Increased investment to Singapore start-ups and new IP cooperation boost with the UK

Start-up investment

Recent announcements at TechVenture 2015, a conference organised by the National Research Foundation (NRF) bolster Singapore’s image as one of the “10 best cities to launch a start-up”.1

The NRF has just announced the third instalment of the Early Stage Venture Fund (ESVF). This instalment (ESVFIII) will see S$40 million of the fund go into establishing corporate venture funds by large local enterprises (LLEs).

According to the NRF, the idea is to encourage growth of small, high-tech companies in Singapore via co-investments from the government and local private-sector players. The aim is to create a technology ecosystem of small companies growing around larger ones who put in the money. This results in mutual benefits for both the big and small fish: the larger ones being able to take advantage of innovations that the smaller start-ups specialise in, and the small start-ups being able to access the resources and networks of the larger firms.2  As an incentive, the VCs have the option to buy out NRF’s share of the fund within five years by returning NRF’s capital with interest.3

The ESVF is an initiative started in 2008 to promote commercialization of research ideas and to support entrepreneurs in the establishment and growth of tech-based companies. The fund operates by matching venture capital investments in the infancy stage of tech start-ups. Prior to the ESVFIII, the fund had already invested S$100 million, from which notable start-ups YFind, HungryGoWhere, Brandtology and JustCommodity were funded and successfully exited.

The NRF is expected to have an open call for applications from LLEs in October.4

Other announcements at TechVenture 2015 included the formation of LUX Photonics Consortium, focusing on the photonics industry and ecosystem, in particular including development of infrastructure for high internet speeds using new fibre-optic cables or electronic circuits powered by light.5  Further, the SG-UK Joint Test-Bedding Initiative was announced, operating under the UK-Singapore Innovation and Research Partnership Agreement, which was signed in October 2014. The agreement allows small and medium enterprises from each country to establish partnerships with companies, universities and organisations of the other country, with a view to develop technologies for sustainable urban development.6

Singapore and UK IP co-operation

Following on from the theme of UK collaboration, the UK and Singapore will soon benefit from a newly signed agreement on Intellectual Property.7  The new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the respective intellectual property offices of the two countries was signed on 21 September 2015, with the aim of improving cooperation on issues involving copyright, patents, trade marks and designs. The understanding is valid for 3 years and will be automatically renewed for successive periods of three years unless one of the participants terminates the agreement.8

The UK Minister for Intellectual Property, Baroness Neville Rolfe, referred to Singapore as “an influential voice on issues of intellectual property in the ASEAN region” and highlighted the importance of “developing robust global frameworks” across the region. She stated the MOU will allow the UK and Singapore to share best practices in such areas as IP rights and protection, IP-related research and the streamlining of IP court processes.9 

The IP Office of Singapore said that “in a globalized era, it is crucial for governments to collaborate on common understandings such as innovation and economic growth”.10  With many UK businesses using Singapore as their regional headquarters and a springboard into the wider ASEAN region, the MOU is viewed as enhancing the existing UK-Singapore Business Economic Partnership Agreement in the area of IP cooperation.11