The business of innovationback to issues

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.

  • Innovation in Agriculture: the Netherlands

    National Geographic Magazine has provided a fascinating look at innovation in agriculture in the Netherlands. The author notes that the Netherlands is a small, densely populated country that lacks nearly every resource long thought to be necessary for large-scale agriculture. Despite this, it is the number two exporter of food in the world (measured by value), second only to the United States (with 270 times the land mass). Since 2000, Dutch farmers have reduced their dependence on water for key crops by as much as 90 per cent, while nearly eliminating use of chemical pesticides in plants greenhouses, and cutting use of antibiotics for livestock and poultry by as much as 60 per cent. These outcomes are described in the article as the result of an effort launched in the Netherlands two decades ago to produce “Twice as much food using half as many resources”. The piece describes the beneficial connections between Dutch academic institutions and industry in the agricultural sector, propelling innovation and its application forward, and notes the value generated from global R&D collaborations involving Dutch researchers (with vignettes featuring certain collaborative projects). 

  • Applications of 3D Printing: Transport, Healthcare

    GE has recently published new information about innovative ways that 3D printing is being applied, to improve the environment as well as healthcare delivery. A GE factory is 3D-printing turbine blades for the world's largest jet engine, the GE9X, which will be used in the Boeing 777X. The 3D printing plant has 20 wardrobe-sized printers created by Arcam, each of which can simultaneously print 6 blades made from titanium aluminide, which is a material that is much lighter than most metal alloys used in aviation today. Combined with 3D-printed fuel nozzles, the blades will make the engine 10 per cent more fuel efficient than its predecessor. Separately, at the J&J 3D Printing Center of Excellent, engineers are focused on 3D-printing surgical tools, implants and even "bioprinted" tissue for organs. Doctors can use 3D printing to make bespoke surgical tools. They can also create precisely fitted implants from MRI and CT scans. 

  • Lab-grown Coral Reef

    After decades of accumulating damage, some scientists argue that half the coral reefs that existed in the early 20th century are gone. Coral reefs are particularly sensitive to heat stress and are likely to be among the earliest victims of global warming. However, a group of experts has decided to help the corals survive, New York Times reports. Dr. Cantin, with the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville, conducts his work using high-tech aquarium facility called “sea simulator” with precise, computer-controlled conditions that are designed for long-term coral experiments. His team harvests corals and tests them for resilience in this artificial environment, with conditions mimicing those predicted for the years 2050 and 2100. By picking the corals that most successfully adapt and breeding them together, the goal is to grow future generations of tougher reefs and build an ecosystem capable of surviving global warming. The team in Australia is not the only to try a genetic approach to saving corals – researchers in Florida, Hawaii, and in the Caribbean are joining the efforts too.

  • Impact Hub: Using Data to Address SDGs

    The Geneva Impact Hub has launched a new program to support entrepreneurs to leverage Big Data sets from the United Nations to develop innovative solutions for the SDGs. The program - "Big Data: Techpreneurs for Good" - will make hundreds of data sets from global humanitarian and international development organizations available to private sector actors with the skills, creativity, and business potential to use the data to develop new solutions to pressing public policy challenges. 

  • New Evidence on Licensing by Startups

    This article in Management Decision magazine, by Professors Paola Belingheri and Maria Isabella Leone, reviews licensing practices by startups. The authors consider in particular the use of in-licensing by startups to secure know-how at the start of their activities, looking also at how in-licensed knowledge and technologies are integrated into their internal innovation and strategic IP management processes. 

  • Singapore: New Billion-Dollar Investment Fund for Entrepreneurs

    In this article for the Business Times in Singapore, Claire Huang reports the launch of the "Makara Innovation Fund" (MIF) in Singapore. This is a new S$ 1b fund aimed at supporting promising small and medium-sized domestic companies with defensible IP, strong managerial talent and pan-Asian growth potential. The Fund is the result of a partnership between IP ValueLab (the enterprise-engagement arm of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore) and the Singaporean private equity firm Makara Capital. Focal areas for the Fund will include: urban solutions including logistics and security, Fintech, alternative energy, tech such as AI and cyber-security, and healthcare. Launch of this Fund is consistent with analysis by Singapore's Committee on the Future Economy, which identified innovation, commercialization of breakthroughs, and IP as key drivers of Singapore's economic growth.


  • South Africa: New Group B Strep Vaccine Partnership

    PATH, the Gates Foundation, and Biovac have announced a new partnership to develop a Group B Streptococcus vaccine specifically designed to protect mothers and babies in sub-Saharan countries where the disease is most prevalent. No licensed vaccines currently exist to protect against GBS infection. A GBS vaccine designed specifically for low-resource countries could provide a chance for all babies to get a healthy start in life. It could be given to pregnant mothers who would then pass on the protective antibodies to their babies, ensuring protection at birth and during the first critical months of life from GBS infection, which can kill and disable infected babies. As a result of this project, Biovac, which is a public-private partnership based in Cape Town, will be one of only three companies in the world and the only developing-country vaccine manufacturer to develop a novel conjugate vaccine against GBS. Inventprise, a Seattle-area biotech startup with experience in conjugate vaccine development, will provide initial technical support in order to ensure Biovac is well-positioned to manufacture a vaccine that targets sub-Saharan Africa and potentially other low-income regions of the world.

  • New Wireless Tech: Roads that Charge Electric Vehicles

    This article, by Fred Lambert of Electrek, presents Qualcomm's new technology solution for charging electric vehicles while they are driving on a road. The solution is called the "Qualcomm Halo" wireless electric vehicle charging technology (WEVC). It was recently tested on a special 100km-long track in France, with partners VEDECOM and Renault, and tests will be ongoing. The wireless system is capable of charging an electric vehicle dynamically at up to 20 kilowatts at highway speeds. In the test, Qualcomm Technologies demonstrated simultaneous charging, in which two vehicles on the same track charged dynamically at the same time, while also showing that the vehicles could charge while driving in either direction and in reverse (similar to real-world conditions). The author notes that while in the short term dynamic charging is not expected to be a key feature of the automobile industry's electric charging infrastructure, in the long-term it could be used on parts of highways to increase the on-road time of vehicles. 

  • DNDi IP Policy

    DNDi is a non-profit R&D organization, founded in Geneva in 2003, that works with partners to develop new treatments for neglected diseases. Here is a link to the organization's pragmatic IP Policy, which may be of interest to those following discussions of IP, health innovation, and access to health technologies. DNDi is home to GARDP (the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership), a joint WHO/DNDi initiative launched in 2016 that is focused on the development of new antibiotics for treating sepsis and STIs such as gonorrhoea. An important part of the work of DNDi, and of GARDP, is to ensure the broadest possible access to any products developed; this requires active engagement across the entire innovation value chain, including manufacture and distribution. 

  • India: Patenting in the Medical Devices Sector

    This paper by S. Markan and Y. Verma, from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, provides insights into innovation, patent filings, and business interests (both foreign and indigenous) in the Indian medical device sector. As it considers total filings in India, the analysis sheds light on the relative competitive positions of domestic and foreign innovators in the Indian medical device market. Over the past ten years, a rising number of patent filings in India was observed by the authors, who consider this a positive indicator of increasing IP awareness in the country. They attribute growing use of patents by domestic players, in part, to government programs to support promising health technology entrepreneurs. The authors conclude that there is "an immense potential and opportunity for the medical device sector to innovate across the value chain, to serve Indian and foreign consumers, and unlock the value of the Indian medical device market".