August 8, 2019
Student Post by Eashan Karnik
The need to adopt clean energy technologies is a pressing issue not just in Canada, but internationally as well. Policy makers, world leaders, and environmental stakeholders need to address the many issues regarding both the promotion of clean innovation, as well as the adoption and diffusion of these innovations in international markets. Organizations like the Smart Prosperity Institute deliver research to advance practical policies and market solutions for a stronger, cleaner economy. Clean innovation, carbon pricing, and ocean management are all aspects of such policies which can aid the blue economy.
What is the Blue Economy?
Blue economy is defined as a concept that encourages better stewardship of the world's ocean, lake, and river resources. The blue economy emphasizes the importance of the world's waters, and the impacts that they have on multiple areas within the global economy. The impacts that stem from water resources are a significant factor in climate crises such as the proliferation of carbon emissions. The management of the blue economy requires unified effort and an open source of information available to researchers.
What is the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference?
In November, Kenya held the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in collaboration with Canada and Japan and brought together these groups under an international platform. This first ever global high-level conference on sustainability in the blue economy had over 18,000 participants from 184 countries. With seven Heads of State and Government, 84 Ministers, world leaders from a diverse range of sectors, and a multitude of ordinary citizens, the conference held the constituency needed to enact significant change in the blue economy.
The effects of Intellectual Property (IP) rights were a primary focus of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference. IP governs the development and release of significant global research on the world's oceans, and also governs the technologies required to enhance the blue economy. As the blue economy requires unified efforts, the management of IP must be conducted differently.
The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference held significant plenary and side-panel discussions on the introduction of cleantech companies that are tackling ocean issues. These companies have used the latest in innovative technologies to find value in ocean economies. The patents that underlie these corporations were a topic in contention as strong IP rights would serve as impediments to their proliferation.
How can cleantech benefit from Intellectual Property?
In the cleantech scene, economies of scale are required to maintain and benefit from ocean resources. With limited funding and smaller operations, cleantech organizations are not able to operate to the magnitude required to achieve this benefit. In addition, by strongly holding on to their IP rights, they are disinterested in allowing their technology to be used widely.
The IP rights in cleantech would benefit from unique management as the goals of these operations do not rest solely on profiteering. With a small number of corporations holding the patents needed to create wide impacts, a unified effort will be fruitless and disorganized. A patent system that allows for similar use for the benefit of the blue economy will lead to a greater overall benefit on ocean bodies.
In addition, IP has also affected the dissemination of crucial research to scientists and oceanologists. The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference put a spotlight on nations like the US which prohibit global use of their ocean data. This reduces global funding for blue economy research as governments are hesitant to invest in the state-of-the-art cleantech required to monitor ocean data.
A unified effort to benefit from the blue economy will require a global network of IP sharing that is open and accessible. As the blue economy impacts every nation, it is the duty of every nation to share its data.
With these topics at play, the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference was an excellent beginning to a renegotiation of IP-exchange on an international exchange. The IP issues it dealt with served as an excellent indicator of how IP can consist of incentives, impediments, and representations within the cleantech sector.
Eashan is a student researcher at Open African Innovation Research network at the University of Ottawa. He works with Jeremy de Beer, Professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law and a co-founding director of Open AIR. They’re working on a project entitled, “Intellectual Property’s Impact on Clean Innovation: A Knowledge Synthesis”. This project has been supported in part through the Smart Prosperity Institute Research Network and its Greening Growth Partnership, which is supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Grant (no. 895-2017-1018), as well as the Economics and Environmental Policy Research Network (EEPRN).