IP key to low carbon innovation

Posted on 8 Sep 2009 by The Manufacturer

The UK government must ensure existing intellectual property protection arrangements are maintained if this country is to be a leader in the development of low carbon technology, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) maintained today.

Speaking at the CBI’s Climate Change Forum in London, Deputy Director-General John Cridland said the UK risks losing its competitive advantage if government bows to international pressure and agrees to license technology.

“There are worrying signs that the government is preparing to blink on this issue to help the rapid diffusion of low-carbon technologies in developing countries,” he said.

“Any compulsory licensing of these technologies would be counter-productive and damaging in the longer term by reducing the incentive for business to continue innovating. In any case, the growing number of patents from emerging countries shows that the current regime of protection is working. China has 38 per cent of the patents in solar, for example.”

He said collaborations between countries should be encouraged by the World Intellectual Property Organisation instead of mandatory licensing to support developing nations.

Ways to share technology while protecting intellectual property will be one of the leading contentions to be discussed when leaders from across the globe convene in Copenhagen for the United Nation’s 2009 climate change summit in December.

The CBI used its Forum to release a new report – ‘Pulling ahead: innovating for low-carbon leadership’ – which contains recommendations to both government and private businesses about the best ways the UK can lead in a low carbon future.

Cridland said it is important that the UK concentrates on the areas in which it has already fabricated inroads, rather than trying to cover every low carbon angle. He also said work is needed to make the UK’s commercial environment conducive for companies to work here. This includes better access to finance and skills as well as the afore-mentioned intellectual property protection.

And innovation is not simply about discovering new technologies, says Cridland. “It also means individual companies looking for ways to reduce their own emissions and to inspire their employees to achieve this, and it means improving our carbon literacy.”

The CBI’s report recommends government on a number of points including leveraging private capital, tax incentives, public procurement, and investment in training.

For business it advises changing company culture to place low carbon at their core and to include managed risk through creative thinking in order to aid innovation.

The ‘Pulling ahead: innovating for low-carbon leadership’ report is available to read at cbi.org.uk.