Could IP help the UK to capture more value?

Posted on: 26/04/2018

On World Intellectual Property Day, Ian Tracey, Head of Access to Funding and Finance, discusses IP protection tools and the value for the UK.


The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) helps businesses get the best out of creativity, ideas and the latest discoveries, to strengthen the UK economy and improve people’s lives. We are a network partner of Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, principally funded through the Science Budget by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

It is important on World IP (Intellectual Property) day, that we immediately remind ourselves that we are discussing IP in the broadest sense. Not just patents, but copyright, design rights and trade marks.

The UK is a driving force behind Europe’s fusion of technical activity and creativity – and this is something we should make more of.  We have an environment where it is easy to create a company, secure funding for it, and a comprehensive set of IP protection tools.

Augmenting this is the fantastic research base that the UK has. Four of our universities are in the top ten Global rankings by QS. In simple numbers, 34% of all top 3 places in the tables are UK universities. In 32 of the 48 tables, at least one UK university is in the top three places.

Whilst we are good at creation, we are poor at capture. Why are we not capturing more value – is it a reflection of our mix of discovery and translational research? For example the UK is responsible for just 3% of patent applications to the EPO, France is at 6% and Germany at 15%. This has to be improved.

Are we measuring too narrow a thing? Does the service centric nature of UK industry mean that we have a far better use of other, often cheaper, protection tools – trademarks, design rights and copyright. Given the advice I have often heard relayed to me – I suspect not.

So what is going to encourage more start-ups and scale more businesses in the UK based on strong IP positions?

A better mix of research funding types would be my first wish – the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is a huge step in the right direction, as long as it is fully focussed on value capture for UK businesses.

The KTN CEO, Chris Warkup, is often heard to quote Dave Roblin; when he was the first COO of the Francis Crick Institute, Dave said “the job of our TTO is to deliver our science into capable hands”.  Just how much more value might we capture in the UK if that was the approach taken by all our Universities?


This blog is in part based on remarks made by Chris Warkup at the Intellectual Property Awareness Network’s 25th Anniversary World IP event in the House of Commons 26 April, 2018.


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