Makerspaces are places where innovators gather together to develop new ideas, technologies and entrepreneurial opportunities. The concept of sharing not only space but also tools and equipment is gaining popularity in many countries. Canada is home to several makerspaces ranging from hackerspaces, to fab labs, to informal studio spaces where people can create, invent, and learn. Some are run for profit, some are non-profit, and some are run by individuals or larger institutions.
Just last month, I had the opportunity to participate in the 13th WIPO-WTO Colloquium for Teachers of Intellectual Property held at World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland from 13 to 24 June, 2016. I am beyond thankful for this scholarship and enjoyed an intense two week programme, covering eighteen substantive topics touching on all areas of intellectual property (IP) law. There were thirty-nine experts from WIPO, WTO, WHO, UNFCCC, UPOV, NGOs ,and industry who took part in the Colloquium as speakers and I was among twenty-six participants selected from approximately 160 applicants from developing countries around the world.
Creativity is a key ingredient in innovation, and the University of Pretoria’s (UP) makerspace screams it from the moment one arrives; the walls are brightly painted orange and green, there are several large tables surrounded by equally bright chairs, and along the back and side walls lay computers, makerbot 3D printers, and, of course, a coffee machine. Currently, UP is the only South African university with a ‘formal’ makerspace, although many, including the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University, are working to establish their own official makerspaces.
The intellectual property system is a crucial part of economic policymaking worldwide. It affects matters of profound importance, including health, education, nutrition, culture, science, technology and innovation policy. One might assume, therefore, that the global governance of intellectual property rights rests on a solid foundation of evidence. Think again. For over a century, intellectual property policy has been based largely on theoretical assumptions and political lobbying.
Some people tour Europe’s finest vineyards others tour Australia’s sweetest surf spots—I tour South Africa’s pioneer makerspaces; part of the growing global maker movement. The movement is a culmination of people becoming “makers” (someone who uses their personal abilities to create anything from mechanical or electrical to visual or musical) and spaces becoming makerspaces (an interdisciplinary area stimulating people to create by providing resources and idea sharing).
Last month, Open AIR launched our inaugural case study workshop at the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology (CIPIT), part of Strathmore University’s Law School in Kenya, and one of Open AIR’s hubs. The workshop sought to provide successful case study participants with an opportunity to present their proposals and brainstorm with their colleagues.
In the first week of April 2016, the Open African Innovation Research and Training (Open AIR) network held a three-day workshop at our Nairobi hub, Strathmore University. The workshop included the Open AIR team and was primarily organized to bring together all the successful case study researchers in order to review, refine, and brainstorm about their upcoming research. There was also significant activity on Twitter, which can be read about here. All the case studies that Open AIR is funding fall under at least one of our major research themes: high technology hubs, informal sector innovation, indigenous entrepreneurship, and metrics and policies.
The global South is full of significant, diverse biological and genetic resources. It’s also home to most of the world’s indigenous communities. This is why developing countries are sensitive about protecting their genetic resources and traditional knowledge.
Hani Morsi, an Open AIR Post-Doctoral fellow at the Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D) in Cairo, gave a seminar last week entitled “Beyond openness: Investigating the success factors of open approaches to collaboration and innovation”. This was part of the Brown Bag seminar series of AUC’s School of Business.
Too often, scholarly work and debates relating to Intellectual Property (IP) have focused on the protection and profits of the IP holder, as opposed to promoting open-access and the broader interests of the community. In her talk at the University of Ottawa on February 9th, Professor Janewa Osei-Tutu suggested we readjust the lens through which IP innovation is examined, using human development as the standard.
In the midst of two decades of TRIPS and three decades of openness, more than 400 delegates from over 50 countries converged in New Delhi for the 4th Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest (GCIP). Participants ranged from established academics to students and activists in the field of intellectual property (IP). Over a period of three days, GCIP delegates met at the National Law University to discuss a host of topics under four broad themes: Users’ Rights, Openness, IP and Development, and Access to Medicines.
In the recently concluded ‘African Ministerial Conference: Intellectual Property for an Emerging Africa’ organized in part by WIPO (here), one cannot help but think that all roads leading to creativity and innovation are paved with intellectual property (IP) laws and institutions. Put differently, the level of creativity and innovation in a society is dependent solely on how we tinker with and enforce IP laws. This ‘IP parochialism’, as I call it, is manifest in the conference program. Of course, the response would be that the conference was solely about IP and as such there was no need to look beyond IP. This is an erroneous view.
Open AIR is calling for African case studies that shed light on the following two overarching research questions:
How can open collaborative innovation help businesses scale up and seize the new opportunities of a global knowledge economy?
Which knowledge governance systems will best ensure that the social and economic benefits of innovation are shared inclusively across society as a whole?
The Advancement of Training and Research for Intellectual Property (ATRIP) Conference provides a yearly opportunity for international experts and other academics in the field of intellectual property (IP) to come together and exchange current research. The set-up of ATRIP’s conference enables for ease of networking with similar speakers separated into common sessions. Tana Pistorius, ATRIP President, and her team of organizers, did a superb job in ensuring a diversity of, yet connection between, sessions. Sessions covered a range of topics from new ideas for leveraging traditional knowledge (or “innovation knowledge” as Susy Frankel stated), to plant breeder’s rights, to diversity, art and culture in IP and innovation.
Our Open AIR researcher Dr. Erika Kraemer-Mbula is continuing her exciting research in South Africa about informal sector entrepreneurs.
Informal entrepreneurship is receiving increasing scholarly and political attention in Africa. The continent’s booming youth population calls for an unprecedented need to create income and livelihood opportunities. Besides the traditional focus on formalisation, there is a growing interest in understanding the creative processes and innovations occurring in informal enterprises. However, evidence remains scarce, and research on informal enterprises still represents a relatively new and unexplored frontier.