Ben Kirsch, West Midlands Policy Advisor and representative for the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), tells us how Intellectual Property (IP) fits within the developing themes for the Local Industrial Strategy. These findings come as a result of a consultation with Patrick White (WMCA Director of Industrial Strategy), and the Innovation Alliance’s stakeholders, to consider the ways in which the Local Industrial Strategy could be developed to support Innovation in our region, in regards to Intellectual Property.
Intellectual Property is an inevitable part of the innovation journey. An ambitious Local Industrial Strategy will seek to ensure our innovators can make the most of their IP. The IPO will work with the LEPs and West Midlands Combined Authority to get support in place for innovators with the IP strategies, valuations, collaborations and pathways to thrive in the West Midlands knowledge economy.
But where does IP fit in the developing themes for the Local Industrial Strategy?
IP as a stimulant for Innovative Behaviour
Giving exclusive rights to innovators improves ‘the balance between the risks and reward for innovation’. The IP system de-risks innovation by allowing those businesses and individuals who protect their knowledge assets with IP rights to reap the rewards from it. It encourages investment in new technology, brands and the creative industries, and aids commercialisation by giving a ‘currency to knowledge’.
For businesses operating in an economy that is increasingly knowledge-driven, having a strategy to protect knowledge will be crucial to their success. Companies need to decide how best to exploit their knowledge assets and how to be cost-effective in doing so.
That’s why the IPO provides funding for IP audits across the UK, and has partnered with Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP to provide additional audits and confidence grants through Innovation Enabler. This fund is supporting local innovative companies to have a strategy that complements their overall business plan.
We will also be working with partners to find out whether IP valuation can help companies attract better investment and de-risk the innovation process.
Collaboration, knowledge exchange and IP development
Innovation is often best when it’s collaborative. That’s why we’re developing a simple business-to-business toolkit to support the innovation process, ensuring IP ownership issues are dealt with up-front to avoid the legal wrangles that could choke a great idea.
We want to educate and support innovators to ensure they have the knowledge to make informed decisions on dealing with tech transfer and knowledge exchange. Our universities generate world-class research and much of it can be commercialised to capture value for our economy. We believe that universities and research institutions create valuable IP but often lack the knowledge to get commercial value out of it.
There are opportunities for technology development through collaboration between the research and business communities. Often, it will be smaller businesses and entrepreneurs that are more likely to adopt ideas and give it a go. We are therefore working with local universities and the Growth Hubs to improve IP development between universities and local businesses. We already have the Lambert toolkit to support these collaborations, but we want to improve the demand and capacity for local enterprise to take on academic IP.
Midlands Innovation’s Commercialisation of Research Accelerator(MICRA) is a good example of an opportunity for local companies to take part in making our world-class research commercial and help to bring in new funding streams.
The IPO will be offering training on IP and knowledge exchange towards the end of this year. By providing the right resources and focusing on best practices we can encourage and facilitate better collaboration between the research sector and business.
Resources from the IPO
1. IP for Business from the IPO is a range of online tools designed to help you understand, identify, protect and exploit your IP assets to their fullest potential. Whether you’re a complete novice or looking to brush up on existing skills, we have the right tool for you.
2. IP for universities includes resources to help students and early career researchers develop IP knowledge and skills to navigate the knowledge exchange and commercialisation environment. You can also find guidance that helps university management set IP strategies that maximise impact of the intellectual assets developed at their institution and the Lambert Toolkit-a set of model agreements and guide for university to business research collaboration
(Author: Ben Kirsch, West Midlands Policy Advisor – Intellectual Property Office / Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP).