Jack Ellis

The IP Office of Singapore (IPOS) and Workforce Singapore – an agency under the city-state’s labour ministry – have joined forces to launch a new educational programme aimed at equipping Singaporean professionals with IP-related skills. The introduction of the scheme follows the recent publication of the Singaporean government’s long-term economic plan, in which IP is a central pillar.

The Professional Conversion Programme for IP Professionals (PCP) uses a ‘place and train’ model. This means that individuals participating in the PCP are hired and then trained up in IP-relevant skills once they are in the job.

The $2.2 million PCP programme provides financial support both to academic institutions for candidates’ course fees and to employers for salaries. Employers that are currently confirmed to be participating in the scheme are all law firms, attorney firms or business consultancies. They include: China Sinda Intellectual Property; FT Consulting; Spruson & Ferguson; Synergy IP; and Viering, Jentschura & Partner LLP.

According to an IPOS press release, the new professional training course supported under the PCP is the Singapore University of Social Sciences’ (SUSS) graduate programme in IP and Innovation Management: “Designed with mid-careerists in mind, modules taken under the [SUSS] course can lead to a master’s degree or graduate diploma.” Applications for the first intake of the PCP for IP Professionals are already open, and will close on Wednesday May 31.

It isn’t clear at this stage if and when the pool of participating employers will expand; or if other types businesses of businesses other than service providers – including brand owners themselves – will be able to sign up. Moreover, it is far too early to say whether or not the scheme will be a success. What can be said for sure is that the launch of the PCP represents another fairly bold and ambitious step from the Singapore government, which has identified IP as a key area of development for the country and has been keen to upskill its citizens accordingly in recent years.

The first big move came with the unveiling of the city-state’s ‘IP hub’ masterplan back in 2013; as part of this plan, Singapore launched an IP Financing Scheme in 2014. Initially only patents could be put forward as collateral under the scheme, but it was extended to trademarks last year. Partly as a result of these efforts, Singapore has been consistently highly ranked in various IP-related rankings – though it also dropped behind key regional rivals on an the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Illicit Trade Index, largely as a result of a mediocre score regarding transparency.

The launch of the PCP comes after the publication last month of the Report of the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE), which was established by the government in January 2016 to review Singapore’s longer term economic strategy. As well as recommendations to “strengthen enterprise capabilities to innovate and scale up,” the CFE suggested that Singapore should boost its IP system to “better support innovation and technology adoption”. Among the specific measures proposed were an update of the 2013 IP hub masterplan to shift focus from “attracting IP-related work and activities” – an area where the report claims Singapore has “achieved fair success” – to “assisting innovators and enterprises to extract value from their IP”.

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