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How Singapore businesses can turn their innovations into growth engines

By better managing, protecting and commercialising their intellectual property, they can distinguish themselves and gain a competitive edge

Published Thu, Aug 25, 2022 · 09:50 PM
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As a regional distributor for pharmaceutical products that had driven stellar sales for decades, Hyphens Pharma International was well known and trusted in the industry. In looking to accelerate its growth trajectory, the Singapore-headquartered company went down the road of innovation, which helps to enhance its competitiveness and open new revenue streams.

Hyphens Pharma turned to create and capture their own intellectual property (IP) with the launch of their first in-house brand Ceradan. In doing so, it gave them the freedom to commercialise their own brands anywhere in the world.

The company also invested in R&D to further create value, and managed to secure its first patent and create formulations that were unique to the market, thus expanding its product portfolio.

Integrating IP as part of its business strategy enabled Hyphens Pharma to better position and sell its products, allowing it to further diversify its business and strengthen its position as a top-tier pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare group in South-east Asia.

"Innovation is at the heart of value creation," said Mr Lim See Wah, chairman and chief executive officer of the company. Revenue of the proprietary brands segment had continued to grow, having reached several milestones, he said in April 2020.

Like Hyphens Pharma, many Singapore businesses, from manufacturers of computer components to software design houses, value their innovation and leverage IP to grow their revenues.

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Household names like Tiger Beer, Old Chang Kee and Secretlab all have one thing in common - they are home-grown brands that have filed unique trademarks or designs in Singapore and gone global.

Unfortunately, not all businesses, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs), take full advantage of the intellectual property (IP) they may have developed.

As a result, they find it tough to compete in a market with other companies producing similar and possibly cheaper rival products. Some get edged out by others that proactively protect or commercialise their own IP.

This is due to several common misconceptions.

Using IP to grow a business

Businesses, including SMEs, should take stock of the IP they already have created and identify areas they can invest in.

An SME that produces components for a large electronics manufacturer may be innovating each year to improve its components just to retain an important customer.

However, these innovations are also valuable in distinguishing the SME from rivals. By registering them as IP, the SME can license them and potentially create a new business with the deep expertise it develops.

How should a business get its IP recognised and leverage it? Here are five steps:

The way forward for high-growth businesses

IP management is an essential part of business. Those that do it well can fully leverage the innovation for business growth.

Home-grown company Secretlab is one example. It knew early on that IP would be important to its popular gaming chairs engineered for comfort and ergonomics.

By registering the designs for its chairs, their designs are protected from copycats in the marketplace. This has allowed Secretlab to grow its revenue because innovative products stand out from the competition.

Other companies start with a discovery process. Hyphens Pharma, for example, carried out an audit of its IA as part of the Intangible Disclosure Evaluation and Audit Scheme (IDEAS), a collaboration between the Singapore Exchange and IPOS.

Through the process, the company outlined how the strategic use of IA could contribute to its long-term value creation.

With the findings in hand, Hyphens Pharma was able to highlight to its investors how such IA provided competitive advantages and were going to be the main value drivers for its future.

Find out how IP can grow your business at IP Week @ SG 2022 at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Sept 6 - 7, 2022. Enterprises can look forward to gaining IP insights to help them better protect, manage and commercialise their IP. Visit for more information.

Tips for SMEs to get started on the IP journey - Include IP management as an essential part of your business. IP management is as or more important than financial or operations management. - Identify your IP. Know what your key IP assets are, and how they may drive and support your competitive advantages. - Continuously evaluate the IP landscape and keep pace with the innovations in your industry. Companies should review their IP strategy regularly along with business objectives.

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