Ideas to Growth – helping SMEs to manage knowledge

We are an inventive nation and a nation that needs growth.  So not surprisingly much is being made at the moment of the role of innovation and knowledge in fueling growth in the economy.  There are many elements of this – some will doubtless be touched on in future blog posts- but it is the belief of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) that one key is helping SMEs to be aware of why and how they should protect and exploit their ideas and intellectual property.  The IPO has been consulting on the implementation of the Hargreaves review of IP and Growth, published last year.  As part of this discussion, Birmingham Science City helped to organise a roundtable discussion in Birmingham yesterday with entrepreneurs, business support organisations, universities, IP experts etc.  A very constructive and animated discussion  gave the IPO some new insights and ideas to take away, and all of us with some new thoughts and resources for the management of knowledge for growth.  Or put another way, and picking up on the IPO’s use of Wallace and Gromit to engage young people, how to make ‘Cracking Ideas’ into ‘Cracking Business’.

Wallace and Gromit present A World of Cracking Ideas

Three stand out messages for me from yesterday’s discussion were:

  1. SMEs need help to understand that their ideas, knowledge and know how are valuable assets that can be managed in a variety of ways to improve their business.  The way this value will be realised will depend on the business sector, the nature of the knowledge and the goals of the business – it may or may not involve protection via patents or other means.
  2.  Most SMEs never think about knowledge exploitation or IP – the Chief Executive of a large Business Support organisation told us none of his members has ever asked him about IP!  They are unaware or put off by costs and complexities (perceived or real).  To change this advise on knowledge (not just IP) management needs to be integrated with other forms of business support (eg included in the whole company assessment approach of MAS) and linked to incentives for innovation (eg R&D tax credits).
  3. The IPO offer some excellent free information, advise and services already, but even the relatively engaged audience at this event were unaware, for example of their mediation service.  It was suggested that the IPO need to reach out to businesses where they are already having conversations and using language they can relate to.  For example IPO could try engaging with business-led social media networks such as the West Midlands Business Networkwith over 3,500 members and using case studies to convey their message.

The IPO is very much in consultation mode – so do look at and comment on how it is adapting services in response to the Hargreaves review of IP and Growth.  We would also welcome any thoughts on how we might collectively enable SMEs in Birmingham and the surrounding region to grow through knowledge.

Pam Waddell