The Open A.I.R. Project

The Open African Innovation Research and Training (Open A.I.R.) Project is investing in pan-African research, networking, capacity-building and policy engagement.

The project’s central aim is to investigate how intellectual property (IP) regimes can be harnessed in Africa to facilitate innovation through collaboration – and to make processes more participatory, knowledge more accessible, and benefits more widely shared. Interconnected, empirical case studies are exploring a range of research questions in countries across the continent.

The case studies are connected to six Open A.I.R. themes: copyrights, patents, trademarks, the WIPO development agenda, the traditional knowledge (TK) commons and IP from publicly funded research. At the same time, the project is conducting foresighting research to develop scenarios for the future of IP, collaboration/innovation and development in Africa. And training, capacity-building and policy engagement activities are being rolled out based on the case study and foresight findings.

The decentralised project is administered from the IP Unit in the University of Cape Town Faculty of Law, with management support from faculty affiliated with the University of Ottawa Centre for Law, Technology and Society. The project's North Africa Hub is the Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D) at The American University in Cairo (AUC), its West Africa Hub is at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) in Lagos, and its East Africa Hub is at the Centre for IP and IT Law (CIPIT), Strathmore University, Nairobi.

The project’s funding is from Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The project’s capacity-building component is being carried out in cooperation with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), through its initiative entitled "commons@ip – Harnessing the Knowledge Commons for Open Innovation."

Launched in May 2011, Open A.I.R. is building on the success of the three-year (2007 to 2010) African Copyright and Access to Knowledge (ACA2K) Project, with many Open A.I.R. Team members having worked on ACA2K. While ACA2K's focus was on copyright and user access, Open A.I.R.'s work encompasses all branches of IP and looks at both user and producer dynamics.