08 November 2012

ACIP Collaborations Report

The Advisory Council on Intellectual Property (ACIP) has released its 61 page report [PDF] on Collaborations between the Public and Private Sectors: the Role of Intellectual Property. The report examines the role of IP in collaborations, on the basis that "IP rights define who owns an intellectual asset. This helps private industry raise money and commercialise public research".

ACIP considered the views of publicly funded research organisations including universities, medical institutes, and other interested parties. The inquiry collected information about collaboration models between industry and Australian publicly-funded research organisations (PFROs), and about experiences with such collaborations. The inquiry was conducted in cooperation with the national Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIISRTE).

The Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation, Mark Dreyfus, echoed the traditional lament about commercialisation of research, commenting that
 Australia has world class public research, but we need greater collaboration with the private sector to transfer this knowledge into new technologies, products and services that benefit society. 
Greater collaboration can benefit business and assist them to become more competitive by tapping into the reservoir of knowledge that publicly funded research organisations and universities offer.
ACIP considered seven issues -
  • 1. Motivating PFROs to collaborate 
  • 2. Aligning interests and expectations from collaborations 
  • 3. Helping SMEs to engage with PFROs 
  • 4. Increasing project management and skills in PFROs 
  • 5. Provisions in government contracts and grants 
  • 6. Knowledge and IP management in PFROs
  • 7. De‐risking early stage IP
ACIP offers six recommendations -
  • R1: Develop mechanisms to increase the motivation of PFROs, especially universities and medical research institutes (at an institutional level) and PFRO researchers (at an individual level), to engage in collaborations with industry. Considerations should include: establishing an evaluation framework that complements ERA (the Excellence in Research for Australia) and measures the impact of PFRO research, including metrics for collaborations with industry; increasing reward mechanisms for PFROs that are directly linked to PFRO– industry collaboration performance; and increasing the weight given to industry collaboration and engagement activities in appointment and promotion criteria for individual researchers. 
  • R2: Encourage the development and promotion of educational resources to assist PFROs, industry and researchers to form and conduct collaborations. Resources should be easily identifiable and accessible to all stakeholders, particularly PFROs and SMEs, and be supported by relevant training. Considerations should include assessing available resources, tools and programs and how they may be best promoted and deployed. Particular focus should be on modules that can assist with: aligning interests with expectations expediting the negotiation of collaboration agreements understanding the commercial/legal provisions in collaboration agreements; a set of starting principles/questions to help partners focus, communicate and develop a good understanding of the objectives of their collaboration; term sheet-like smart forms setting out all issues that need to be included in negotiations and possible options to deal with them; a module focusing on background IP (contributed to a collaboration) and project IP (arising in collaborations), including the proper identification and management of both  a module on valuation models of early stage technologies and IP providing PFROs with access to expert patent analytics services, related business intelligence tools and training. 
  • R3: Improve the ability of SMEs and PFROs to form and conduct collaborations with one another. Considerations include programs that increase the awareness of SMEs as to what PFROs have to offer and assistance aimed at encouraging industry to engage with PFROs. These may include innovation vouchers, staff exchange programs and strengthening the Enterprise Connect Researcher in Business program. 
  • R4: In order to improve their collaborations with industry, PFROs need to increase their project management skills and capability. Consideration should be given to PFROs allocating additional resources to support project management, and developing and maintaining appropriate skills including through staff exchanges with industry. 
  • R5: Request that the Coordination Committee on Innovation (CCI) promote and encourage the use of flexible terms and conditions in Australian Government grants and research contracts, including those specifically related to background and project IP licences, warranties, indemnities and moral rights. Considerations should include collating and communicating information about existing initiatives and previous work undertaken in relation to such terms and conditions and the circumstances in which their flexible application is appropriate; increasing awareness among Commonwealth and PFRO legal and procurement practitioners of the flexibility available in the terms and conditions of Australian Government grants and research contracts (including those specifically related to background and project IP licences, warranties, indemnities and moral rights); establishing a process for government agencies to report on the extent that such flexibility is being applied. 
  • R6: Ensure that the National Principles for Intellectual Property Management for Publicly Funded Research (currently being reviewed by CCI)  cover all publicly funded research conducted by PFROs; encourage PFROs to introduce continual improvement to, and implementation of, internal policies and procedures for IP management. Consideration should be given to including reference to implementing continuous improvement processes in the Commonwealth’s mission-based compacts with universities.
The report states that -
IP cannot be looked at in isolation. Other considerations are also important. From an industry perspective, these include awareness of opportunities to collaborate, availability and expertise of PFRO personnel and access to facilities and other infrastructure. From a PFRO perspective, major considerations include the availability of funding and resources, and the types of interactions formed with industry. 
Respondents often confused IP with other issues involved in collaborations. They were using IP as a catch-all term to describe problems associated with many of the commercial issues that arise in transactions and negotiations. Where the issues raised did relate to IP, they involved the underlying negotiation position and lack of knowledge about IP.