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Strong IP regime essential for FrieslandCampina's innovation efforts
AS one of the world's top three dairy cooperatives, FrieslandCampina's products such as Dutch Lady and Friso are enjoyed around the globe by people of all ages.
Headquartered in the Netherlands, milk lies at the heart of its business and the 150-year-old company boasts a unique grass-to-glass proposition for its customers and consumers where it manages the entire chain - from the grass that the cows eat all the way to finished dairy products.
As one would expect, innovation is an important aspect of FrieslandCampina's operations and two research and development (R&D) nodes - an Innovation Centre in the Dutch town of Wageningen, and a Development Centre in Singapore - oversee that.
Though 13,000 km apart, both centres play a key role in unlocking the nutritional power of dairy products.
"The development centre in Singapore is a full end-to-end R&D centre and we focus on the development of dairy-based beverages and infant and toddler nutrition, tailored specifically for Asian customers," said FrieslandCampina's global human resources director of Specialised Nutrition, Manoj Viswanathan.
He added that the Singapore centre, which opened in 2013, operates as an extension of the FrieslandCampina's Innovation centre in the Netherlands; and its purpose is also to engage the consumers in the region to help the company develop the right products.
All the R&D for Frisian Flag, one of the biggest brands in Indonesia, for instance, is developed out of Singapore - not just in taste, but also sensory so that includes recipe development.
Singapore's strategic geographic location - which puts it close to the company's other local operations in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam - is one of the main reasons FrieslandCampina chose to establish a regional office here in 2011 for its Consumer Products International business group.
About three years ago, the role of the Singapore office grew into that of a satellite headquarters.
"We call it an extension of the global HQ because of the fact that we have structured most of the people in our Singapore office to have global or regional responsibilities," said Mr Viswanathan.
"For example, our global Infant Nutrition and Toddler Nutrition business is based out of here; we have an extension of the procurement business based out of Singapore; and some of the global sales organisation is also situated here," he said.
Besides tariffs elimination and reduced non-tariff barriers, some of the other benefits of the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) include enhanced intellectual property (IP) rights as both the European Union and Singapore rely on innovation as a driving force to support its economies.
"Being in the food business, we have a strong emphasis on IP; and Singapore's strong regulatory and IP regime is something we appreciate," said Mr Viswanathan. "This is on top of the economic policies, tax structures and pro-business environment."
With the EUSFTA now in force, Mr Viswanathan even sees it potentially playing a part in growing the FrieslandCampina's Singapore Development Centre into a global hub one day.
To do that, FrieslandCampina is looking to increase its pool of R&D talents, including hiring interns and trainees in order to build up the dairy expertise.
"We believe that FTAs provide opportunities at work place and the EUSFTA will provide the same platform," he said.
Mr Viswanathan noted that Singapore currently has 25 FTAs with single and blocs of trading partners; and added that the EUSFTA is therefore a much welcome agreement which levels the playing field for European companies - where the agreement "equalises" the advantages offered by FTAs with other trading partners outside of the EU.
"For a business like ours which places huge emphasis on the supply chain, the EUSFTA will enhance cooperation to simplify and harmonise trade procedures, and potentially cut transaction costs," he said.