Intellectual property vital for growth of UK automotive industry

The nation's car industry must become more educated on intellectual property in order to help it succeed in a tough economic climate – or if Britain leaves the EU, according to a recent House of Commons summit.

Palace of Westminster, Houses of Parliament and Victoria Tower shot from Victoria Tower Gardens, London, UK - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
The summit aimed to encourage collaboration to help businesses harness the benefits of IP – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

Top automotive business leaders, IP institutions, law firms and universities attended the conference this week hosted by the Intellectual Property Awareness Network (IPAN).

April 26 is World IP Day, an official United Nations day which celebrates the fact that so many countries in the UN are now cooperating under World Intellectual Property Organisation’s (WIPO) conventions.

The aim of the summit was to encourage the influential attendees to work together to develop policy and support education that will help British businesses harness the benefits of IP to support innovation in order to stay competitive in a global marketplace.

David Wong is senior tech and innovation manager at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), representing the views of the UK’s £82bn automotive industry.

He commented: “Automotive is often seen as the ‘sunset industry’ but I beg to differ. I see something more exciting and exhilarating than ever before and IP is the fulcrum of this transformation.”

Stephen Lambert is head of automotive electrification at McLaren Applied Technologies, a leader in the power electronic sector contributing nearly £50bn to the UK economy.

He added: “In our world, we face rapid development, we have to fix problems quickly and have an innovative mindset. But IP isn’t in the mindset of an average engineer because filing patents means you lose your competitive advantage. We need to use IP more to retain our innovation culture and protect what we have.”

John Ogier, chair and convenor of the Finance, Business and Economics Group, IPAN, commented: “IP is based on the power of innovative imagination. The world is changing fast and motoring needs to be reimagined for the 21st century alongside the fifth industrial revolution which has seen the introduction of AI and globalisation.”

UK Automotive - The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) set out its priorities to assure the UK automotive industry’s future success - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
The UK automotive industry is worth £82bn to the economy – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

Chris Skidmore, minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation, said: “Britain is a world leader because of IP. It underpins everything we do in the economy itself and is fundamental to this country’s success. We need to provide a smooth and effective IP system regardless of Brexit and we need to be prepared for all eventualities, whatever the outcome.

“IP is not a ‘Cinderella’ subject in government and we need to work together as one single IP community.”

“It is a well-known fact that 80% of a company’s value is in intangible assets such as IP, but unfortunately many British companies aren’t making it part of their business strategy. Instead, they’re only learning about IP when it’s far too late or when it becomes a legal issue,” noted Duncan Clark, director of Academy at Patsnap – an IP business intelligence solutions and open, online training course provider.

“Believe it or not, in countries like China, children of a primary school age learn about business and the importance of intellectual property. In contrast, many university courses don’t even include it as module – so the fact is, British businesses are getting left behind,” Clark continued.

“The key to all this is education. If we can create policy to help British businesses utilise IP in their strategy from the outset, we will have a strong economic advantage over our competitors. This will be particularly useful to the British automotive industry which needs to find a way to stay afloat when Britain leaves the EU.”