Wednesday 7 December 2011

Darren Olivier

WIPO's report on the Changing Face of Innovation

WIPO recently released its first publication on the state of health of the world IP economy and the changes within it.

Francis Gurry's Forward (copied below) is a very useful summary - the findings of the report make the case for greater investment in IP by governments (RSA's Maclean Sibanda is quoted several times) and service supporting firms. It also has some excellent data on University patenting (eg universities are the highest patent filers in RSA and responsible for 75% of basic R&D spend).

"Innovation is a central driver of economic growth, development and better jobs. It is the key that enables firms to compete in the global marketplace, and the process by which solutions are found to social and economic challenges.

The face of innovation has evolved significantly over the last decades.

First, firms are investing historically unprecedented amounts in the creation of intangible assets – new ideas, technologies, designs, brands, organizational know-how and business models.

Second, innovation-driven growth is no longer the prerogative of high-income countries alone; the technological gap between richer and poorer countries is narrowing. Incremental and more local forms of innovation contribute to economic and social development, on a par with world-class technological inventions.

Third, the act of inventing new products or processes is increasingly international in nature and seen as more collaborative and open.

Fourth, knowledge markets are central within this more fluid innovation process. Policymakers increasingly seek to ensure that knowledge is transferred from science to firms, thereby reinforcing the impact of public research.

Moreover, ideas are being co-developed, exchanged and traded via new platforms and intermediaries. In this new setting, the role of intellectual property (IP) has fundamentally changed. The increased focus on knowledge, the rise of new innovating countries and the desire to protect inventions abroad have prompted a growing demand for IP protection.

IP has moved from being a technical topic within small, specialized communities to playing a central role in firm strategies and innovation policies.

Understanding these innovation trends and the associated role of IP is important in order for public policy to support new growth opportunities. The essential questions to ask are whether the design of the current IP system is fit for this new innovation landscape, and how best to cope with the growing demand to protect and trade ideas. To move beyond polarized debates on IP, more fact-based economic analysis is needed. In addition, it is crucial to translate economic research in the field of IP into accessible policy analysis and messages. "

The report -184 pages of analysis - plots the link and development of IP and productivity in high income countries relative to low and middle income countries, the effects of collaborative innovation, growth rates of technology exports (notably from China) and records that Africa has increased its technological and knowledge share of its GDP. As with most statistic based analysis it will be open to criticism but it's a valuable start.

Darren Olivier

Darren Olivier

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