Open A.I.R. Research & Training Themes
The Open A.I.R. research and training project, begun in 2011, is working with African innovators, creators and entrepreneurs to turn knowledge into concrete practices that can transform economies and drive human development forward. The project hopes that, through its efforts and the efforts of other like-minded initiatives and groups, the intellectual property (IP) systems that govern knowledge in Africa can gradually be made to work better as tools for open innovation and collaborative creativity.
The 21st Century has ushered in new modes of innovation and creation based on collaboration among interconnected networks of people, knowledge and resources, but research and capacity-building around IP systems have not kept pace with these trends. Open A.I.R. is seeking to fill this research and training gap.
The project is centred around 19 interconnected, empirical case studies on conditions across the African continent, along with future-focussed foresight research. The research is laying the foundations for training provision to public- and private-sector leaders.
Polarised views on how IP facilitates or restricts innovation and creativity persist because there is little empirical research on this topic. Consequently, relevant actors tend to create or confront sub-optimal IP laws, policies and practices, all of which have the potential to impede development. This project is examining the following two interrelated hypotheses in relation to IP and development in Africa:
- African innovation and creativity are not properly valued by current IP-related metrics; and
- African innovation and creativity are being constrained by sub-optimal IP-related policies and inefficient IP-related practices.
Open A.I.R. ultimately aims to determine how Africans can harness existing or potential IP systems to measure and facilitate innovation and creativity for more participatory, effective and just models of “open” development. The project’s short-term objectives are:
- to raise problem awareness and facilitate critical policy engagement; and
- to empower a networked, epistemic IP community in Africa:
In the longer-term, the following outcomes are sought:
- changed discourse and behaviour that engenders fewer bottlenecks and more collaboration; and
- re-configured IP-related valuation metrics, capital and power structures.
The project has a two-pronged research methodology:
- landscaping case studies in six thematic areas; and
- future foresighting exercises, including strategic and contingency planning.
Qualitative case studies are currently being completed on topics linked to copyrights, patents, trademarks, the WIPO development agenda, the traditional knowledge (TK) commons and IP from publicly funded research.
Meanwhile, the foresight research component is working collaboratively, with project researchers and key stakeholders, to determine drivers of change, identify and dissect possible scenarios for the future, and “back cast” to generate strategic courses of action.
The project’s training components aim to build capacity among researchers, policy and issue leaders, and grassroots stakeholders -- including innovators, creators and entrepreneurs. The training comprises seminars and workshops, the Open A.I.R. Research Fellows programme, and development/delivery of a course curriculum.
Implementing and Funding Partners
The UCT Intellectual Property (IP) Law & Policy Research Unit assists in developing IP law and policy in Africa and aims to contribute to the manner in which this topic is treated in the emerging and developing countries throughout the world. The Unit's work is premised on the belief developing countries must participate in the evolution of intellectual property policy and law in order to ensure that any changes take full account of the needs of emerging economies. The Unit seeks to work through dialogue, research, debate and capacity-building, and to explore the issues faced by society at large, IP holders and consumers/users.
The goal of the Centre is to research, analyse and shed light on the complex and interdependent relationships between law, technology and society. A joint initiative of the Common Law and Civil Law Sections of University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, this centre for research, student training and knowledge dissemination brings together independent scholars and professors interested in the Centre’s strategic areas of research, which include a variety of subjects relating to law and technology, such as information technology; intellectual property; biotechnology; bioethics; science, technology and society; human rights; governance and public policy; enabling technologies and e-transactions; digital media and communications; safety and security; privacy and access to information; and traditional knowledge.
The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) is a Crown corporation set up by the Parliament of Canada in 1970 to support developing countries in using science and technology to find solutions to social, economic, and environmental problems. IDRC’s support is directed towards creating local research communities whose work can build healthier, more equitable, and more prosperous societies.
The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) develops the guidelines and the fundamental concepts on which German development policy is based. It devises long-term strategies for cooperation with the various players concerned and defines the rules for implementing that cooperation. These are the foundations for developing shared projects with partner countries and international development organisations. All efforts are informed by the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, which aim to halve poverty in the world by 2015. The BMZ commissions the German implementing organisations with executing programmes, and monitors the results of their work.
GIZ supports people and societies in developing, transition and industrialised countries in shaping their own futures and improving living conditions. Established on 1 January 2011, GIZ brings together under one roof the expertise of the Deutscher Entwicklungsdienst (DED) (German development service), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) (German technical cooperation) and InWEnt – Capacity Building International, Germany. As a federally owned enterprise, GIZ supports the German Government in achieving its objectives in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development. GIZ is also engaged in education work around the world. As part of GIZ’s Human Capacity Building work, the OpenIT@giz programmes support partners in Africa and Asia by providing advanced knowledge in open innovation and information and communication technologies (ICTs).