February 23, 2024

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China’s strategy for commercially viable innovation

“China, China, China.”

This isn’t a lyric line from a satirised remix. It’s a buzzword – the talk of IP Week @ SG 2018. China’s eminence in any forum comes as no surprise given the country’s behemoth importance in the global political economy. Trade wars aside, what is interesting to note is how China is putting a spin on its “World’s Factory” title.

No longer monotonously piecing colourful plastic objects on steely assembly lines, China’s manufacturing centres are rolling out cutting edge equipment built with only the latest technology. Technology the world has never seen. The country has metamorphosed from brazen copycat to legendary unicorn. So progressive is the transition that the number of unicorns in China far outweigh those in traditionally tech savvy countries like the United States.

OpenGov Asia attended the ASEAN-China Innovation & IP Commercialisation Seminar, an associated event part of the IP Week @ SG’s associated events. Organised by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) and the Chinese patent office, State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), the panellist discussed how China’s tech companies should leverage on intellectual property rights.

The tune of China’s intellectual property song rings different from the dawn of its economic liberalisation. Chinese companies weren’t clued in on what the fuss about intellectual property was. Flaunting intellectual property was almost necessary to get by.

Artificial Intelligence with Chinese Characteristics

Compared to its tainted past of technology mimicry, China’s economy is now significantly driven by home-grown technology innovations. Matter-of-factly, Mr Darren Tang, Chief Executive of IPOS, remarked that as economies prosper, countries will progress from copying to creating since they have the requisite talent and capital. The most successful businesses in China use some variant of artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies. More than just the basic tenets of products launched nowadays, China’s fascination with breakthrough technologies is not subtle.

Chinese researchers publish the largest number of AI related theses which are frequently cited to uncover new tech capabilities. Not quite surprisingly, China is also the world’s largest filer of patents. With close to 1.3 million applications filed in 2017, it overtakes previous competitors in Northeast Asia, the United State and the EU.

The sheer volume of trade in AI technologies have also heavily impressed China’s balance sheets. China National Intellectual Property Administration Commissioner Shen Chang Yu noted a significant growth in the country’s AI exports, larger than the volume of AI imports into the country.

However, the panellists at the seminar weren’t particularly tickled by these technologies alone. While it is certainly untrue that they aren’t on the bandwagon (for some of the panellists were from leading Chinese tech unicorns), their reservations stemmed from doubts about how the field of technology was developing.

Their reasoning was simple: the latest technology should not be used for the sake of upgrading or simply staying on trend. Instead, technologies like blockchain and AI should be used as a tool to solve a real-world problem. Innovation is about user centrism, not the innovator’s whims or fancies. The ethos of problem-based inventing must be drummed into the innovation process. Only when an inventor has made significant headwinds in responding to an urgent societal need can his/her invention be considered novel enough to be granted a patent, and subsequently monetised.

Going Beyond Pragmatic Innovation

Panellists wanted businesses to have a paradigm shift in how they viewed innovation and intellectual property rights. Instead of unfeeling pragmatism, business owners should consider the strategic impact of their innovations. A good intellectual property management strategy is a useful way for companies to grow profits and spread influence. Building a recognisable brand might have weightier intrinsic value than high profit margins. A recognisable and trustworthy brand works for itself to bring home the bacon.

Comparing one’s business to Silicon Valley’s tech giants in this case might be futile. Just because they generate a huge volume of patents year on year, observers should dig deeper to uncover if these inventions are of quality, noted IP lawyer Mr Yang Ming-Tao. He thinks that businesses should strive for purposeful AI, or the scope and depth of impact AI can reverberate.

Hence innovating and then patenting a product is a piece of cake. The real challenge is in developing a cutting-edge product which boasts technology which can be transferred to improve existing projects. Patenting a technology is more than a defensive mechanism. Intellectual property is a powerful tool to assert oneself as an authoritative, luminary leader in a field. The real asset protected is not the physical asset, but the intangibles associated with the invention.

Contravening Deng Xiao Ping’s adage, it does matter if the cat is black or white. Because it isn’t just about the rat caught. Its about how the cat thinks and acts, which changes the way it snags the rat. Refreshing Deng’s philosophy will brand China as a global tech leader.

PARTNER

Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

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CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

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Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

SUPPORTING ORGANISATION

SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

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IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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