This Boston Globe article builds an argument that “innovation’s centre of gravity” is set to move further from developed nations and closer to poorer ones. It uses current examples of mobile technology innovations, until now unknown in the US & Europe, that are building a financial sector in areas of India populated by those living (until now) in a purely cash economy. These innovations are unlocking new services and stimulating the market. Big technology providers are taking notice and are reacting by moving research hubs into the developing world.
The article quotes:
“C.K. Prahalad, a business professor at the University of Michigan, has called [it] “the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid” – the vast aggregate purchasing power locked away in the 4 billion people who make up the world’s poor… companies are confronting the unique challenge of making high-tech products cheaply enough to make a profit. In some cases, this means shifting jobs for talented designers and engineers to the developing world – not just to save labor costs, but in order to better understand the markets they are now trying to reach.
“Developing markets offer the best opportunity for global firms to discover what is likely to be ‘next practice,’ as contrasted with today’s best practice,” Prahalad has written. “The low end is a new source of innovation.””
The start of a reversed trend in TT flow?
The link today is to a short 4-page report from a symposium that was held in April 2008 at Wageningen entitled “Reconsidering Intellectual Property Policies”. I wanted to blog a couple of extracts to tempt you to read the entire report!
“Intellectual property protection is caught between the need for valorisation of research outcomes, and the wide availability of these outcomes. … [the workshop has] emphasized the complexity of the IP debate and the various approaches that can be taken to increase the ‘freedom to operate’ for researchers in developing countries … the patent discussion needs to be placed in a wider context. Liability issues, weak infrastructure and a lack of control over production processes at most public research institutes in the South seriously weaken their credibility in the eyes of patent holders willing to provide technologies via humanitarian licenses. High transaction costs and the difficulty of finding useful technologies – both patented and non-patented – further complicate the access to technology. As such, it became clear that access to intellectual property is only a precondition for a wider strategy in which capacity building and institutional partnership can truly contribute to the development in the ‘South’”
The report summarises discussions on:
• Liability; bottleneck for the patent holders
• Lowering the transaction costs
• Open source for fundamental research
• Access to non-patented technology
Pertinent to IP professionals working in the agricultural development environment!
This is an article that appeared on SciDev.Net at the beginning of the month after the African Green Revolution Conference in Oslo. The item was entitled “Agricultural developments ‘failing to reach farmers’”. Chief Executive of the Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation Florence Wambugu was quoted as talking of the “need to plug the gap between the lab and the field”. The article touches on the way some organisations are hoping to tackle this problem. Please note that since the article first came out there have been a couple of interesting comments left by readers – well worth a read!
There is a blog out there I was reading today called the “Private Sector Development Blog” (strapline; “a market approach to development thinking”). They have a great line up of writers for their blog and given the new market driven attitude to development (from donors such as Gates) I expect to consult this blog more regularly to hear their take on things. Anyway, that wasn’t the main reason for my post today. The specific article I have linked to was looking at a report published by Care International this month calling for reform of the food aid system. One of the points raised in the report deals with investment in agriculture – and it mentions the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme of which one of the main aims is to “increase agricultural research and systems to disseminate appropriate new technologies, and increase the support given to help farmers to adopt them.” See article http://www.africafiles.org/article.asp?ID=18554 and NEPAD site http://www.nepad.org for more details of this initiative. Those who deal with technology transfer in this area might like to keep an eye on this for developments. Before uploading this post, I showed it to my colleague Peter Bloch, who is a TT specialist, and he had the following comments:
“The report “makes the very reasonable argument that more aid money ought to be spent helping prevent food disasters rather than simply responding to emergencies once they arise” and PSD Blog goes on to observe that political structures in developing countries are a critical factor in the success of food aid projects. The CG’s Change Management initiative has generated a number of reports and opinions indicating that in order for the CG to meets its mission goals it will need to be more effective in engaging with the private sector. This is equally true of any attempt to develop long-term solutions to food shortages. One model for this is the West Africa Seed Alliance which seeks to stimulate the development of market driven distribution chains for agricultural products. Long term approaches to food shortages will need to engage ag research agencies, public organizations such as FAO and the private sector (e.g., seed, fertilizer and investment companies) and the challenge then becomes the design of PPPs which can serve disparate agendas and, at the same time, build sustainable food supply chains.”
An article in SciDev Net earlier in the month talked about the possible introduction of a law in India to promote technology transfer by encouraging an increase in university patenting. The new law is inspired by the US Bayh-Dole Act (background to this act can be found on the AUTM website: http://www.autm.net/aboutTT/aboutTT_bayhDoleAct.cfm)
The SciDev article calls for more debate, as there are concerns the legislation has been pulled together too quickly. The Spicy IP blog is tracking the development of this bill http://spicyipindia.blogspot.com/search/label/Bayh%20Dole. (In fact, it was one of SpicyIPs bloggers who wrote the piece for SciDev Net.) The discussions around this issue are interesting as they raise important questions about commercialisation and the provision for public goods that could be of interest those in the CGIAR.