Building stronger intellectual property strategy capabilities

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Supporting SMEs to succeed with open innovation

Intellectual Property and Open Innovation: October 2021, The European Commission published a new study on the interplay of Intellectual Property and Open Innovation.

The study was commissioned by the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (European Commission), now known as European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency and prepared by the Institute for Manufacturing’s Engage (IfM Engage) team of Frank Tietze (Innovation and Intellectual Property Management (IIPM) Lab), Graham Bell (Director of Cubicibuc and Industrial Associate, IfM Engage), Pratheeba Vimalnath and Leo Aristodemou (with support from other IfM Engage colleagues).

Intellectual Property and Open Innovation - Study Cover
Intellectual Property and Open Innovation – Study Cover

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are considered to be the engine of the European economy. After an official commitment to OI in 2016, the Commission continues to promote OI as part of its digital single market and innovation policies. Particularly for SMEs working on key enabling technologies, their Hard-Intellectual Property (Hard-IP) e.g. patents, trademarks, but often more so their Soft-IP e.g. data, know-how, represents a considerable value to their business. However, a large share of SMEs still lacks awareness and understanding of Intellectual Property and Open Innovation.

The study commissioned in 2020 to provide an empirical basis for existing OI models and the extent to which IP – including patents, utility models, designs, but also trade secrets, data and know-how – facilitates or hinders OI, with a particular focus on SMEs.

The study was based on 40 case studies (mostly with SMEs, but also large firms, higher education institutions (HEI) and public research organisations (PRO)) from seven value chains across Europe, Australia, India, Israel, UK and US, and input from a wide range of experts.

It is clear from these case studies that IP in many forms is a key enabler of collaboration. SMEs seek to share and gain access to different forms of IP through collaboration to pursue their business goals. While the forms of IP may differ, the study did not find evidence that IP acts as a barrier to collaboration. What the data shows is that the behaviours, processes and lacking capabilities in relation to IP can act as barriers – for example, an SME’s low ability to confidently negotiate IP terms for an OI contract with a larger entity.

The conclusions of the analysis suggest that to maximise the value that SMEs can appropriate from OI, SMEs need a better strategic understanding of IP. The study’s final report makes recommendations that the Commission takes measures to build stronger IP strategy capabilities in European SMEs: people-focused, digital infrastructure-focused and material-focused recommendations.

Intellectual Property and Open Innovation - Study Recommendations
Intellectual Property and Open Innovation – Study Recommendations

For anyone involved in supporting SMEs with collaborative projects, Open Innovation or general IP support, this report should be essential reading.

Further details and a downloadable copy of the report can be found at:

For more information about our IP Strategy service, or to discuss how Cubicibuc can help your organisation please contact us.

For more information on the IfM’s short courses on IP management click here.