GII 2022: U.S. Business Leaders upbeat on the potential of upcoming innovation waves at WIPO-IPO event

January 25, 2023

The event workshop “Exploring the Future of Innovation-driven Growth and the Role of Intellectual Property: U.S. Industry Experiences” with the Intellectual Property (IP) Owners Association (IPO) was a great success, with US business leaders expressing optimism about the potential of upcoming innovation waves.

The goal of the workshop was to discuss how intellectual property (IP) can reverse the trend of global productivity declines and how to better translate innovation investments into tangible impacts.

Hearing on this topic from some of the most innovative companies in the world such as 3M Cargill, Dell Technologies, DuPont, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Tenneco helped make the discussions cutting-edge and close to the business frontier.

At the start of the event, Ms. Kathi Vidal, the Director of the USPTO underlined how innovation in ICT spaces in areas such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials and clean energy production/distribution have the potential to drive productivity and growth over the next decade.

Mr. Krish Gupta, Dell Technologies and Marco M. Alemán, WIPO, painted a picture of the two looming Digital Age and Deep Science innovation waves and how IP can contribute by incentivizing large investments and improving knowledge exchange across innovation actors drastically.

Video: Exploring the Future of Innovation-driven Growth and the Role of Intellectual Property: U.S. Industry Experiences.

A few key takeaways:

  • While many economists are pessimistic about the potential to revive productivity growth through innovation (the tech pessimist camp), many of the U.S. business leaders invited were strongly optimistic – a welcome and much needed good news.
  • Digital age technologies such as supercomputing, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning are on the verge of making significant productivity impacts across all sectors and fostering scientific breakthroughs in all fields. Sectors such as construction, education, health and transport, which are key to societies, but which have suffered much from low productivity growth for the last decades might see the biggest positive productivity impacts.
  • While the productivity impacts of the Deep Science wave are harder to measure (e.g. how much do new cancer cures or new vaccines add to productivity?), we are at a tipping point where breakthroughs in bio- and nano-technologies, new materials, and other sciences will finally translate into tangible innovations in the market place.
  • Perseverance pays off. The Digital Age and Deep Science innovations are highly interdependent. They also have in common that they were not built overnight. They were decades in the making, and the result of prolonged scientific research and costly innovation investments.
  • IP is here to stay with a central role in facilitating the journey from science to the market place, with an evolving role, in particular in how IP enables collaboration across (sometimes competing) firms and across entire industries, and with firms relying on an ever-more complex mix of IP forms, with speakers noting that trade secrets will plan an increasingly important role in the future.
  • Finally, IP does not pick any winners; as technology-neutral tool, it supports innovation across-the-board; no questions asked.

A few other highlights:

We will see this growth [in digital technologies] with continued access to AI technology for application in areas that haven't benefited from it yet. I think we're coming to a point where the majority of all patent examiners will be examining patents that involve AI technology.

Ms. Laura Sheridan, Google LLC

Those two waves – the Digital Age and the Deep Science waves – are increasingly synergistic.  We now see digital technologies enabling deep science, which in turn leads to more digital technologies, and so forth. It’s basically a virtuous cycle that is accelerating itself.

Mr. Brett Alten, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

There are questions being raised now about how to make sure that licenses for data and code are being complied with when they're being used as inputs into AI engines.

Mr. Jason Reyes, Dell Technologies

We've seen over the years as Cargill continues to scale up innovation, that collaboration actually works better when the partners have patent positions. Accidental disclosure [without IP protection] could destroy great value. In that sense, the patent system can be a great facilitator, a great equalizer, or a great clarifier.

Mr. Daniel Enebo, Cargill, Inc.

Over the last 50 years the realm of what we as human beings understand about life has greatly expanded. Simply training to get to a basic level of being able to initiate new questions takes longer now because the amount of material that one must learn in order to get to the edge of innovation is so extensive.

Ms. Gillian Thackray, Thermo Fisher Scientific

To ensure the future of innovation to address global challenges we need a high functioning IP system that allows different industries and competing companies to enter partnerships with the confidence that their inventions will be protected.

Jessica Landacre, IPO

Thank you to the chairs Ms. Lisa Jorgenson, WIPO and Ms. Yen Florczak, 3M for their excellent leadership, as well as to Ms. Jessica K. Landacre, IPO, and Mr. Carsten Fink, WIPO for their thought-provoking concluding remarks.

The discussions were well-aligned with market realities and it was valuable to hear directly from innovative companies on topics of great importance to economic policy-making.

The WIPO IP and Innovation Ecosystems sector plans to continue organizing similar events in other regions to better equip us to understand the future role of IP. The contribution or partners such as IPO are invaluable in this endeavors.

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