value chains. In this context, WIPO offers unique value propositions that can strengthen and support collaboration among innovation hubs.
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 WIPO Technology Trends 2019 – Artificial Intelligence.
 WO/PBC/30/7 WIPO Performance Report 2018.