Speakers Discuss Technology Transfer For Climate Change; Within Academic Settings 17/04/2009 by Kaitlin Mara for Intellectual Property Watch 2 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Evidence-based policymaking is essential to combat climate change, and ensure the transfer of climate-change-related technology, said members of a panel held at the World Intellectual Property Organization. But it can be hard to determine where to find that evidence. The late March event was organised by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development alongside the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Patents. It brought together speakers and commentators to discuss the challenge. Additionally, to effectively engage in any form of technology transfer, it helps to understand the nuts and bolts of how it works, said Janna Tom of the University of California at a later seminar run by the Biotechnology Industry Organization on 31 March. A key question in climate change technology and related transfer, WIPO’s Tony Taubman said at the ICTSD event on 27 March, is whether it is just another debate, or something special requiring special mechanisms. There is evidence to indicate that it is a distinctive debate, he said, including: specific legal obligations between states to do something about climate change, an emerging ethical human rights context, national self-interest in the wide diffusion of clean technology, and the diverse character of green technologies. Another key difference is the sense of urgency in climate change. “Time is of the essence,” Taubman said. Konstantinos Karachalios of the European Patent Organization agreed, saying “for the first time in human history … we are confronted with a situation where we cannot play games any more.” Industry cannot look any more only at return on investment; there is no time for a zero-sum game, he said. Maria Mediluce of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development concurred, saying “it’s important to emphasise that this is an emergency, [and that] business as usual doesn’t matter here.” The ICTSD event opened with two speakers exploring different ways of gathering evidence: Nick Johnstone of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) presented results from an as-yet unpublished econometric study on climate change and technology transfer. Frederick Abbott of Florida State University (US) then suggested using evidence from experience with related debates on IP and public policy. The OECD Empirical Policy Analysis Unit conducted a study measuring ecological innovation and diffusion, including the determinants of transfer of environmentally sound technologies. Patent data was used as the basis for the study, with patent applications on environmentally sound technologies – such as those for hybrid vehicles, solar photovoltaic panels, clean coal, carbon capture and storage, and energy efficiency in manufacture – used as a proxy to measure innovation. It was important first to understand what encourages innovation in climate change technologies, said Johnstone. “Prices matter,” he said. Renewable forms of energy are, for example, taken up more readily when the price of oil is high. But for less well-developed technologies – solar power, for instance, or electric cars – then public investment in research and development, policy incentives and policy stability to help incentivise innovation, and general scientific capacity in an area might matter more. Transfer of technology in renewable energies, said Johnstone, was shown to be mainly influenced by absorptive capacity of a country, their electricity consumption, and all-over technology transfer. Policy tools like the Clean Development Mechanism matter, he said, but not as much. The Clean Development Mechanism is an initiative under the Kyoto protocol that allows industrialised economies to meet their carbon reduction obligations by investing in carbon-output reducing projects in developing nations rather than cutting their own emissions. Evidence from the OECD reporting showed also that the vast majority of technology transfer is happening between a select few countries – primarily going to key emerging economies like China and Brazil, and to a lesser extent Korea and South Africa, according to graphs presented during Johnstone’s speech. Mediluce, commenting at the event, said her experience had showed her the same. She asserted that “99 percent of patents in developing countries are in emerging economies.” Eight fundamental lessons may be drawn from a related dialogue on IP and public health, said Abbott. These include that: economic and political power matter, including strategic alliances and external catastrophes; stakeholder involvement is essential; zero-sum bargaining is unlikely to be successful, and appeals to equity have limited impact on the business community. Other lessons are that: effective technology transfer requires concrete mechanisms; communication to the public can shape the political environment; forum shifting can undermine gains; competition law is underemployed; and there is something to be gained from the human rights dialogue, he said. But patents have a very different impact in the field of public health than they do in climate change, according to Abbott. Pharmaceuticals are highly dependent on strong patent protection, which is not necessarily the case in climate change. This is, he said, a key flaw of the non-discrimination policy of the World Trade Organization Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. Some recommendations carry over to the climate change debate from the public health debate, argued Abbott. This includes, in particular, the need for meaningful financial incentives for the private sector to transfer technology, and in general the need for practical problem-solving. A declaration on climate change reflective of the WTO Doha Declaration on Public Health might not be necessary in this light, he added. That is because, “years of acrimonious debate would create an unwelcome diversion from practical problem-solving.” BIO Event At the 31 March event, Janna Tom of the University of California discussed technology transfer in an academic setting. Intellectual property is key, she said, especially in the highly technological biopharmaceutical field. “If a company doesn’t feel that a patent is a strong patent, then it’s a high-risk endeavour,” she explained. “A weak patent is not interesting to them.” Other IP issues also come into play, she said, relating to copyrights, data, and biological materials, which can add complexity. And while not opposed to transferring technology to those outside of the business sector, “typically, we don’t licence to a non-profit because most are not in the position to develop or commercialise a product,” she added, explaining that the university “operates in the space between basic research and clinical trials, so it’s important for us to make linkages [with the private sector].” In terms of prizes as an alternate incentive mechanism for research on, for example, neglected diseases where there might be little market and therefore little use in obtaining a patent, Tom said that while universities do not restrict academic research they “operate off soft money.” The issue is “we don’t have profits,” she said. “We have to seek funding” in order to be able to carry out research. “If you can’t find funding for a proposal then the harsh reality is they [academic researchers] aren’t going to pursue it.” This raises a difficulty for the use of prizes, since that money comes after the fact. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Kaitlin Mara may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."Speakers Discuss Technology Transfer For Climate Change; Within Academic Settings" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.