Chan Chun Sing, Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry

On smart cities, start-up funding and intellectual property

How do you assess the framework in place to facilitate the continuation of the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN) during 2019?

CHAN CHUN SIN: The ASCN was one of Singapore’s key deliverables for our ASEAN Chairmanship in 2018. It is a collaborative platform that enables cities from ASEAN member states to work towards the common goal of smart and sustainable urban development. The ASCN aims to improve the quality of life for ASEAN citizens living in cities by utilising technology to resolve challenges relating to rapid urbanisation, such as city congestion as well as water and air pollution.

As such solutions lie with the private sector, the ASCN aims to catalyse bankable projects with relevant private sector partners. The smart city action plans of the 26 pilot cities of the ASCN and the list of initial project partnerships with external partners were noted at the 33rd ASEAN Summit in November 2018. Over the span of seven months ASCN had secured 33 partnerships. These partnerships span cooperation in a wide variety of fields, including traffic management systems, and health care and digital-based learning, with international and regional private sector partners such as Wiley, IBM and Napier Healthcare. 

ASEAN member states have crafted the ASEAN Smart Cities Framework, a broad, non-binding document that articulates ASEAN’s definition of a “smart city”, outlines our key principles and identifies our smart city strategic outcomes. Singapore is looking forward to working closely with ASEAN member states and successive ASEAN chairs to enhance smart cities development.

To generate new digital growth engines across ASEAN, how can Singapore corporations better engage in start-up funding and technology transfer?

CHAN: As corporations increasingly look for sustainable innovation beyond traditional business models, Singapore has seen an increase in corporate incubators and ventures looking for technology and innovation opportunities. As of end 2018, there were about 130 co-innovation incubators, venture builders and accelerators anchored in Singapore to help enterprises set up and then scale up to an international level.

Singapore is eager to deepen and diversify international connections. In this regard we launched the Global Innovation Alliance in 2017 to connect major innovation hubs among ASEAN member states and around the world. We have anchored overseas partners to enable the two-way exchange of enterprises and to serve as a point of entry into their markets. 

Where do you see scope for improvements in the protection of intellectual property (IP) rights in Thailand and elsewhere in ASEAN? 

CHAN: To reinforce ASEAN as an attractive destination for investment and encourage the growth of domestic innovation, ASEAN IP offices are collaborating to harmonise the IP regimes of individual ASEAN member states and provide greater transparency and certainty for rights owners. One of the key roadmaps is the ASEAN IP Rights Action Plan 2016-25, which sets out concrete deliverables to guide the work of the ASEAN Working Group on IP Cooperation, involving heads of the ASEAN IP offices.

Access to international IP treaties such as the Patent Cooperation Treaty and the Madrid Protocol is key to this action plan. This, together with Thailand’s historical compliance with these respective agreements in 2009 and 2017, signals the resolve of Thailand and other ASEAN member states to streamline the application process for rights owners.

One of the objectives of the action plan is to encourage IP offices to transform from being mere IP regulatory registries to become innovation agencies that make ideas marketable. This will require our IP offices to focus not only on traditional areas of enforcement but also on commercialisation, in order to help enterprises realise the full commercial potential of their IP.

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