UPfront Innovation hush up

Companies that want to protect their intellectual property are more likely to keep mum about their technical innovations than to file for patent.
That’s according to Technology New Zealand after it surveyed 115 companies that have received investment funding through its Technology for Business Growth (TBG) scheme. It found that almost half the projects (47 percent) captured the benefits of research and development by keeping information confidential.
They also tried to be first to the market with the innovation and investing in ongoing R&D to stay ahead of competitors, says Technology NZ evaluation manager David Bartle.
Why take this approach? Because it is increasingly expensive to formally protect intellectual property (IP) and while big multinationals will do pre-emptive patenting, many local companies have decided patents are just too costly to secure and subsequently defend.
These findings call into question the use of patent numbers as an indicator of the success of New Zealand’s innovation programme. Too few firms see them as an important tool, says Bartle.
There are also implications for organisations wanting to jointly commercialise new technology. The practice makes it difficult to form effective partnerships when one party is relying on secrecy to protect its IP. Most of the projects assessed in the survey involved collaboration with research provider such as crown research institute or university, and many businesses found it took lot longer to get commercial returns from the IP where it was jointly owned.
A total of $26.2 million has been invested in TBGs in the latest financial year – including 17 projects that received more than $400,000 in funding – big increase on last year’s $15 million total for funding.
The payback from this investment includes an estimated $220-$260 million of commercial revenue – generated from about 67 percent of funded projects. The companies considered 80 percent of the projects were technically successful and 89 percent produced IP. Two thirds of the firms surveyed said the TBG funding had also enhanced their ability to undertake further R&D.

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