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Company: Cyclect Electrical Engineering

Video interviewee: Mr. Melvin Tan, Managing Director


In recent years, Cyclect has undergone a restructure of its group and business units, with a review of its IP at its heart.This restructure also resulted in a company rebrand to reflect its growth from an electrical repair shop in the 1940s to the integrated group of engineering companies it has become - serving numerous markets, nationally and internationally.The scale of the company’s ambition is shown in its slogan - anything is “Completely Possible”.

From repairing to creating innovations

Established in 1943 by Tan Ai Meng as an electrical repair shop, the Cyclect Group (‘Cyclect’) now has a third generation Tan Family member at its helm, CEO Melvin Tan.The company moved into the marine industry from the late 1950s, wining contracts from the British Royal Navy and ASEAN, which is now part of ABB.It has further diversified, comprising a number of subsidiaries and joint ventures, including Cyclect, Aeco, Mecflou and Chemicrete operating in Brunei, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, and Philippines.The company serves key sectors including marine and offshore, oil and gas industries, high-technology manufacturing, utilities and infrastructure, process and pharmaceutical, hospitality, commercial and special events.

In addition to its engineering service-based model, Cyclect created an in-house R&D department after realising its potential to grow the business following an initial collaboration with the National University of Singapore.Although engineering is still at the heart of the company, it has created new revenue streams through acquisition and creation of new innovations.

Cyclect was recognized in 2009 and 2010 as one of the top 50 companies in Singapore through the Enterprise 50 awards, as well as being multiple winners of the Singapore Government’s TEC Innovator Award. Its award-winning innovations include a Hazmat Mobile Scrubber Vehicle for the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) for safe and efficient removal of hazardous toxic spills, and Foreign Object Debris Detection and Alarm System (FIDAS) for Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority, to detect and ensure safe removal of debris from runways.

Cyclect continues to deliver innovative solutions, including for high profile clients and projects such as electrical and mechanical works at theme park rides (including “Transformers: The Ride”) in Universal Studios Singapore; electrical works at Singapore Sports Hub and electrical works at Marina Bay Sands Resort.

From repairing equipment to filing names

Originally known as the ‘Cycle and Electric Company’, Cyclect’s early activities gained the company a reputation as a dependable equipment repairer, that also enables its clients’ business to operate smoothly.It wasn’t long before the company realised it had the skills to service a number of other industries, and that its brand (and the goodwill in it) was vital to securing work.

To help find new opportunities in other sectors and to keep up with the times, the company was renamed Cyclect, which was deemed less limiting or confusing as a name and could help encompass new opportunities.To protect the company’s brand, the company has filed for registered trade mark protection in Singapore for both the name “CYCLECT” and its logo styles.

With the set up of an in-house R&D department and through external collaborations, Cyclect has greatly diversified its skills and innovations.It has also built up a healthy patent portfolio, filing for patent protection for a number of inventions in a range of territories.

IP experiences

The process of maximising the opportunity from your intangible assets, such as what IP you own, how to protect and exploit it, including potential costs involved, can seem overwhelming for an SME with limited resources, especially at its outset.However, as IP in its nature is unique, the benefits should outweigh the costs if managed well – and ideally, it is best to review your IP early – and help is often at hand.In Cyclect’s case, a grant from IE Singapore proved important in helping Cyclect understand and exploit its IP in a number of ways.

First, the grant funded a review of their IP and IP strategy and engagement with IP professional services.This was helpful to understand the power of updating and protecting their brand from copycats by way of a registered trade mark as well as how, with professional help, they could protect their innovations at home and abroad with other IP rights, such as patents.

As some of Cyclect’s inventions might be reverse engineered, it can be especially important for the company to protect its innovations by way of a patent prior to launch.As Michael Khong, who heads up Cyclect’s R&D department, explains “Cyclect took advantage of a funded IP strategy review and now our company has a better understanding of the costs, benefits and best use of registered rights – such as ‘where to file?’ or ‘what to file?’“

Michael emphasises that, “SMEs should seek help at the beginning to find a patent agent and write a patent application”.This can be money well spent to be guided through the patent process and ensure the patent is drafted to offer the broadest scope of protection.“It is worth finding a patent agent with the correct technical background also.Patent agents need to understand technical features of our inventions, not just the legal issues, so it’s wise to ask about their technical backgrounds and how they can help.”

Cyclect takes a pragmatic view, protecting its own IP within a given budget, with a view to commercial returns.While some patent-pending products may not have generated a profit to date, the company maintains its protection strategy wherever it believes there will be future opportunities to leverage value by way of licensing, attracting funding or sale.

Also, Cyclect is learning to use IP in new ways. It has recently set up a dedicated team in its R&D department to oversee management of IP, including the use of IP databases and other searches to monitor competitor activity and keep ahead.Internet searches have already been successful in detecting and managing infringing activity in India, and provide a useful input when determining where to file for registered rights, by gauging the risk of infringing acts taking place in important markets.

Additionally, whilst monitoring freely available patent databases, Cyclect noticed that although some competitors are not patent filers themselves, they do monitor Cyclect’s own patent filing activity.It is hoped that the presence of patents will deter competitors from copying, as well as putting Cyclect in a better position to take legal action if required.

In the meantime, the company continues to pursue its ability and commitment to completing the job and brand philosophy of “Completely Possible” by seeking new challenges and innovations to meet market demand.