One of these lies in the way the world manages the creation and ownership of inventions and concepts. A protectionist approach to Invention Websites was created to protect and prolong the lifecycle of existing technologies, and allow innovators to capture the earnings from their creations. In a paper published with colleagues from universities in Germany and India, we examined how this also makes it tougher for new and more sustainable technologies to be developed and adopted. That explains why nowadays there are other approaches being used to move key sectors to more sustainable systems and end this status quo.

Electric car manufacturer Tesla, has been doing just that. Tesla CEO Elon Musk “shocked” the entire world in 2014 when he announced that his company was joining the open source movement and giving away its patents at no cost. It is essential to be aware of the rationale here. Why would a company which had worked so hard to produce and protect its technology from its global car manufacturer competitors suddenly give its technology away for free?

Tesla initially developed a patent portfolio to guard its technology. However, Tesla’s concern that it would be overwhelmed once established car makers ramped up their production of electric cars never arrived at pass. Instead, it saw the electric car market stagnate at lower than 1% of total vehicle sales. So Tesla changed its strategy from seeking to prevent others from building electric cars to seeking to encourage them into the market.

Part of the reasoning here is when more electric cars are designed, then more battery recharging stations will be built too. This would make electric cars become a little more visible, and a more conventional choice. Tesla believes an open intellectual property strategy can strengthen rather than diminish its position because they build the size of the electrical car market, and consequently, build its own share in the total automotive market.

This kind of careful management of Inventhelp Company at company level, maintained by policy-level awareness, can be a powerful way to support the same types of transitions to more sustainable technologies in other industries too.

Energy supply faces an array of difficulties: the depletion of natural resources; air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions; nuclear risks; and security of supply. The water supply sector is restricted by water scarcity, pollutants, extreme environmental events like flooding and expenses associated with supplying water to communities in poor countries and remote communities. The agri-food sector, meanwhile, is under pressure to sustainably produce more food and also to address malnutrition in poor countries.

For such industries to navigate a path around these issues, new knowledge as well as the innovations that follow will likely be essential. And then in knowledge economies, intellectual property can either be an enabler or perhaps an inhibitor.

When the ownership of intellectual property is fragmented inside an industry, it can slow down technology innovation and uptake, like in the electronics industry where multiple players own complementary patents. However, firms can instead open up their innovation processes and move away from jealously guarded, internal cultures, where intellectual property is utilized to briaac and prolong lifecycles. This change may see knowledge sharing that leads to accelerated innovation cycles as well as a more rapid uptake of sustainable alternatives within a sector: just what Tesla was hoping for in electric vehicles.

This strategy to intellectual property, so-called “open IP”, is well advanced and mature inside the software industry and healthcare. It has given access to life-saving medicines to huge numbers of people, particularly in developing countries through patent pools, like the Medicine Patent Pool. This kind of project relies upon multinational pharmaceutical companies sharing their Free Invention Help, but small companies can also play a strategic roles in creating these new, more sustainable systems, and it’s not every about open IP.

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