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.

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.

  • The Global Good Fund and GE have signed a licensing agreement with the diagnostics technology company Access Bio to manufacture and distribute innovative diagnostic technologies for asymptomatic malaria. The agreement covers rapid diagnostic tests, along with serology tests that assess past exposure of a population to malaria. These technologies for malaria detection were co-developed by a team of scientists and engineers at GE’s Global Research Center and Global Good. GE Ventures, a GE entity dedicated to accelerating innovation and growth with partners, drove the commercialization model for the technology and the licensing agreement between GE, Global Good and Access Bio. The collaboration is expected to help global health workers to more rapidly identify asymptomatic malaria in low-resource regions around the world. Identifying these low-level infections is considered critical to directing efforts towards malaria elimination. Global Good is an initiative of Intellectual Ventures and Bill Gates.

  • This short piece by Nick Rousseau of the organization Unconventional Connections, posted on the Global Innovation Index website, describes the challenges for SMEs of partnering to innovate and scale, and presents ideas for successfully managing such challenges. Suggestions include putting in place clear and agreed IP sharing agreements, being open on both sides about objectives of the collaboration, and working to build and maintain trust over time despite potential cultural differences. Dr Rousseau explores these and other approaches in more detail, noting that they are discussed further in the 2015 WEF report "Transforming Business, Driving Growth" which is cited in Chapter 8 of the 2017 Global Innovation Index. 

     

  • This article by Shai Jalfin for IP Watchdog discusses IP management in relation to blockchain, the technology underlying bitcoin that provides a secure public ledger of digital financial transactions.  Mr Jalfin reviews the state of patenting in relation to blockchain, which at this time is concentrated around security measures like encryption, and the likely co-existence of open source and proprietary approaches as the technology evolves, among other issues. 

  • This GE Report presents the importance of - and challenges related to - building local expertise for the maintenance of health technology solutions, so they are less likely to sit unused in a hospital corridor. The article focuses on the experience of Phil Camillocci volunteering for Engineering World Health in Cambodia. 

  • A team of scientists at Temple University and the University of Pittsburgh have succeeded in removing the HIV virus from the DNA in mouse cells using CRISPR/Cas9 technology. The team is the first to demonstrate that HIV-1 replication can be stopped and the virus totally eliminated from infected cells in animals by using this powerful gene editing technology. The study (published in Molecular Therapy) marks a major step forward in the pursuit of a permanent cure for HIV infection. According to one of the scientists involved, the next stage would be to repeat the study in primates, a more suitable animal model, with the eventual goal being a clinical trial in human patients.

  • In this New York Times article Stephanie Strom discusses efforts to use food products like mushrooms, kelp, milk, and tomato peels to create packaging for food in order to replace non-biodegradable materials like plastics. Although food-based packaging can raise certain concerns - for instance, undermining food security if food is diverted to make packaging materials rather than feed people - and can be challenging to develop and use cost-effectively, big and small players continue to pursue R&D in this area. Nestle and Danone have announced efforts to develop wood-based bottles for beverages, and Italian researchers have developed a product made of tomato skins called "Biocopac Plus" that could be used to replace linings containing BPA in canned foods. Ms. Strom notes that the EU, which has funded efforts to develop coatings from whey and potato proteins, estimates that the global market for so-called bioplastics is growing by as much as 30 per cent each year.

  • In this article for WIPO magazine, Corey Salsburg of Novartis provides an inside perspective on the process of developing and deploying new offerings in the pharmaceutical sector. In addition to the notion that most innovation results from an "aha" moment, he addresses current topics in the IP and health discussions including, for instance, whether incremental innovation adds value and thus should be patentable, and the rise of collaboration including with actors from different fields of technology. 

  • The Cooperation and Development Center, or "CoDev", at EPFL in Lausanne is offering a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Technology Innovation for Sustainable Development. The course presents methodologies and approaches for developing impactful technology solutions that can foster sustainable development and improve lives, in emerging countries in particular. The course focuses on all aspects of the innovative process, from concept to commercialization and deployment. It encourages entrepreneurship and co-design together with relevant stakeholders, including especially the expected users of the solution. The course begins May 1. 

  • In this IAM blog, Jacob Schindler describes the pro-IP position of the leadership of Smartron, a Hyderabad-based startup. The company expects that its IP management activities will give it an edge over its domestic rivals in the IoT and smartphone industries. For instance, Smartron has negotiated a royalty-bearing license with Qualcomm, which will allow Smartron to develop and sell WCDMA, CDMA2000 and 4G/LTE devices, in addition to providing a foundation for technology collaboration among the two firms. Smartron's VP for sales and marketing Amit Boni said of this deal: “We are the only Indian technology company that has a patent licensing deal with Qualcomm ... we are going to access to some of the early technology coming out of Qualcomm. We will get access to the labs and we are setting up some of the stuff”. As for its own filings, Smartron's 50 patents relate mostly to the areas of robotics, AI, and IoT. 

  • As reported by DEMO Africa, earlier this year, IBM launched a $70 million training program aimed at upgrading the digital skills of 25 million youth across Africa over the next five years. Operated out of IBM's offices in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, and Egypt, the program is part of the company's global initiatives aimed at developing skills for "new collar" jobs (the IBM term for the new kinds of careers that do not necessarily require a four-year college degree but rather skills in areas like data science, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and cloud). The training, which is administered through a free, cloud-based online learning environment, provides programs from basic IT literacy skills to advanced IT skills such as privacy and cyber protection. Based on Watson, the cognitive online learning system adapts and learns, interacting with users in order to tailor coursework to their needs and abilities. 

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.


  • In 2009 WIPO membership requested that the organization establish platforms to enhance access to technical information for innovators in developing countries. Three years later, WIPO began establishing Technology and Innovation Support Centers (TISC) in order to help such innovators to more effectively access and use technical information, manage their IP rights, and exploit their innovative potential. Today there are 519 TISC worldwide. The TISC network provides opportunities for innovators to share experiences and also to engage with IP experts online, via "Ask the Experts" chats; ideally, the transcripts of these discussions will eventually be posted online so that the general public can benefit. Recently WIPO published information about the achievements of the TISC program in a TISC Annual Report that covers activities since 2009, with special emphasis on achievements during 2016. The TISC program will soon expand to India, where the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) and World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) have signed an agreement to establish Technology and Innovation Support Centres (TISC) in India

  • To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA), the WTO has organized an ITA Symposium in Geneva featuring speakers, panel discussions, and presentation of new research inluding a new paper from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) in Washington, D.C. that describes the benefits that would accrue to six develpoing countries were they to join the ITA. Building on an earlier (2012) ITIF paper on the same topic, the 2017 ITIF paper is written by Dr. Stephen Ezell and Dr.  Wu. The authors argue  that tariff liberalization under the ITA would spur increased use of ICT goods, which in turn would generate important productivity and economic growth while deepening enterprises’ participation in global value chains. Their analysis looks in particular at the impact of joining ITA (and ITA2) on Argentina, Cambodia, Chile, Kenya, Pakistan, and South Africa. Dr. Ezell and Dr. Wu conclude that joining these agreements would boost economic growth for each of these countries, and that tax revenues from new economic growth following accession would largely offset income loss from tariff elimination.

  • WIPO has released the strategic plan for the next five years for WIPO Re:Search, an initiative launched in 2011 to accelerate the development of diagnostics and treatments for neglected diseases, along with TB and malaria. WIPO Re:Search, which is implemented in partnership with BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH) in the United States, promotes innovation collaborations, knowledge and IP exchange, and capacity-building for researchers in developing countries. The new plan builds on earlier successes, for instance in relation to scientist training, while introducing a more targeted approach to building partnerships, focused on priority disease areas and targeted at efforts most likely to result in the development of new offerings. It also proposes new activities, such as the provision of support to improve IP management by research institutions in developing countries.

  • Now that the Supreme Court has issued its decision in the case of Sandoz v. Amgen, relating to certain aspects of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009, IP Watchdog has posted a series of reactions to the ruling. The posting first summarizes the outcome of the case then provides insights from experts in the industry as to its implications. 

  • In a paper prepared for the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Patents, law professors Pamela Andanda of South Africa and Andrew Christie from Australia consider constraints faced by developing countries and least developed countries seeking to enact IP rules that advance domestic policy objectives while also being compliant with international treaty obligations. The authors examine administrative and legal challenges, along with challenges related to lack of technical and manufacturing capacity that cannot be solved by setting aside patent rights. Having determined, based on their review, that "no meaningful empirical studies have been published to date that would allow credible conclusions to be drawn about the impact of constraints to the full use of patent flexibilities on access to affordable and especially essential medicines in developing countries and LDCs", the authors call for more work to be done in this area.

     

     

     
  • A group of public and private organizations has just released the results of the South African National Survey of IP Management and Technology Transfer at Publicly Funded Research Institutions, which relates to the years 2008 - 2014. The survey is one instrument the government is using to assess the performance of the South African National Innovation System. Following the 2009 IPR Act, which provided a unified framework for IP management and tech transfer of publicly funded research outcomes, NIPMO and partners continue to work to enhance the effectiveness of TTOs within the network of universities and public research institutes. The ultimate goal is to support the transformation of public research into offerings that improve the lives of South African citizens, while fostering public-private research collaborations and building absorptive capacity.  

  • The US Supreme Court has ruled in the Lexmark case (Impression Products, Inc. vs Lexmark International, Inc.) that the sale of a patented product exhausts all patent rights, domestically as well as internationally. This case is of particular relevance for innovators seeking to use patent laws to manage competition in secondary markets for patented offerings. Here is an overview of the ruling from IP Watchdog. 

  • For the first time, on May 19 - 20, 2017, the health ministers of the G20 countries met, under the G20 leadership of Germany. They agreed the Berlin Declaration, entitled "Together Today for a Healthy Tomorrow", which underscores the need for concerted action to address pressing global health challenges such as epidemics and anti-microbial resistance (AMR). The Declaration underlines the ministers' commitment to strengthening health systems, ensuring global support for WHO, fostering R&D preparedness including through new partnerships and approaches, improving health outcomes in difficult contexts such as conflicts, and providing leadership in ensuring the global health community can respond quickly and effectively to health crises.

  • The University of Minnesota Law School and the University of Geneva Law School will jointly sponsor a conference on June 15 in honor of Pedro Roffe, a longstanding and distinguished member of the Geneva IP and development community. IP Watch has posted a "save the date" announcement for this event, which will take place at the University of Geneva.   

  • Farhad Manjoo has published an interesting piece in the New York Times about the impact of public versus private research spending, against a backdrop of likely cuts in US Government spending on scientific research under the current administration. He observes that, in the US context, it is technology giants rather than the Government that are investing in the research that will drive advancement in critical areas, notably AI. Unless the government vastly increases its own research investments in such technologies, he warns that it will be up to the private companies to decide how to deploy them. He notes that companies like Google are spending billions to develop AI solutions and to apply them across the economy to improve delivery of key services like transport and public health. And, according to annual reports, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft are on track to collectively spend more than USD 60b this year on R&D, compared to the 2015 US Government research budget of USD 67b (for all nondefense-related scientific research). 

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.


  • 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.

  • Together with the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Colombia to the United Nations in Geneva, Innovation Insights will host a roundtable discussion on June 1 about best practices in connecting research institutes with local industry. At this event, speakers will discuss several case studies from Colombia including that of the Medellin-based research institute ICIPC, which has engaged in successful collaboration and technology transfer with the private sector throughout Colombia. Speakers will identify the policies, promoted by the national entity COLCIENCIAS, that have enabled such collaboration to thrive, and they will discuss the role of IP management as well. All are invited to attend.

  • In this piece, Juan Guardado of the Grameen Foundation argues that despite Africa’s leading role in the mobile revolution, smallholder farmers have yet to fundamentally benefit from digital technologies that could bring them unprecedented access to financial services, agricultural information, and market opportunities. The author explains that while access to finance is crucial for smallholder farmers, such services are difficult and expensive to obtain and are rarely designed to meet farmers' needs. Digital solutions are an important alternative and can reach people in remote areas, delivering valuable information and services, and allowing two-way communication. A project like Airtel Weza, a secure and transparent mobile wallet for savings groups in Uganda, is one example of how digital innovation can benefit and empower smallholder farmers.