The role of IP in accelerating innovation and diffusion of renewable energy technologies: business practices and policy options

By Sarah Helm on April 19, 2011 in IP

On 11 April 2011, I  presented at the London Metropolitan Business School Energy Day 2011 event on ‘The Role of IP in accelerating innovation and diffusion of renewable energy technologies: business practices and policy options’. To find out more about the event, please visit our events page.

Intellectual property rights (IPR) are thought to encourage innovation by providing inventors with the correct financial incentives to innovate.  Generally, IPRs reward inventors by protecting their right to control and decide who may use their inventions, how they will be used, and, importantly, to charge for such use.  This theory is supported by a vast body of empirical data showing a strong relationship between increased R&D efforts and inventiveness, and patenting trends.

Specifically, IPR mechanisms such as patent pools and technology standards bodies induce innovation as well as technology deployment through lowering the costs of innovation. These mechanisms can reduce the risks of litigation, and lower transactions costs for the inventor – for example, they remove the need for duplicated R&D efforts.

In developing IPR policy, policymakers should adopt a sector-specific approach.  If the end goal of IPR policy is innovation and technology transfer, the complexities inherent in each technology space should influence and guide decision-making. As applied to the clean-tech industry, in light of increasing evidence of patenting of low-carbon technologies, there is an urgency to understand fully the role of IPR in promoting innovation and diffusion of climate-related technologies.

To read an overview of this topic, please view my presentation. Other topics discussed in the presentation include: alternatives to IPRs (innovation prizes, open innovation and open source), patenting trends in the wind energy industry and the potential for integrating desalination technologies with renewable energy sources.

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