If you really want your innovations to change the world, start by making them possible to use. – Results are not worth much if you don´t know who owns them, says FlexiGrid’s IP and exploitation expert Ulrika Wahlström.
In EU-projects as well as in other innovative collaborations, organizations often find themselves in an environment where knowledge is produced together with newfound partners. There are many reasons to be clear right from the start about what you brought into the project and what your intentions are. One obvious reason is to make sure there are no misunderstandings on ownership when that day comes when a partner wants to start using the results.
IP issues that aren’t sorted out at an early stage risk to make results useless if there are uncertainties about who the owner is. Few investors would dare the risk of that kind of uncertainty. Selling it is also not an option. You can’t sell what you don’t own.
Impact is a core value in FlexiGrid
Coordinated by the Swedish company IMCG, Impact Management Consultant Group, putting impact in the core of all their work, FlexiGrid is indeed an impact driven Horizon 2020 project. Thus, in FlexiGrid, intellectual property, or IP, is key. The project therefor works hard establishing a collaboration around IP.
“We have high ambitions to create exploitable results. All project partners must be aware of the potential barriers you may face if you don’t deal with the IP issues at an early stage in the project”, says Ulrika Wahlström.
Successful IP workshop
In one recent project workshop participants were assigned to answer seven basic questions to make sure all are on the same page when it comes to intellectual property rights in the project.
”This workshop really helped clear up my understanding of IP and what it entails. Beforehand, IP looked like something much more distant from Entra Energy’s daily activities and is probably the reason why we didn’t pay it its deserved attention. Afterall my knowledge of IP was very simple and only related to patents which can be very expensive and hard to attain.
Now, we better understand how to professionally handle IP. All of this, once again confirms the importance of working in such multinational and diverse consortiums where partner’s expertise and knowledge are key to successful implementation and exploitation of project results”, says Verzhinia Ivanova, project manager at Bulgarian company Entra Energy, that contributes to the project with helping define business models and requirements as well as supporting the Bulgarian DSO, Energo-Pro, in implementing their demo case.
“Any collaborative innovation project should ask themselves these questions, if they want their results to gain impact and to see the light of day”, says Ulrika Wahlström.
The seven questions that will get your project on the right track in IP issues are:
- Re-read the consortia agreement, where it should be expressed what each part brought into the collaboration.
- Create an IP policy at an early stage with a list of the results you expect from the collaboration, and in EU-projects, what the EU commission expects.
- Discuss with your company’s exploitation team (do you have an exploitation team?) what to do with unforeseen results.
- Create an Intellectual Assets Template which you keep updated with participants’ intellectual property as they emerge in the project.
- To secure project results: Make sure all agree on who owns what. If needed, sign agreements. Perhaps there will be joint ownerships?
- Are you first? Do an IP landscape review and make sure no one else already have patents on what you develop.
- Show your intentions. If you don’t claim any IP – write it down and let your project partners know.
Read more from Ulrika Wahlström regarding IP:
When a patent isn’t enough