Going Green Calls For Collaborative Innovation

Every year a spike of innovation marked by an increase in patent filings happens in one or more of the several industry segments and creates a buzz grabbing everyone’s attention. This year one that comes to attention instantly is going green. The global initiative on battling climate change has gathered tremendous momentum this year as compared to the past and combines with several other environmental issues faced globally such as depleting mineral energy resources and waste the emphasis on innovation to work towards environmentally friendly technology and sustainable businesses has reached a new level.

A recent news article on Green Energy Reporter  said:

The United States Patent and Trademark Office granted some 271 clean energy patents during the third quarter of 2009, which is the highest amount of approved patents in a single quarter, according to the latest Clean Energy Patent Growth Index (CEPGI) compiled by law firm Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti.

While companies across the globe are stepping up their research and development efforts to step up discoveries of greener energy sources, finding solutions to the issues we face is not just restricted to energy. CleanTechnica.com published a great article on how leading footwear manufacturer Nike has been using innovation and collaboration to develop footwear and apparels out of sustainable and recyclable material while making it financially viable for production as soon as possible. An extract quoted Nike in that article said:

From Nike: The long-term vision for Considered is to design products that are fully closed loop: produced using the fewest possible materials, designed for easy disassembly while allowing them to be recycled into new product or safely returned to nature at the end of their life. By 2011, 100 percent of footwear will meet baseline Considered standards, apparel by 2015 and equipment by 2020 – creating better performing products while minimizing environmental impact by reducing waste, using environmentally preferred materials and eliminate toxins.

Organizations have set themselves very tight deadlines and understand they are working against time when it comes to “going green”. That means the research and development organizations have to step up the innovation, look for ways to tap ideas from universities and external teams (Open Innovation) and move quicker. Researching internal generated IP and external IP is a key information driver for Open Innovation.

How you organize all the researched information is as important as conducting the research since you can quickly hit information overload. Having the right Intellectual Property Knowledge Management system is important for a better organized, more efficient process. Being better organized involves improving workflows and  improving management and communication of analyzed information to the decision maker in minimum time. Well managed patent data can help tremendously in the research process, understanding what competitors are doing, finding collaborators working in a similar direction, acquiring technology needed to speed up the process and more. You can then make internal workflows quicker and efficient and easily share data involved in the innovation process both within departments across the organization and outside with partners or third parties involved.

The race against time to develop greener alternatives to the way we function today will require the best minds to come together in a quest for solutions and thereby compel companies to come together, work collaboratively, share information and innovate.  That calls for organizations to be more open about IP research and have systems that can scale to support research happening locally and externally.

Patent Insights – Guiding The Way For Open Innovation

Patents have been associated with protecting products and research from competition and others in the field who may benefit directly from your IP. It was for the longest time linked to keeping the competition away and not for colluding with them but that view has expanded. Today, collaboration is increasingly becoming the preferred path to innovation for many companies. As R&D teams seek external teams to collaborate in ongoing research, patents are key to protecting new IP and advancing collaborative innovation.

For instance, Pharamalicensing.com which aids open innovation in the life sciences stream carried the following post for a licensing partner:

“US based researchers are seeking licensing partners for the further development of their antigen which is currently being tested for the treatment of ovarian cancer.

Full description

Our US based clients are developing an antigen intended for the treatment of ovarian cancer by DC vaccine production. The antigen which is currently in preparation for Phase I trials can be used in any type of technology platform (e.g. recombinant vectors, liposomes, gene therapy). The antigen may be used for the creation of a therapeutic vaccine.”

Whether it’s licensing certain components or partnering to develop something completely new, the joint approach makes business sense in a number of situations and it’s not just restricted to pharma. Out-licensing and In-licensing are no longer the only approaches to open-innovation. Crowdsourcing is a relatively new trend which involves companies announcing their R&D needs as problems or challenges and offering a reward anyone who can solve them. Examples of online services that coordinate such needs are innocentive.com andtekscout.com.

Bigger companies with large patent portfolio are going a step ahead by forgoing short term licensing benefits and opening up access to their patent portfolios in hope of increasing the market size of the end products and thereby benefiting all parties. A recent article onChinaIPMagazine covering IBMs successful IP strategy made a similar point when they said:

“Mr. Saber also said, “IBM has also been a leader in supporting open source and collaborative innovation, IBM has pledged hundreds of patents in support of open source, healthcare and education initiatives.  In July 2007, IBM also announced granting access to its entire patent portfolio of 40,000 patents in support of more than 150 standards designed to make software interoperable under certain conditions.  This is a prime example of using our IP assets for the collective good.

In summary, IBM’s IP Law department has been leading the discussion worldwide in shaping the IP community’s thinking about the business value of patents and by demonstrating that patents needn’t be a blunt instrument of litigation, but an effective tool for supporting and encouraging collaboration, open standards and innovation.”

So how can you leverage IP to guide your R&D collaboration strategy ? Studying IP portfolios of other companies in the area of research and further analyzing such patent data in context of the market intelligence can be instrumental in not just deciding whether to pursue a collaborative approach for any project but also in bringing about the right partnerships. So, once the right set of patents within the area of interest have been identified, they can be analyzed in sets and compared to reveal who the best options to license from might be, who are the innovators with the right amount of experience for a particular initiative, which companies may be keen on collaborating within the space and which are the other areas of research which may inter-twine and help increase the company IP portfolio value. These answers can help develop new products faster, get them out to market quicker or facilitate building newer IP to complement an existing portfolio.

Such processes usually require speeding up the task of patent analysis and companies soon realize that the “Search > Narrow-down > Read” approach may not work when scouting for collaborators or licensees. Analysis solutions as a result have become a necessary tool in helping companies quickly quantify research and come up with critical insights that also serves to give them an edge when negotiating a partnership deal with external partners .

As, more and more companies across the board come to a juncture where they have to decide between a completely proprietary path or go the collaborative way on a certain initiative, IP analyses and insights will go a long way in driving the right partnerships and paving the road to collaborative innovation.