Issues

Innovation insights is a partner for stakeholders working to promote technological advancement.  Below we provide information about issues related to technology innovation and dissemination, drawing on our members’ collective experiences as well as insights from other sources.  Click on each title to view the full list of resources related to that topic. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly updates »

The business of innovation

The technology landscape is constantly evolving, with knowledge flowing in many directions every day.  The private sector accounts for an estimated two-thirds of global R&D spend, and commercial channels are central to technology diffusion.  Below we post resources about trends in innovation across sectors, emerging technology solutions, business models and their evolution, challenges faced by innovators, and other factors that affect the development and commercialization of new solutions.

  • As reported by Bloomberg, Shin Sakane, a Japanese inventor with Seven Dreamers Laboratories, is working on commercialization of a robot called the "Laundroid" that washes, dries, de-wrinkles, and folds clothes. This patented solution, which combines technology from Panasonic with technologies developed at Seven Dreamers Labs, is slated to hit the market in spring 2017. Competitors in California are developing similar offerings. A tough challenge in regard to these offerings is development of an efficient robotic folding process - and getting the price point right. 

  • As described in this article from the New York Times, a Swedish Professor and researcher on innovation at Lund University, Dr. Samuel West, has recently led efforts to establish a Museum of Failure, a new museum that will open in Sweden in June 2017. This museum will showcase failures in the world of innovation. Funding for the project came from Vinnova, a Swedish innovation agency. “All the literature is obsessively focused on success, but 80 to 90 per cent of innovations actually fail,” he said. “Why don’t these failures get the attention they actually deserve?” The collection includes, among other inventions, Google Glass, Bic pens for women, and the Segway. 

  • The Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) in Geneva has announced a new licence and technology transfer agreement with the Egyptian company Pharco Pharmaceuticals for ravidasvir, a promising treatment for hepatitis C, a condition affecting approximately 71 million people globally.  This license is expected to enable the supply of ravidasvir in low and middle income countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Egypt and Iran, all of which have high prevalence of hepatitis C. The MPP agreement expands the geographic scope of a licence signed in 2015 by Presidio, the original developer of ravidasvir, and DNDi.

  • The European Investment Bank (EIB) has signed two new credit lines for East Africa, according to DEMO Africa, providing a total of 95m euro to support entrepreneurs and local projects in Kenya, Tanzania, DRC and Uganda. This new funding is meant to support poverty alleviation and job creation. In the past seven years, the EIB has provided 321m euro in credit lines for Kenyan businesses, benefitting nearly 800 Kenyan companies and creating over 9,000 new jobs in agriculture, education, transport, tourism, trade and other sectors. EIB Vice President Pim van Ballekom, who is responsible for operations in East Africa, said "The EIB is committed to supporting Kenyan Banks in providing credit to the young and growing population in the region. [This population has] enormous potential, you need credit to support that momentum". 

  • This article from GE Reports presents a product called Vantablack which is a special coating made from millions of carbon nanotubes. Vantablack, which was invented by British researchers at the company Surrey NanoSystems in 2014, is the darkest material ever produced in a lab, capable of absorbing 99.96 per cent of ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light. Apparently no spectrometer in the world is powerful enough to measure how much light it absorbs. It has now been modified so that it can be sprayed on objects - a change that results in it blocking 99.8 rather than 99.96 per cent of ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light. As shown in the photos accompanying the article, this is nonetheless enough to make three-dimensional objects sprayed with Vantablack appear two-dimensional. The article identifies possible military and other applications for this new material.  

  • This piece for VentureBeat by Hagai Tal centers on the potentially negative impact of Chinese investments abroad on innovation in high tech sectors. The author, who is the CEO of Taptica and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, expects that once current restrictions on capital outflows are loosened, perhaps as soon as summer 2017, this will mean more deals centered on revenue, moving us away from the current market driven by investors seeking disruption. He warns that, while there are positive aspects of the Chinese emphasis on revenue, it could ultimately result in missed business successes, missed strategic growth opportunities, and less innovation. He observes that "China has an opportunity to lead the global technology industry, but if that leadership is going to be sustainable, Chinese investors will have to start investing in ideas that promise to change the world".

  • In this interview with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, published by Fast Company, she offers her thoughts on topics including innovation in Paris, Brexit, and climate change. She introduces Station F, a 34,000 sq. meter converted railway depot that will be the biggest incubator in the world, hosting as many as 1,000 startups. Station F, which is located in the 13th arrondissement, is slated to open in April 2017. Each year, 1,500 startups launch in Paris and the city already has 60 incubators along with 15 additional ones planned. Citing certain of her ongoing efforts to address climate change, Mayor Hidalgo expresses the hope that Station F startups will apply digital technologies to advance climate change objectives and that Paris will become home to green, ecological finance. 

  • The Innovation Forum Lausanne, with the mission of fostering future scientist-entrepreneurs, will be co-hosting a conference about virtual and augmented realities. This event, which will be held on April 3 at EPFL in Renens, will feature lectures, roundtable discussions, and exhibition booths, with academics, start-ups, multinationals and graduate students in attendance. The other co-host is Virtual Switzerland, which is a Swiss "National Thematic Network" sponsored by the federal government and focused on Virtual Environments Interaction and Simulation, with the aim of motivating new start-ups, SMEs, and established players to advance their innovative projects.

  • The Essential Future Global Public Survey was conducted by PSB in order to: (a) understand appreciation for the elements that drive innovation and that have built the advanced technological world we live in; (b) gauge excitement and anticipation of expected future innovations and uncover the conditions necessary to enable the 5G connected world; and (c) evaluate the role that governments, companies, and other institutions play in facilitating and regulating technological innovations. PSB surveyed more than 7300 general population elites in government, business, and capital cities, in 12 countries. The survey, which was commissioned by Qualcomm, is available online together with articles, infographics, and other resources on 5G, internet of things, and wireless technology

  • At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year, GE Digital, Nokia, and Qualcomm presented their successful demonstration of a private LTE network for the industrial Internet of Things (IoT) market, which integrated their respective platforms and technologies. A stand-alone LTE network could be relied upon to improve performance in situations where connectivity is lacking because industrial processes are remote or even underground, for instance offshore oil platforms or mining operations. The companies will conduct further live field trials deing 2017, in view of advancing the digitization of industrial processes. Plans include the installation of a private LTE network at GE Digital's headquarters in San Ramon, California, which GE will use to further develop its Predix platform, an open-architecture operating system for the industrial internet. 

Innovation policies and ecosystems

Policy-makers are faced with the task of translating a wealth of information about innovation, trade, global supply chains, trends in technology, and other factors into laws and regulations. Below we provide business perspectives on what governments can do to support entrepreneurship, attract foreign technology partners, facilitate technology deployment and the diffusion of know-how, and reinforce domestic innovative capacity.


  • With enactment of the Defend Trade Secrets Act in 2016, the United States modernized its trade secrets protection regime. Notably, the DTSA created a private civil cause of action for trade secrets misappropriation at the federal level. In the run-up to passage of the DTSA, Professors David S. Levine and Sharon K. Sandeen wrote about concerns that the DTSA would give rise to “trade secret trolls” whose activities could undermine the structures of trade secrets laws and cause problems and costs for innovators. James Pooley, among other commentators, pushed back on this notion. Mr Pooley published an article asserting there was absolutely no risk of unleashing “trade secret trolls”, at the same time rebutting other arguments tabled by a group of academics opposing the DTSA (related to seizure provisions, injunctive relief, and employee mobility). As the DTSA is now in place, in the US context these articles have been overtaken by events; nonetheless the arguments therein may be relevant to future trade secrets initiatives elsewhere in the world and thus may be interesting to revisit.  

  • The 4iP Council has just published this infographic about patent quality in Europe based on data from Germany. On behalf of leading innovators in Europe, the 4iP Council works with academics, policy makers, and regulators to facilitate a deeper understanding of the invention process, technology investment decision-making, and the enabling role of IP rights in innovation. Several 2017 articles regarding patent quality in Europe are posted on the website of the 4iP Council, which has a robust research IPR-related agenda in the pipeline. 

  • Fifty-five civil society groups have sent a letter to WIPO to mark World IP Day, according to a press release by the Property Rights Alliance. The letter notes that World IP Day provides an opportunity to celebrate innovation and reinvention, and to consider how best to ensure the tools that underpin them can remain available globally. The groups signing the letter urge WIPO to: review how IP systems can enhance economic development and access to new products; work with countries to enhance their IP regimes; and support IPRs as property rights that enhance human growth and development.

     
  • This April 2017 WIPO magazine article provides insights from the ground about the positive outcome of a 2011 - 2013 WIPO CDIP project carried out in Zambia (as well as in Bangladesh and Nepal). The WIPO membership was provided an evaluation of this CDIP project on capacity building to promote the use of appropriate technology solutions in LDCs after Phase I finished in 2013. In Zambia, water management was identified as one of the focal areas for the project, which focused on building Zambian capacity to use patent data to identify promising technology solutions that could meet local needs. As described in the article, villagers in Zambia were better able to capture and store rain water as a result of the project.  

  • WIPO has a dedicated Facebook page for World IP Day, the theme of which this year is "Innovation improving lives". To mark the day, WIPO will host an exhibit of innovators in the atrium of the new building. For additional inspiration about how innovation can change and improve lives in Switzerland, where WIPO is located, take a look at the top 100 Swiss startups from 2016 (the 2017 winners will be selected in Septemer 2017). The list includes companies like Mindmaze, which works with immersive virtual reality, brain imaging and 3D technology to advance rehabilitation, and Gamaya, which is commercializing a solution to help agricultural producers to optimize their use of inputs. 

  • In "Patent Tigers: The New Geography of Global Innovation", Professor Jonathan Barnett of the USC Gould School of Law describes how the US patent system has supported innovation and rapid economic advancement in Israel, South Korea, and Taiwan. Drawing on USPTO data covering all utility patents issued to US and foreign inventors (a total of 6,122,217 patents issued to inventors resident in 188 countries and territories) between 1965 and 2015, along with additional data sources, he determines that these countries are the most intensive foreign users of the US patent system on a per capita as well as per GDP basis. Professor Barnett argues that patents can promote entry into technology markets by economies that are rich in intellectual and human capital but with small domestic markets in which to extract returns on that capital. For those countries, the patent system (or at least the US patent system) can be a particularly important contributor to development.

  • In this op-ed piece in the New York Times, Heraldo Muñoz, the Foreign Minister of Chile, confirms Chile's commitment to trade opening following a meeting of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Parties, together with South Korea, China, and Colombia, in Viña del Mar, Chile. He credits trade with helping to reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth in Chile in recent decades. Despite recent political setbacks and growing populism and protectionism around the world, Minister Muñoz says the countries of the "Pacific Alliance" (Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Peru) will nonetheless seek to advance regional trade integration and a "pluralistic apporach to trade" along the lines of what was set forth in the TPP. "The 15 Pacific Rim nations in attendance in Chile ... signaled a strong and stable consensus across the Asia Pacific region that open economies, free trade and regional integration represent the way forward for achieving inclusive and progressive development".

  • The Gates Foundation has announced plans to launch "Gates Open Research", a platform to make Gates-funded research available quickly and in a format supporting research integrity, reproducibility, and transparency. This open access model will enable immediate publication followed by open, invited peer review, combined with an open data policy. Gates Foundation funding generates around 2,000–2,500 research articles per year. The Foundation already requires grantees to make their research papers and data "open access" immediately upon publication and to allow their unrestricted reuse. The Foundation will not have editorial oversight over papers published on the Gates Open Research platform, which is expected to launch during the third quarter of 2017.

  • The WIPO website contains a useful primer on trade secrets setting out basic information about the definition of a trade secret, management of undisclosed information, and international instruments that provide for the protection of undisclosed information. The page also contains a link to WIPO Lex which includes information on national laws providing for the protection of undisclosed information. 

  • In this recent piece for the Geneva Network, "Patent Linkage - its Promise and Potential", IP and technology analyst Jack Ellis describes how linking regulatory approval for generic medicines to the patent status of the originator product can enhance certainty for generic and research-based companies alike. Ellis notes the existence in many jurisdictions of patent linkage rules, put in place in order to "promote innovation and investment by giving inventors more certainty over their patent rights, while giving generic manufacturers greater clarity over their freedom to operate in the marketplace". He reviews the case study of Taiwan, and identifies three key features of effective early resolution mechanisms based on patent linkage. 

Technology diffusion: cases

Innovation Insights is committed to policy-making that reflects long-term considerations and that is rooted in evidence and experience. Important lessons can be gleaned from the many transactions and technology activities taking place every day around the world. Case studies can reveal key factors that lead to successful innovation and technology deployment, and can provide necessary context for policy and business choices.


  • The Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property (CPIP) and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) have launched Innovate4Health, a new initiative aimed at raising awareness of the critical role that intellectual property (IP) rights play in spurring the development of innovative solutions to pressing global health challenges. Innovate4Health will generate case studies and other analysis about how IP-driven innovation is helping to address the world’s toughest health challenges. At the launch on April 26, the Innovate4Health website already featured several case studies about healthcare inventions and the IP stories underlying their development. 

  • Qualcomm's Wireless Reach program - with more than 100 projects in nearly fifty countries, on five continents - brings the benefits of wireless technology to underserved communities globally. For instance, the Fisher Friend Mobile Application was developed to help rural fishermen in India, through collaborative work involving Qualcomm, the Government of India, and other partners. This app provides critical information about weather and ocean conditions up to 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) from shore, including disaster alerts, potential fishing zones, and current market prices of fish, in order to help fishermen to improve their catch, safetey, and income. The app has been lauded by the National Council of Applied Economic Research of India, which suggested that a similar solution be developed for Indian farmers. Information about other Wireless Reach projects is available online. 

  • This article by Cathy Jewell, published in the April 2017 edition of WIPO Magazine, describes the evolution of a successful IP management and technology transfer program at Peru's Catholic Pontifical University. Starting in 2004, the CPU developed a framework to support researchers to protect and manage promising research outputs, and to advance the commercialization of them. According to its Director, the CPU IP Office is now working with the government to strengthen the university's ties to the business community and to enhance the capacity of local entrepreneurs. The piece presents a case study about the innovative solution to fight air pollution that was developed by CPU spinoff qAIRa. 

  • This article by Amy Weiss-Meyer in the Atlantic Monthly presents a range of new technologies being developed specifically to help refugees, including tools for family reunification, online platforms with real-time information about conditions in different locations, new approaches to providing internet access, and innovative drone deployment. 

  • This article in the WSJ by Daniel Akst explains how genetically engineered bacteria and a laser-based scanner can be used to detect land mines. Land mines usually contain TNT, which gives off a degradation product called DNT over time. Israeli scientists have developed a version of E. coli that reacts to DNT in soil by producing a green, fluorescent protein which can be excited by a laser (but which cannot be seen with the naked eye). This solution, developed by scientists at Israel's Hebrew University, builds on earlier work by researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in TN in the late 1990s. It is currently being tested. If validated it would be an improvement over current land mine detection methods which, in addition to being slow, often require putting people or animals dangerously close to buried explosives. 

  • This article features a new software solution designed by civil engineer Aline Okello to identify rainwater harvesting solutions and to improve understanding about water management in her country of Mozambique and elsewhere in Africa. For the past year, Okello has been testing her technology among rural communities and farmers in South Africa, primarily around Mbonambi, KwaZulu-Natal. Okello, who is a fellow at the UNESCO Institute for Water Education, has been shortlisted for the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize 2017.

  • Girl Effect and Gavi joined forces to fight cervical cancer in the developing world. This USD 10 million partnership aims to address the negative social norms that prevent girls from accessing the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which provides protection against cervical cancer in 70% of cases. As part of the commitment, Gavi will support countries in purchasing HPV vaccines, and Girl Effect will use its networks to promote the vaccine to girls and their families. Cervical cancer claims the lives of more than 266,000 women each year, 85% of whom live in developing countries. Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America have the highest incidences.

  • This New York Times article briefly presents new research by Michael Brecht and Shimpei Ishiyama of the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Germany. The researchers identified the parts of the brain that are activated when rats are tickled, and evaluated the impact of moods on reactions to tickling. Read the article then watch the video. 

  • Philips and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, have teamed up to develop scalable digital transformation plans to improve the collection of quality immunisation data in primary and community healthcare. The key goal of the partnership will be to leverage innovative health IT solutions alongside Gavi’s extensive experience in scaling up immunisation programmes to identify children who are missing out on vaccines. According to Gavi, 580 million children in the developing world have been given basic vaccines with the organisation’s support since 2000. However, that leaves 19 million children not fully immunised with basic vaccines, and these children can be the hardest to reach. Uganda will be the pilot country for this initiative, the Guardian reports

  • GE Healthcare and PnuVax, a vaccine and biopharmaceutical company, announced that they have reached agreement for PnuVax to acquire GE Healthcare’s intellectual property (IP) relating to an inactivated yellow fever vaccine. Under the terms of the agreement, PnuVax will purchase a GE Healthcare FlexFactory biomanufacturing platform, then the two companies plan to collaborate to optimize the manufacturing process for the new vaccine. The companies expect that the start-to-finish biomanufacturing platform - FlexFactory - will allow localization of yellow fever vaccine production in endemic areas, in addition to providing a platform for manufacturing other similar vaccines to respond to emerging pathogens in the future.