New Commission Recommendation to help harness knowledge for Europe

The European Commission has adopted a Recommendation on the management of intellectual property (IP) in the knowledge transfer activities of universities and other public research
organisations. In doing so, the Commission reaffirms its commitment to the Lisbon Strategy: to transform the EU into the world’s most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy.

The specific objectives of the Recommendation are to assist Member States in the development of policies and guidelines in the area of intellectual property management and knowledge transfer
activities and to promote the exploitation of publicly-funded research results.

In many cases this will entail public research organisations (PROs) and private enterprise working more closely together, for example in academia-industry collaborations. Further cooperation is
also needed to help promote open innovation, which allows for the transfer of knowledge between organisations with the objective that it be fully exploited and brought to market.

Commenting on the recommendation, Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik said: ‘We also need to become better in turning research results into commercially or socially successful
innovations. Proper management by public research organisations of their intellectual property is crucial for transferring knowledge to business, for licensing new technologies or creating
spin-off companies. Doing this at a European scale brings new opportunities. We cannot afford to let valuable inventions lie idle in laboratories or on bookshelves.’

The adoption of this resolution is timely as it follows the release of a number of statistical reports, such as the European Innovation Trendchart, which show that while Europe leads other
countries such as the US in the number of science and engineering graduates, it still lags behind the US in terms of innovation. What is needed is a way to harness Europe’s academic potential
and apply it in a manner that will benefit the EU in terms of job creation and market innovation. This is precisely what this Recommendation aims to achieve.

The Commission is quick to allay fears that directing public research organisations (PROs) towards IP management and knowledge transfer will in some way conflict with their education and
research missions. Instead, the Commission contends, the Recommendation will support PROs’ goal of generating socio-economic benefits for society. It may even become a key element in attracting
students, scientists and further research funding, in particular from the private sector and at international level.

The Recommendation also outlines a Code of Practice which Member States and academic institutions could use as a basis for introducing or adapting national guidelines and legislation concerning
the management of intellectual property or knowledge transfer.

The Code of Practice consists of three main sets of principles; principles for an internal intellectual property policy; principles for a knowledge transfer policy; and principles for
collaborative and contract research.

Also commenting on the recommendation was Commission Vice-President and Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry Günter Verheugen, who said: ‘European universities and other public
research organisations need to engage more actively in the exploitation of publicly funded research results. It’s necessary in order to stimulate innovation and maximise the benefits of
publicly funded research, so we can turn scientific research into new products and services, which will create new industries and jobs.’

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