Moving towards better integration of Energy Innovation and Intellectual Property

The realisation of “energy for all” is a powerful and worthy goal, and one that we owe ourselves and future generations to continue to pursue.’[1]

—Tim Ryan, Senior Partner and Chairman, PwC, USA

 

 

The 11th edition of Global Innovation Index (GII)[2], resulting from collaboration between Cornell University, Insead, and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), was released recently. The GII is a detailed quantitative tool that helps global decision-makers better understand how to stimulate the innovative activity that drives economic and human development. The GII ranks 126 economies including India, based on 80 indicators, ranging from intellectual property filing rates to mobile application creation, education spending and scientific and technical publications. With this edition, India is ranked 57th.

The 2018 GII theme reads Energising the World with Innovation, which looks at the need for expanded innovative work in climate-friendly green technology amid rising energy demands worldwide. Projections indicate that by 2040 the world will require up to
30% more energy than it needs today and conventional approaches to expanding the energy supply are unsustainable in the face of climate change.

Intellectual property and innovation — The correlation

Intellectual property (IP) and innovation are two sides of the same coin; existence of one without the other is unfathomable. Professor Sam Ricketson firmly establishes his faith in the IP system, considering it to be absolutely necessary “to encourage creative intellectual endeavour in the public interest”[3]. Critiques are of a belief that the IP system hinders healthy competition, thus playing a negative role in the growth of innovation. However, IP policies and management strategies of companies worldwide are a proof of the value that IP carries in terms of innovations and their further commercialisation. It is rightly said, managing innovation better than its competitors is one of the main objectives of a business that wishes to survive and thrive in today’s economy.[4]

Of Global Innovation Index, 2018 and energy innovation

As the world sits on the cusp of super human intelligence and super quick communication aided by advanced technology, energy is the fundamental element necessary to make this network work successfully, thus making energy innovation all the more important. From the data[5] available, one in seven people still lacks access to electricity; most of them live in rural areas of the developing world while more than 40 per cent of the world’s population, 3 billion people, rely on polluting and unhealthy fuels for cooking.

Whilst dealing with the topic of energy innovation, the GII report mentions that a weak state of global economy is now turning around, picking up speed and growing at a rate highest since 2011. However, population expansion is a persistent concern among most of the middle-income and low-income countries and poses a threat to the bright prospects of healthy global economics. Coupled with the matter of population expansion is the worry of sustainable development. Growing population, rapid urbanisation and industrialisation must be balanced along with sustainable development goals (SDGs). When combined, these concerns and goals have taken the demand for energy to an unprecedented level. In fact, sustainable development goals[6] number seven—affordable and clean energy and nine—industry, infrastructure and innovation highlight the importance of energy innovation and this demand can be met only with a simultaneous increase in innovation. And while we talk of affordable and clean energy, it is important to note that energy also affects climate change being a dominant contributor to the same, accounting for around 60 per cent of global greenhouse emissions.[7] In order to preserve the climate and restrict the dangers of speedy change, higher levels of technological and non-technological innovation are required both on the production side of the energy equation (alternative sources, smart grids, and new advanced energy storage technologies) and on the consumption side (smart cities, homes, and buildings; energy-efficient industries; and transport and future mobility).[8]

The GII 2018 analyses the energy innovation landscape of the next decade and identifies possible breakthroughs in fields such as energy production, storage, distribution, and consumption. It also looks at how breakthrough innovation occurs at the grassroots level and describes how small-scale renewable systems are on the rise.[9] With this edition, GII again includes a ranking of the world’s largest clusters of science and technology activity and as last year, this ranking relies on international patent filings to identify such clusters. However, the report asserts that a broad range of parameters must be included to assess and rank countries, thus apart from the number of international patent filings the report introduces scientific publishing activity as a second measure of cluster performance. The seven key findings of the GII 2018 are: (1) becoming optimistic about global innovation and growth is possible; (2) continued investments in breakthrough energy innovations are essential for global growth and to avert an environmental crisis; (3) China’s rapid rise shows the way for other middle-income economies; (4) richer economies, with more diverse industry and export portfolios, are likelier to score high in innovation; (5) focusing on translating innovation investments into results is key; (6) strong regional innovation imbalances persevere, hampering economic and human development; and (7) most top science and technology clusters are in the US, China, and Germany; Brazil, India, and Iran also make the top 100 list.[10]

Energy infrastructure and innovation in India — Facts and figures 

The importance of innovation for economic development and growth is broadly recognised, with numerous policy approaches aimed at building a nation’s capacity and competence in innovation. Just as this article is taking shape, India’s Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi emphasised on the importance and necessity of innovation, at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, saying that innovation is the buzzword of the 21st century. He further added that “From mitigating climate change to ensuring better agricultural productivity, from cleaner energy to water conservation, from combating malnutrition to effective waste management, let us affirm that the best ideas will come from Indian laboratories and from Indian students.”[11] With this appeal for increased innovation, it was also emphasised that such innovation must not be exclusively for India, that the world is in dire need of it, thus calling for “innovate in India, innovate for humanity”.

A rapidly growing economy like India, with a large population aspires to realise a quality of life comparable to the best in the world, thus giving a definite rise to the nation’s energy consumption, at a rate faster than elsewhere in the world. Creating universal energy access, promoting development, and facilitating economic growth are expected to be the key drivers of the growth in energy consumption.[12] The Government of India has been aggressively pushing the development of renewable energy to produce electricity from non-fossil fuel energy sources. However, with an ever-increasing demand for electricity, there is quite clearly a need for a fundamental rethinking and restructuring of India’s power infrastructure and energy dependencies.[13]

India will be the key driver of global energy demand in the next twenty-five years with its energy consumption will grow by 4.2% a year for the next twenty-five years. India is the fifth largest producer of solar energy in the world and also the sixth largest producer of renewable energy. Looking at the expansion rates and needs emerging therewith, it can be safely stated that innovations in the areas of energy infrastructure and green technology are absolutely essential. And such innovations shall call for rapid “greening” of the intellectual property laws and its framework.

Energy innovation and intellectual property — Domestic initiatives

With a growing understanding for preservation and maintenance of natural resources, a newly coined term, “green intellectual property” has been making the headlines. It refers to the protection of innovations in the field of green technology. It is a concept where innovations which are helpful to environment in one or the other way are legally protected. Since green technologies tend to protect the environment by reducing the hazards caused to nature by the human intervention, it is essential to take an initiative for providing a fast track procedure for protection of green intellectual property.[14]

Any technology that causes an appreciable reduction in the adverse impact on the environment resulting from any human activity simultaneously maintaining the same level of activity can be considered as green technology. Admittedly, an effective system of green intellectual property protection coupled with effective government policies and commercialisation methodologies can provide the most efficient framework for the global diffusion of green technologies.

While there have been efforts on cooperation and partnerships on the global front towards promotion of innovation of green technology, India has also contended and fared well in the race. One such effort is the formation of Mission Innovation as announced on 30-11-2015 by 23 countries and the European Union. Mission Innovation (MI) is a global initiative of 23 countries and the European Union to dramatically accelerate global clean energy innovation.[15] As part of the initiative, participating countries have committed to seek to double their Governments’ clean energy research and development (R&D) investments over five years, while encouraging greater levels of private sector investment in transformative clean energy technologies.[16] India has taken several measures under this initiative and continues to do so. However, there must be concentration on the development of green intellectual property under the current domestic IP framework.

As the world inches towards rapid advancements in technology, innovations that help restore and maintain the resources gifted by earth to the humankind are utmost necessary. However, this is a task where the Government and citizens will have to equally participate. There are many shining examples of citizen groups and research centres make worthwhile contributions towards innovative ideas for a clean energy and green technology. These must not only be recognised by the Government but also accorded necessary protection under the IP ecosystem. A single innovation may benefit from three types of IP, for example an air conditioner that is powered by solar energy can be protected under patents, industrial design as well as trade marks. It is not only about the innovation but also about the strategies employed to market the product that gets the innovation to the end-users and benefits the economy at large. But in order to take such advantage from an innovation, the innovator must be first aware of the rights available and the manner in which the rights can be engaged in order for monetary gains as well as to serve the society. One interesting measure directed towards making India an innovation-driven economy, is the launch of India Innovation Index — a joint initiative of National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Under this initiative the States of India will be ranked on the basis of innovation activities within the State. Our journey upwards from the 57th rank is challenging but possible.

Further, in this regard, the seven broad objectives laid down under the national IP policy are extremely relevant, however its implementation and integration with the society is to be addressed as the need of the hour. However, the issue of energy innovation must not be considered as merely national and should be given a global treatment in order to find better solutions for the earth and its resources that are for all to share.

[1] The Global Innovation Index 2018 —Energising the World with Innovation, 11th Edition.

[2] Ibid. 

[3] Sam Ricketson, New Wine into Old Bottles: Technological Change and Intellectual Property Rights, ed. Drahos Peter “Intellectual Property”, Second Series.

[4] Christopher M. Kalanje, Role of Intellectual Property in Innovation and New Product Development, available from http://www.wipo.int/sme/en/documents/ip_innovation_development_fulltext.html#P15_2794.

[5] Sustainable Development Goals, available from http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals.html.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] The Global Innovation Index [n 1].

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., Ch. 1, p. 3.

[11] Innovation is the buzzword of 21st century: PM Modi at IIT Bombay, available at https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/innovation-is-the-buzzword-of-21st-century-pm-modi-at-iit-bombay-1311663-2018-08-11.

[12] The Global Innovation Index [n 1] Ch. 8, p. 144.

[13] Greening industry with Green Peace, available at https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Interviews/shellarticleshow/12378831.cms.

[14] Green IP — A new way to blossom, available at https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=766fc345-be8c-4dab-ae6f-f152de0c472b.

[15] Mission Innovation, available at http://mission-innovation.net/about/.

[16] Ibid.

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