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Ideas matter: more training in intellectual property needed to secure economic fruits of research

According to an article published on Science|Business, leading entrepreneurs working to commercialise publicly-funded university research point to a lack of understanding of how IP should be shaped and protected to ensure commercial success.
More training in the generation, management and protection of intellectual property (IP) is needed to protect and nurture Europe’s investment in university start-ups, and deliver on their potential to create jobs and boost economic growth, according to a survey of some of Europe’s leading entrepreneurs.

Almost three quarters of those questioned said IP is playing a significant role in the growth of their companies, attracting investment, protecting against competitors, making them stand out from the crowd and increasing credibility.

However, protecting IP is both expensive and laborious, and more than half of respondents said they were unprepared to deal with the complexities of IP at the point they started their companies.

Given this experience, 71 per cent of respondents said there is a need for more IP training for would-be entrepreneurs and graduate students.

The survey, on ‘The role of IP in Europe’s Technology Start-ups’, was carried out by Science|Business in collaboration with Ideas Matter, a consortium of companies and trade bodies that exists to promote awareness of the importance of innovation and the role that IP plays in  fostering it. As finalists in the Science|Business Academic Enterprise (ACES) awards for university start-ups, the entrepreneurs who took part in the survey represent some of Europe’s leading lights in translating and commercialising publicly-funded research.

Science|Business brought together MEPs, EU officials involved with entrepreneurship programs, IP specialists and research funders with some of the ACES winners, to preview this research and highlight the importance of ensuring IP is a prominent part of the mix in entrepreneurship and training for SMEs.

In short, to promote successful university spin-outs there needs to be better IP training. “IP helps innovation and creativity,” said Thomas Tindermans, Managing Director, Ideas Matter. “Once you understand the importance of IP you need to know how to deal with it,” he told the meeting.

A complex issue for academics and SMEs

Innovative SMEs represent one of the chief routes to get Europe back on a growth path, said Danuta Hübner, MEP. Amongst all policy initiatives the European Commission is putting in place to support small companies IP “presents one the most important challenges,” she said.

Maria Da Graca Carvalho MEP agreed, saying “IP is really a very complex issue for academics and SMEs. “The more you discuss it, the more complex it seems.” Carvalho believes that currently there is not enough training for researchers on this critical subject. “We should keep in mind, we need intellectual property to extract the value from research; scientists need to know about IP, to blend that research with commercial objectives,” she said.

One difficulty in attempting to increase the level of IP training is the shortage of IP specialists. “There are very few degrees in areas related to IP and the knowledge doesn’t flow,” Carvalho noted. “I want to see schools and universities spreading knowledge and teaching about IP.”

The question of how SMEs can be helped with innovation has been at the centre of recent debates in the European Parliament, noted Salvador Sedó i Alabart MEP. One significant advance is the creation of the single European patent. “This is something that will help SMEs,” Sedó said.

Massimo Corsi, European Parliament expert at the European Patent Office agreed with this assessment. Although the fee for registering a single patent is yet to be set, Corsi said, “I really think it will bring down costs.” SMEs will be particularly helped by the new language regime for the unitary patent where in the future no translation will be required. SMEs will also benefit from a compensation scheme to reduce the translations costs in the transition period during which one translation will still be necessary, Corsi said.

Read more on Science|Business


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