Why was Innovation Asset Collective (IAC) created and how did your past experiences in intellectual property help to shape the programme structure and start-up plans?
IAC was designed to be a key pillar for Canada’s National IP Strategy and is the first IP programme to consider the broader business-relevant IP needs of companies. Early on, it identified gaps in the availability of strategic IP support for SMEs and scale-ups, including education on the business application(s) of intellectual property; access to a broader range of IP talent; use of patent and market intelligence to assist in business decisions; and access to non-dilutive capital for development of IP assets.
A second hurdle facing SMEs and scale-ups is IP barriers to entry, which includes access to a defensive patent portfolio to augment their own portfolio growth.
Our research and collective past experiences found that many companies had one-dimensional IP support centred around the generation of a patent asset. This approach leads to a disconnect between a corporate business strategy and the IP assets generated. The lack of focus on defining and executing an IP strategy that actively supports long-term business growth, results in a decreased ability to compete on a global scale.
IAC was formed to address this gap and is structured to bring IP talent together so as to deliver a holistic suite of services founded on IP education, IP intelligence, financial support and access to patent assets.
What common mistakes do Canadian companies make when commercialising their IP assets – and how can they avoid them?
Companies need to engage earlier with IP talent and ensure that they have access to mentorship and advice to set up a stronger IP foundation. To become global technology champions, companies should better understand the importance of their intellectual property and how to build formidable IP and data positions to support growth.
This was one of the insights that led to the development of IAC, where we are helping to educate and empower Canadian companies to take control of their innovations. I firmly believe that a good IP strategy is incomplete until it involves a plan that supports a business’s ability to successfully commercialise a product and/or service.
You have worked with companies of all sizes – from start-ups to large multinationals. How do you adapt the way that you work between entities with such different needs?
My common approach is focused on ensuring that there is a sound IP strategy, one that supports market-relevant
innovations, and an organisational culture that ensures sustainability of any IP-related strategy programming. In my experience, smaller ventures often need a wider range of support, with an increased focus on building their IP knowledge and guaranteeing linkages with their IP positions and market relevance. Large companies, in contrast, have established IP positions and need expertise to help add advanced IP programmes to make better use of their IP resources.
How do you expect the IP transactions space to evolve as more and more industries continue to be affected by technological convergence?
From a market view, we are seeing considerable evolution in the data-driven economy. Yesterday’s technology was standalone; today’s has evolved and requires the support of other sectors across the entire value chain. For example, manufacturing electric vehicles now necessitates a mix of battery technology, advanced sensors and chips, communication systems and electrical grid connectivity, while operating an electric vehicle could require access to smart grid charging software, mapping software and smart parking sensors, among others. This convergence means that companies will need to be hyper aware of the IP risks and opportunities, as there is considerable overlap of technologies, entailing a higher level of IP rights clearances. For transactions, this opens up opportunities to consider patents from various points in the value chain, either as defensive purchases or monetisation plays.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in intellectual property?
An analysis of high-growth companies with strong IP positions revealed at least 12 different roles interacted to support the IP assets, yet typical businesses only engaged approximately three of those roles in a typical IP programme. My advice would be to consider all of the various IP-related roles and not be fixated on a narrow niche or traditional IP role. Focus on building a broad range of IP skills, show your value as it relates to market relevance for the business and create new opportunities for your career.
Peter Cowan is a co-founder of and special advisor to the CEO of Innovation Asset Collective, a membership-based not-for-profit helping to educate Canadian companies in the data-driven cleantech sector on how to harness their intellectual property to scale and succeed, both in Canada and globally. Mr Cowan is also the founder and principal consultant at Northworks IP, founded to help companies maximise the value of their IP assets through a business-focused approach to intellectual property.