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UK IPO floats ideas to promote innovation

Could embedding experienced IP owners into British companies help boost levels of IP awareness and exploitation in the country’s businesses?

That’s an option that may be proposed by the UK Intellectual Property Office’s director of innovation, Rosa Wilkinson.

In an interview with Managing IP, she explained how during her time as a civil servant with the government body UK Trade and Investment, she had rolled out a manufacturing advisory service that sent experienced manufacturers to work with companies that had asked for support for their businesses to help them analyse their situation and develop an action plan for growth.

“I can imagine this working in the IP world: looking at how IP features in a company''s strategy,” said Wilkinson. “That’s one proposal. Will businesses welcome it? I want to know what level of demand there will be. It''s rather a finger in the air at the moment.”

She added that it was wrong to assume that levels of entrepreneurialism in the UK lagged behind those in some of its closest economic rivals, saying that lost of business activity goes unrecognised.

“We have lots of third-bedroom businesses, although their tax arrangements may not show it! Levels of enterprise are pretty good. What worries me is that the people starting businesses don’t always know the threats and opportunities and how to prepare for them,” she said.

Wilkinson added that when the IPO published a report on the ways in which SMEs can be helped to protect their IP, the USPTO called soon after to talk about their findings.

One way to improve levels of understanding of IP is to ensure that the people giving new businesses advice are able to talk to them about the risks and opportunities of IP, she said.

“There''s a big gulf between no advice and expert advice. There’s not enough in the middle.”

“I want us to make better use of other people’s channels – helping other business advisory panels to up their IP offer. It''s about infecting other people’s channels ... Ultimately we want businesses to understand IP''s opportunities and potential challenges. Then they can bring applications to us that are better formed. It is better for them they don''t spend their legal budget getting basic advice about IP.”

The innovation director’s role includes overseeing the IPO’s outreach function and how it responds to requests for help from business as well as managing the Office’s research function: the Economics, Research and Evidence (ERE) team.

“Our ERE team helps us understand the value that IP adds and where things go wrong for companies,” she said. “On the policy side, having a good understanding of what works really matters.”

You can read the full interview with Rosa Wilkinsonon

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