Monthly Archives: September 2010

Innovation prizes can lead to paradigm shifts

The headline for this story on NPR’s web site is: “To Spur Innovation, Offer Millions In Cash Prizes.” And the lead-in explains that:

Just as Charles Lindbergh was tempted to fly nonstop to Paris in hopes of winning a $25,000 prize, the U.S. government is offering millions of dollars in prize money to lure innovators into building better lightbulbs, cheaper satellite-launching spacecraft and more fuel-efficient cars.

You can listen to, or read the discussion with Tom Kalil (Deputy Director, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy) and Oliver Kuttner (winner, Automotive X-Prize and creator, The Very Light Car) at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129934808&ft=1&f=5

The X Prize Foundation http://www.xprize.org provides this overview of their mission:

An X PRIZE is a $10 million+ award given to the first team to achieve a specific goal, set by the X PRIZE Foundation, which has the potential to benefit humanity. Rather than awarding money to honor past achievements or directly funding research, an X PRIZE incites innovation by tapping into our competitive and entrepreneurial spirits.

There are many types of competitions and awards around the world, but an X PRIZE is in a class by itself. What sets us apart from other non-profit organizations is our ability to frame a challenge and incentivize a solution in a way that our efforts and funds are multiplied exponentially by the teams who strive to compete and win the prize.

A study of the history of “prize money for innovation” suggests that in many cases it does actually pay off.  The question is: would such an approach be worth considering within the context of agricultural research and development?  Might individual researchers and scientists, or teams, respond to the kinds of challenges presented by the X Prize Foundation?  Check out an interesting new challenge – the Archon Genomics X PRIZE.

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

(After reading this post I have started collecting some materials on open-innovation that I will blog separately.  There is a whole tangle of IP issues involved!  I’ll pingback to this item as reference. – Kay)

US Global Development Policy Plan: a strategic, economic as well as moral imperative

Obama made a speech to the Millennium Development Goals Summit last week that has been grabbing lots of attention.    During the speech he announced plans that have been described as “ambitious, even radical”.  Read the write up on Politics Daily website “Obama’s Radical Foreign Policy Plan: The Goal is Development, Not Aid” (thanks for the link Victoria)

For the video visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2010/09/22/president-obama-millennium-development-goals-conference

A couple of quotes of particular interest are below.  For those who prefer to read the transcript of the speech visit http://www.america.gov/st/texttrans-english/2010/September/20100922172556su0.2969934.html#ixzz10oQunWEH

“Remembering the lessons of the Green Revolution, we’re expanding scientific collaboration with other countries and investing in game-changing science and technology to help spark historic leaps in development…

…Instead of simply handing out food, our food security initiative is helping countries like Guatemala and Rwanda and Bangladesh develop their agriculture and improve crop yields and help farmers get their products to market.”

The Food Security Initiative referred to is detailed on the White House press office website.  They say that on the 22nd September 2010:

“…the President signed a Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, the first of its kind by a U.S. administration.”

Included on the site are 3 policy docs on 1) Climate Change  2) Global Food Security and  3) Global Health Initiative.  The text for the Global Food Security can be access here http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/Food_Security_Fact_Sheet.pdf

From this document:

“ The President’s global food security initiative manifests the policy in a number of ways:  … it engages traditional and non-traditional donors and the private sector to build needed multilateral capacities. The United States partnered with G-20 countries, developing nations, the World Bank and other multilateral organizations to establish the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, and mobilized public and private resources to scale up agricultural assistance to low-income countries. .

… it increases investment in and support for innovation by emphasizing research and development, and by improving the extension and dissemination of research and technology development to the hands of small scale farmers through new models of public and private extension; and

…FTF focuses on creating a foundation for sustainable economic growth by helping countries accelerate inclusive agriculture sector growth through improved agricultural productivity, expanded markets and trade, and increased economic resilience in vulnerable rural communities.”

It seems that in his speech Obama is using language about development aid in way that will resonate with the US voter.  Let’s hope that the U.S, and the rest of the International community can put in the extra mile(s) to reach the MDG targets.

“We must not fail the billions who look to the international community to fulfil the promise of the Millennium Declaration for a better world” — UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

Post-harvest loss, innovation and IP

Anyone who has worked in Sub-Saharan Africa will be aware that post-harvest storage losses account for as much as 35% of output.  Eliminating such losses results in an immediate effective increase in output of up to 40%.  We described one of several simple solutions for cowpea at http://casipblog.wordpress.com/2009/10/12/post-harvest-food-loss-wasa-the-purdue-method/

At the request of CIMMYT, CAS-IP asked me to review CIMMYT’s grain storage silo projects in Malawi and Kenya, and I met with farmers, institutional users and silo fabricators.  With years of experience in Mexico and Central America, CIMMYT had developed a technology that was appropriate for grain storage in developing countries.  This included silo design and material specification, and a training program to ensure that artisan metalworkers could both construct the silos to specification and train farmers on how to use them.

Small holder farmer Nancy Njeri (right), Kiritiri, Kenya with grain storage silo. Photo by Peter Bloch

CIMMYT’s concern was that untrained fabricators might offer inferior silos to farmers; that such silos could be ineffective, and that the reputation of the initiative would suffer as a result.  If this were to happen, uptake would be negatively affected.


Three 1800kg silos owned by the Kiritiri Producer Marketing Group. Photo by Peter Bloch

Discussions with the various actors in the value chain suggested a simple strategy.  The fabricators learned, as an integral part of their training, that quality and customer service were critical success factors.  So, if the fabricators in each country joined together to set up a Fabricator Trade Association (FTA), they could jointly apply for a trademark that could be used to identify the “approved” silos.

Just as community enforcement of a brand played an important role in the development of the Malawi Seed Alliance, it seemed highly likely that in these small tightly-knit rural farming communities the FTA would quickly find out if any non-members (untrained fabricators) were producing counterfeit silos.  Moreover, farmers, institutions and producer marketing groups I spoke to were very happy with the silos they had acquired and this suggests that community support for the status quo (buy your silo from an FTA member) would be shared at the grassroots as farmers discussed the investment among themselves.

For more information on this very simple yet innovative intervention, there are numerous online references including:

http://www.cimmyt.org/en/about-us/media-resources/newsletter/717-metal-silos-lock-out-maize-pests-in-africa

http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/36844/icode/

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

Development aid at the crossroads

The Financial Times has weighed in with a big picture analysis of the aid business.  “Development: Crumbs of comfort[1]

“The aid business is under pressure, and does not have a simple story to tell. As with other areas of economics and public policy, there are genuine disagreements over what to do and how.”

The article addresses the key issues and debates, including the value of small-scale monitored testing, the USA’s “buy American” policy and the increasing demand by donors for results.  The bottom line is that

“… the gathering (a UN meeting) will see not only much of the developing world falling short on most of the targets but the aid business itself fighting for increasingly scarce public money and under pressure to deliver.”

The FT looks at the MDGs and provides some useful economic insights that may help to better understand the complexity of the accord and measuring its success.

We have identified the key trends in previous posts, and it is increasingly evident that donors are looking for a higher level of impact and greater cost efficiency for less dollars.  The CG has been grappling with these issues over the last two years and there appears to be a consensus that the organization does need to engage more effectively with the private sector.

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP


[1] I had to register to view this article, but registration was free — Kay

Plumpy’nut in the New York Times & Huffington Post

The New York Times just published an in-depth story on RUTFs.  Andrew Rice’s story provides a historical perspective and looks at the dramatic impact these products have had on humanitarian assistance.  He also examines the history of the invention, its eventual ownership by Nutriset and the patent dispute.  To read the story visit: “The Peanut Solution

 Here are a few excerpts that relate to our previous posts on the subject, “Plumpynut legal battle and the idea of global responsibility licencing” and “IPRs needn’t be a barrier to development; the plumpy’nut case

 

“American food aid must comply with stringent regulations meant to encourage domestic procurement…  

The patent has since been registered in 38 countries, including much of Africa….

Nutriset’s critics say that…the Plumpy’nut patent is so broad as to encompass just about any kind of nut-based nutritional paste. “There are other people that would like to enter into the business,” Ben Tabatchnick, who runs a New Jersey-based kosher soup company, said. “But everybody is afraid of being sued.””

Then, in response to this posting, an article appeared on the Huffington Post written by Jeffrey Sachs, Jessica Fanzo (a nutritionist at Bioversity International) and Sonia Sachs, entitled “Saying “Nuts” to Hunger”.  This provided some very interesting additions to the debate regarding the type of hunger that Plumpy’nut addresses.  There were also some interesting comments relating to the IP aspects of the case.  Firstly:

 “…it is absurd to think that a patent should legitimately give a monopoly right to use a fortified peanut-paste to fight acute hunger. The ingredients are simple: peanut paste, vegetable oil, powdered milk, powdered sugar, vitamins, and minerals. The nutritional values of peanuts and the other ingredients have been known for ages, and only the worst misuse of patent law would grant a broad monopoly claim to such knowledge”

 Well said! And secondly:

 “…it is a standard solution of global intellectual property law that urgent public health needs supersede patent rights. Poor countries should exercise their full right of “compulsory licensing” and other legal protections to produce or to import urgently needed low-cost nutritional supplementation in the face of famines, just as they do to obtain low-cost AIDS medicines.”

I wanted to look a little deeper into this second point.  Of course, not everyone wants to know the ins and outs of the IP component, but that is what we at CAS-IP enjoy most!!  The global intellectual property law referred to in the article is, presumably, the TRIPS agreement.  I am not a lawyer and therefore I am not familiar with the nuances of TRIPS; however, my understanding is that the “compulsory licensing” of TRIPS (an international agreement) requires definition of an emergency as determined by judiciary (at the national level), adding a level of complexity.  The agreement in fact doesn’t mention “compulsory licensing” outright, rather “other use without authorization of the right holder” (see article 31)

The WTO site goes on to explain:

 “Compulsory licensing is only part of this since “other use” includes use by governments for their own purposes.  Compulsory licensing and government use of a patent without the authorization of its owner can only be done under a number of conditions aimed at protecting the legitimate interests of the patent holder.”

This includes remuneration, incidentally!  So, it is an option, but certainly not an immediate one, and not one without cost!  I haven’t had the time to research the HIV/pharmaceutical examples as cases, but it would be very interesting to know more about these to draw on any lessons learned for agriculture.

 (Thanks to Peter Bloch for his contributions to this post)

New CEO of the CGIAR Consortium Announced

Last night we recieved the news via email that the new CEO of the CGIAR Consortium had been decided.  The CGIAR Change Management blog posted an interview.

The Consortium Board of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has appointed Pioneer senior manager for sustainable agriculture and development as chief executive officer of the new Consortium.

Lloyd Le Page currently leads the Sustainable Agriculture and Development division of Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business. Lloyd is a British citizen whose parents were missionaries in Africa. After obtaining a bachelor of science degree, he then spent several years running farms in Southern Africa. During that period, he was deeply involved in many parts of the value chain ensuring that farmers’ produce reached consumers, a new facet of the CGIAR reform. He then joined Pioneer and ran a number of successful supply operations in Africa, eventually running the supply management operations in Africa for Pioneer and gaining experience in linking the private sector with farmers in the developing world. In 2004 Lloyd moved  to the Pioneer head office in Des Moines, Iowa to establish Pioneer sustainable development activities.

Lloyd has had a successful career and brings with him a great deal of partnership and practical experience at the local, regional and global levels. He has gained the trust and confidence of many of the stakeholders that make up the CGIAR community and has been consulted by some of the CGIAR centers in the development of consortium research programs. Above all, he brings a fresh vision to the CGIAR and a great deal of commitment and enthusiasm for contributing to fulfill the objectives and vision of the reform process. Le Page is married with 2 children and currently lives in Des Moines, Iowa”

We at CAS-IP would like to extend our congratulations.  Of course we are also waiting with bated breath to see what direction IP management strategy in the new CGIAR is going to take.  I asked the CAS team (some of whom have worked with Lloyd in the past) what they thought about the appointment:

“CAS-IP would like to congratulate Mr. Lloyd Le Page on his new appointment. We look forward to working with him and to providing input with regard to intellectual property management issues, particularly in the context of the strategic partnerships (CRPs) currently being set up, in order to ensure that the public goods produced have maximum impact.” Elise Perset, Manager of CAS-IP

“I have worked with Lloyd.  He understands intellectual property and the role that it plays in agricultural development.”Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

“Congratulations to Lloyd and welcome to the CG! It`s great to have someone with so much experience in transactions and partnerships heading up the Consortium office.” Sebastian Poehlmann, consultant to CAS-IP

Cultural Capitalism

This talk is slightly unnerving for those of us who might like to think of themselves as “doing their bit”.  It’s a short animation entitled, “RSA Animate – First as Tragedy, Then as Farce” which appeared on the Andrew Sullivan blog (thanks for sending me the link Victoria)

 Basically the speaker (Philosopher Slavoj Zizek) investigates a new form of capitalism that he says has emerged.  “Cultural capitalism, today’s form of capitalism”.  It really is a thought provoking 10minutes touching on issues surrounding Fair-trade, ethical shopping (he used the example of Starbucks coffee and the complex notions the consumer is “buying into”)

photo by Karine Malgrand for CAS-IP

Rita Agboh-Noameshie from AfricaRice and Jonathan Rosenthal from Just Works Consulting at the NPI meeting 2010. Photo by Karine Malgrand for CAS-IP

 The discussion was not dissimilar to the roundtable we held at the last National Partner’s Initiative meeting in Washington entitled “Branding and Market Development” (visit link for handout from this session).  Jonathan Rosenthal from Just Works Consulting who was part of the panel said the following of Fair-trade today:

 “Fair-trade started up as how to do trade better and power was not talked about.  Now that huge companies are on board some think this is success but others view it as failure…  Now the producers do have some amount of power but it’s still largely concentrated in the north.  Some feel the objective is to work out new models of trade where others are simply looking at improving business. There is lot of turbulence…

 …meanwhile, at the producer end, certification, that used to be free, costs more and more money and has more and more complexity and, thus costs. In addition, they have surprise inspections now–at producers’ cost. And, fair trade prices haven’t kept up with inflation so fair trade is harder to comply with and delivers less benefits over time. The challenge for producers, also, is what’s next? Where do we go from here?”

 Indeed, where do we go from here?  I asked Peter Bloch what he thought given his interest in market development:

  “Zizek is compelling, but let’s remember that he IS a philosopher.  He is simply challenging us to develop better solutions.  How might this apply to agricultural development?  One of the threads of this blog – since it started – has been innovation.  We’ve provided dozen of examples of innovations in a variety of sectors.  The innovation itself is rarely the issue – what we are interested in looking at is how some people can “connect the dots”, and what the final picture looks like.  If we can do this as we design and implement interventions we will, inevitably, be more effective.”

New Fashion Law Institute

Further to Francesca’s Re Manning’s post on September 1st “the changing styles of intellectual property“, Kai Ryssdal of NPR’s Marketplace interviewed Susan Scafidi, the director of Fordham University’s new Fashion Law Institute. 

You can read or listen to the short interview at: http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/09/13/pm-confronting-piracy-in-the-world-of-fashion/

And visit the Institute’s web site at: http://law.fordham.edu/fashion-law-institute/fashionlaw.htm

Working in partnership with CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America, the key sponsor) the Institute will provide Fordham Law students with opportunities to become leaders in this emerging field. Students will develop skills in diverse areas of the law that affect the fashion industry, including intellectual property, business and finance, international trade and government regulation, and consumer culture and civil rights.

When asked about copyright, Scafidi commented:

You cannot copyright a fashion design in the United States at this point. However, I have been very involved working on legislation* that would permit copyrighting of fashion designs, or rather a very, very short-term form of copyrighting — a three-year copyright. A good fashion lawyer needs to know the basics of the intellectual property system, but also get creative and borrow from areas of intellectual property law that might apply. We’re talking about the trademarks that protect labels and logos, for example. So it’s about getting creative with the lot out there and learning to apply it to the special needs of the fashion industry…..

And finished with:

….So fashion law is catching up with how the culture is starting to perceive fashion.

Scafidi comes across as someone who has learned how to “connect the dots”, and we can expect to see some innovation in this sector where, traditionally, the pirates have ruled. 

* Shumer’s, no doubt.

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

Rebranding Xerox

Xerox has become a victim of its own success.  The word has become a verb in common global usage, and the company has moved way beyond copying.  So what was an asset is now at risk of becoming a liability.

You can read and/or listen to the story at: http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/09/06/pm-a-xerox-beyond-copy-machines/ 

The bottom line is that Xerox plans a makeover driven by a big advertising and marketing campaign.  Branding consultant Rob Frankel observes that Xerox’s past attempts at transformation haven’t worked all that well and that:

Advertising will raise brand awareness, but if people don’t understand why they should care about the brand, then it’s going to fail.

 Marketplace:

He thinks there are a couple of hurdles for Xerox: It’s got to convince people it does more than make copiers. It also has to explain its new services and convince potential clients that it does them best. That’s a tall order for any marketing campaign.

 Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

Postgraduate Course: Biosafety in Plant Biotechnology

biosafety in plant biotechnology course, photo courtesy of Ine Pertry

Guat Hong Teh during her studies for the postgraduate Biosafety course at Ghent University.

Congratulations Guat Hong!!  We received news this week that Guat Hong Teh, Legal Specialist for CAS-IP has passed the Postgraduate Biosafety in Plant Biotechnology course from Ghent University, Belgium with an average of a high distinction.  I’d also like to take the opportunity to thank DGIS whose financial support to CAS-IP allows us to sponsor our staff’s career development.

Guat Hong sent me the following write-up to share her experience.

 “Slightly less than a year ago, I enrolled in a postgraduate course in biosafety with the University of Ghent and UNIDO. Now that I have completed the distance learning course, I would like to share my experience with all of you. The course is run online via an internet tool called Moodle where you are able to access your lecture notes, participate in e-forums with your other classmates and professors, access a library with reading materials, and upload assignments. There are several modules that one has to go through and every one of them has a mandatory exam (either oral/written/both), assignment, and e-discussions. Before finishing off, one needs to write a 25-page dissertation on a crop of interest from one’s home country. For me, oil palm was the obvious target and I managed to put together a summary of the methodology and risk assessment process for genetically-modified high-oleic oil palm. If you are interested to read my dissertation, drop me a note.

Back to further details on the course… The syllabus starts with principles of genetics and applications of biotechnology in general before progressing to the basis of scientific risk assessment for biotech crops (food/feed safety and environmental safety). It then concludes with modules on regulatory requirements and risk communication.

The faculty at Ghent is made up of international experts based in Europe, both full-time and part-time. All in all, I would say that the course provides the student with a good overview and understanding of the risk assessment process for genetically-modified organisms. Although it can be daunting for students without a scientific background to study for the course, this can be overcome with lots of interest and hard work. I would highly recommend it to scientists or lawyers who have an interest in this area. If you’re keen to find out more, or if you’re already convinced to register for the new intake in Ghent, see the attached flyer. Dr. Ine Pertry, who is the course coordinator in Ghent, would be more than happy to answer any questions that you may have on the course. Write to her at ine.pertry@ugent.be