Intellectual Property Protection Vital in Innovation Economy

"We need to ensure that new ideas for processes, products and services are properly protected to enable Northern Ireland to reap the full benefits of innovation by protecting intellectual property rights(IPR),” smaller companies and university researchers were told today at a seminar organised by Invest Northern Ireland

Speaking at the seminar, attended by over 100 representatives from industry and academia, Dr Nigel Carr, Invest NI, said: “IPR is a critically important consideration for Invest NI, our client companies and universities as we seek to transform Northern Ireland into a knowledge-driven economy”.

European experience indicated that a number of EU funded research projects presented for industrial development were never exploited due to problems with IPR - often because this issue was only seriously considered too late in the project timescale.

“IP’s relevance to the development and expansion of a ‘knowledge economy’ cannot be under- estimated.

“Our economic development is increasingly dependent on high technology based industries and an important tenet of our strategy is the creation of new companies from a sound basis of IPR. This approach is seen in the recently launched £5 million Proof of Concept Programme, which will assist university researchers develop existing, and create new, IP as a step towards ultimate commercialisation by means of a spin-out company or licence agreement,” he added.

IP issues ranged from copyright protection for innovative designs or software to trademark protection for new products and from design registration to patent protection. IPR pervades much of the activities of Invest NI, particularly in the areas of innovation, research and technology.

“The breadth of Invest NI support for IP issues is clearly seen from our BIL (Business Innovation Link) programme for inventors and the Innovation Relay Centre assistance with trans-national collaboration between small to medium sized enterprises, through to the larger programmes such as Proof of Concept, Centres of Excellence and the new Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF),” he said.

Dr Carr said Invest NI and the Department for Employment and Learning planned to provide up to £3 million a year for the next three years through the HEIF. This would promote the transfer of university technology to local industry.

HEIF, he said, would help the universities to develop their engagement with business and the community; make technology transfer an integral part of the universities’ activities; develop the responsiveness of the universities to the needs of business; increase the exploitation of the Northern Ireland science base; and improve the overall innovation performance of the economy.

The half day seminar was organised by Invest NI’s Innovation Relay Centre, which is part of a European network to promote technology collaboration.

Other speakers at the seminar included Professor Michael Blakeney, Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Queen Mary, University of London and Director of the Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute; Mr Alex Weir of the Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute; Dr Philip Graham, who is responsible for IP education and protection at Queen’s University, Belfast; Mark Earnshaw of Murgitroyd and Company, the European patent and trade mark attorneys; and Dr David Brownlee, the UU Tech technology transfer and licensing executive.