In addition to the commercial exploitation objective, the ambition of the promotion and innovation department is to strengthen research’s contribution to society and the link with businesses and the economic world.
To do this, it supports the exploitation of research results, which up until now focused on the protection and transfer of patents or the sale of knowledge and expertise, and its transition to a much broader approach, eager to optimise the impact of research on society, and revolving around openness and co-creation more so than transfer exclusively.
The IRD’s seed fund, set up in 2016, was complemented this year by an “innovation” component with a view to giving the Institute the means to help researchers develop innovations or high-impact and sustainable societal applications, by facilitating co-creation, improving professionalism and the visibility of the products and services developed.
The objective, through financial support granted to the project initiator, is to back research exploitation projects from a very early stage with a partner, notably in the Global South. This fund also contributes to setting up projects.
The objective is to provide a “leverage effect”, ensuring that projects run by the Institute stand a better chance of accessing larger funding amounts, and enabling effective implementation at the right level, with the initial leverage effects already apparent in 2018.
The main strategic thrust is to move away from the 100% patent-oriented approach, which, more often than not, is unsuitable for southern contexts and too costly, and, commit to research collaboration agreements with private or public partners, while applying the Sustainability Science concept supported by IRD by collectively bringing forth, within the territories, innovative research solutions with a heavy impact on society, involving users and beneficiaries of research results from a very early stage.
IRD’s strength in terms of exploitation of research results to benefit the Global South lies in its network of representatives, the extensive presence of its researchers on the ground and their proximity to their partners. IRD researchers therefore form a network of sensors and transmitters who, when effectively implemented, provide far more technology transfer opportunities than middle market models.
IRD’s new intellectual property strategy is intended to mobilise these resources and involve the innovation ecosystems of Global South partners to a greater extent.
With this new strategy, IRD wishes to facilitate access to data and the sharing of resources with its partners from the Global South. The integration of local knowledge in the state of the art describing an invention is also key to this new strategy: IRD plans to encourage researchers to factor indigenous intellectual property in their research results, while keeping open the possibility of formalising an invention, in the form of a patent or otherwise. To do this, IRD intends to deploy protection tools making it possible to recognise the importance of indigenous intellectual property in innovation processes, ensure co-ownership of the invention for the bearers of this property, while preserving effective protection and market opportunities. IRD should be able to innovate in this domain to better fulfil its missions.
These major guidelines will help overcome challenges posed by the complexity of commercial exploitation activities in an Institute that uses IP tools, where appropriate, and wishes to adapt them to the requirements of an equitable scientific partnership with developing countries.
The operational implementation of this new intellectual property strategy will be underpinned by the recommendations of several working groups organised around major issues such as the digital economy, free access to data, the implementation of the Nagoya protocol, and the various scientific fields of IRD.