TopTop

Shadow

Search

advanced search
search help

 

ipHandbook Blog

Your source for expert commentary on IP management issues.
Go to the blog

 

About

Editor-in-Chief,   Anatole Krattiger

Editorial Board

Concept Foundation

PIPRA

Fiocruz, Brazil

bioDevelopments-   Institute

CHAPTER NO. 17.18   The African Agricultural Technology Foundation Approach to IP Management
Editor's Summary, Implications and Best Practices

Krattiger A, RT Mahoney, L Nelsen, JA Thomson, AB Bennett, K Satyanarayana, GD Graff, C Fernandez and SP Kowalski. 2007. Editor’s Summary, Implications and Best Practices (Chapter 17.18). From the online version of Intellectual Property Management in Health and Agricultural Innovation: A Handbook of Best Practices. MIHR: Oxford, U.K., and PIPRA: Davis, U.S.A. Available online at www.ipHandbook.org.

© 2007. A Krattiger et al. Sharing the Art of IP Management: Photocopying and distribution through the Internet for noncommercial purposes is permitted and encouraged.

Editor's Summary

“Honest broker” is a term often used in peace negotiations but it has also been used by non-profit organizations engaged in public-private partnership building. In this regard, a recent institutional mechanism is the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF). AATF emerged from a Rockefeller Foundation initiative in the early 2000s following a wide-ranging and unprecedented consultation among African, European and North American stakeholders who are actively seeking to improve food security and reduce poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. AATF recognizes that new and unique public-private partnerships (PDPs) are needed to remove many of the barriers that have prevented smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa from gaining access to existing agricultural technologies. Focusing on the creation of these PDPs, it seeks to dramatically improve access to agricultural technologies, materials, and know-how, at the same time promoting efforts to create sustainable markets.

AATF has two unique characteristics: first, it is prepared to in-license technologies from the private sector, which it then sub-licenses to its partners. This is no small issue and requires careful considerations of a range of issues, not least liability. Second, AATF strongly focuses on downstream activities, or, to put it more broadly, on technology stewardship. This includes such things as facilitating access to local, national and regional markets for the products produced from transferred technologies. The goals are to create more sustainable technology transfer mechanisms and to allow national institutions to more effectively absorb new technological concepts and adopt them for productive use.

But the fundamental raison d’être of AATF goes much deeper than “merely” IP management. As Gordon Conway, then President of the Rockefeller Foundation, put it in the AATF annual report of 2005: “We should examine the current system and ask ourselves, ‘How can those who care about the fate of the small-scale farmer make technological options more available?’ The rise of a sophisticated global IP system covering many building block technologies has meant public researchers [in Africa] have little access to new ideas and tools in their field. Left to its own devices, the gap is likely to grow—with wealthy nations’ farmers using techniques that are ever more sophisticated and poor farmers left with the same tools they have used for centuries.”

Indeed, the need for Africa to access new and better technologies has been identified as central to the continent’s agricultural revival. Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, documents from the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and multilateral policies and plans all place emphasis on the need for Africa to seek technological interventions that will improve production systems, agricultural trade and commerce, and stimulate broader and more equitable economic growth on a sustainable basis. The factors that hinder access to and delivery of proprietary technologies include lack of capacity in IP license negotiations; lack of capacity in the management of intellectual property; high transaction costs; and lack of coordination between or amongst relevant public and private sector entities. The Nairobi, Kenya-based AATF is addressing these issues.

A unique characteristic, again, is AATF’s decision to in-license and then sub-license technologies. One reason companies are somewhat reluctant to donate intellectual property and technologies for humanitarian use is the potential recipient’s inability to steward the donation. Companies cannot provide the requisite infrastructure to developing country institutions, and the significant senior management time any development project takes significantly raises costs for private sector participation, both directly and in lost opportunity costs. Having a non-profit intermediary that is willing and able to strengthen technological stewardship and can absorb some liabilities and management functions is of high value.

A similar organization in human health biotechnology is the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI). Created in 1999, it functions as a broker for private and public sector entities committed to expanding the use of vaccines in the developing world. International organizations, governments, vaccine industry, research institutions, and major philanthropists collectively form a dedicated partnership serving the shared GAVI objectives. It includes as a subsidiary, or as a financial arm, The Vaccine Fund, which sponsors GAVI’s objectives in poorer countries. The alliance also has programs to stimulate the vaccine industry to develop and supply vaccines that are vital to low-income countries. GAVI acts more at the product transfer level.

Honest broker services demand complex institutional arrangements and significant funding and may generally be limited in transferring large volumes of technologies. They are, however, appropriate for the serving of non-profit and directly humanitarian activities and are particularly suitable to chart new territory and bring public and private actors closer together. They are undoubtedly effective in setting new models of collaboration specific to geographic areas, technologies, industry types, or needs. They encourage technology stewardship, typically fulfill a range of integrated functions (capacity building, brokering, distribution, and more) and are deemed highly effective in creating and sustaining product transfer channels.

In contrast to honest broker services are entities specifically devoted to providing services like IP management and capacity building. Evidently, many organizations are somewhere in the middle, like AATF, spanning across the different types of organizations and few fall purely into one or the other category. But for the sake of discussing the different types of services, we use this classification. IP management services in the non-profit and international development arena are represented by a few new organizations such as MIHR (also stemming from a recent Rockefeller Foundation initiative) that essentially acts as a service to public sector organizations in developing countries to manage their intellectual property (in-house generated, in-licensed, to be in-licensed) more authoritatively. It assumes that health programs that manage intellectual property well are more effective at mobilizing resources, technologies, and partners to deliver improved health care to the poor. Others would be national entities such as SARIMA, the South African Research and Innovation Management Association, the Public Interest Intellectual Property Advisors (PIIPA), an organization that helps developing country clients locate IP professionals worldwide who are willing and able to advise them on a voluntary basis; the more technology focused CAMBIA and its Intellectual Property (IP) Resource for International Agricultural Biotechnology; and many more. Their strengths, overall, lie in integrated services including institutional capacity building and personnel training, that they are often well trusted to address systemic issues, and are adept at setting new modes of interactions between public and private sectors.

Key Implications and Best Practices

Given that IP management is heavily context specific, these Key Implications and Best Practices are intended as starting points to be adapted to specific needs and circumstances.

For Government Policymakers

  • IP could be an engine for national development, hence policy makers should consider modernizing IP laws to bring them in line with modern technological developments, develop functional IP institutions/offices with well-trained staff, adequately resource national research institutes by, for example, increasing their R&D budgets.
  • Establish policies and promote laws that create an environment that serve to facilitate the efforts of honest brokers in establishing product development partnerships (PDPs). This will, in turn, promote the development and transfer of all types of technology, and perhaps most importantly, the types of technology that benefit the greater public good.

For Senior Management (university president, R&D manager, etc)

  • Develop protocols for working closely with honest brokers, such as AATF, for facilitating the formation of successful PDPs. The strategic application of such protocols will build successful partnerships and thus accelerate project implementation.
  • A successful honest broker will need to simultaneously manage several aspects of assembling the necessary components for a project. This includes consulting with stakeholders, consulting with technology providers, negotiating with partners for development of a business plan and sublicensing partner institutions. As necessary, and indeed as possible, actively participate in such efforts.
  • There is an overall need for greater focus on R&D and increasing R&D budgets.
  • There is a need to develop institutional capacity to manage and exploit innovations.
  • It is important to seek greater collaboration with the public and private sectors to deliver innovations.

For Scientists

  • As cross-institutional initiatives for development become more common, you will likely assume a role of greater significance in collaboration with colleagues in the private sector and developed countries. Be prepared to make the most of such inevitable opportunities.

For Technology Transfer Officers

  • By developing capacity to manage and exploit innovations, creating awareness of the benefits of IP among senior management and scientists, associating with existing IP institutions and network with other IP professionals and seeking greater collaboration with the public and private sectors to deliver innovations, your office will be able to demonstrate the requisite capacity that will then permit greater participation in PDP initiatives as they arise.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues at other institutions. This is what networks are for.

Krattiger A, RT Mahoney, L Nelsen, JA Thomson, AB Bennett, K Satyanarayana, GD Graff, C Fernandez and SP Kowalski. 2007. Editor’s Summary, Implications and Best Practices (Chapter 17.18). From the online version of Intellectual Property Management in Health and Agricultural Innovation: A Handbook of Best Practices. MIHR: Oxford, U.K., and PIPRA: Davis, U.S.A. Available online at www.ipHandbook.org.

© 2007. A Krattiger et al. Sharing the Art of IP Management: Photocopying and distribution through the Internet for noncommercial purposes is permitted and encouraged.