ISBInsight: This is the second edition of the India Conference on Innovation, Intellectual Property and Competition that was seeded in 2018 by ISB. What was the genesis of IIPC?
Any country requires innovation for its economic growth. Ever since India signed the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the patent law was strengthened in accordance with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), there has been a lot of conversation around intellectual property.
Even in the 1970s, there was a lot of debate around intellectual property. Despite this history, there was no systematic body of knowledge about the effects of the intellectual property regime (IPR) on industries, policies and competition itself. The IIPC will give us a good platform to have a dialogue which brings together policy makers, members of the industry and academia. That was the genesis of the IIPC and that’s what we have tried to achieve in the last two years.
What issues were at the top of your mind when you planned the 2019 edition?
The 2018 edition was a starting point. We laid out broad contours around how intellectual property influences innovation and competition. This was the genesis last time. This year, we wanted to take a deeper dive into the issue in a couple of ways. One: we focus on specific industries such as pharmaceuticals, ICT and media where IP appears to have a broader repercussions on consumer welfare per se.
Second, we widened the conference scope from IP to innovation in general. The artificial intelligence (AI) panel was meant to broaden the theme from just IP to innovation itself. There is a buzz around AI and an opportunity to have a dialogue about the consequences of AI on labour markets, the future of work, business and society. In many ways, IIPC 2019 is a logical extension of what we did last year.
How do you see India and other emerging markets evolve as backdrops for innovation, IP and competition?
India is unique in a lot of ways. One way it is different is because of the rather idiosyncratic coexistence of a formal innovation ecosystem with the informal innovation ecosystem, of which grassroot innovation is only one element. That coexistence is clearly unique to India.
Given that there are these pockets of excellence in the innovation ecosystem such as CSIR, how do you manage both these formal and informal innovation ecosystems? In particular, what should be the strength of IP to be able to encourage both these formal and informal innovation ecosystems?
Naturally, the strength of IP has consequences on competition. The stronger the IP, the lower is the competition. But the critical question is: how can a policy maker or a social planner use intellectual property as a policy lever to control competition in such a way that encourages both the formal and the informal ecosystems? That is crucial to India and other emerging economies. The IIPC conversations should help us understand the usefulness of IP, innovation and competition in stimulating innovation ecosystems in growth markets.
Could you share some insights that emerged from the keynote addresses and panel discussions at IIPC 2019?
Globally, there is an emerging consensus that innovation drives economies to achieve higher levels of growth. Yet, India’s spending on R&D in terms of percentage of GDP over the last two decades has remained at just above 0.5%. These numbers lie far below leading nations such as the US, China, South Korea and Israel.
The keynote addresses and panel discussions at IIPC 2019 deliberated on how India could create a breakthrough in its R&D and innovation ecosystem, learn from markets like Chile and create products that do well in India and global markets. Speakers examined how a robust startup ecosystem could effectively create wealth and value for all stakeholders, whether entrepreneurs or consumers. An interesting example was the return migration of technology inventors, who can play a key role in knowledge diffusion and entrepreneurship upon their return to India.
The conference also considered innovation in the emerging AI landscape and in the traditional IP strongholds of scientific research, technology, media, healthcare and agriculture. Within the scientific domain, providing researchers an incentive to work on cutting-edge innovation which might even fail is critically important for science to advance. Finally, a major takeaway was the need to build innovation-friendly ecosystems for IP creation, judiciary ecosystems for IP protection, and multilateral ecosystems for IP access.
About the Interviewers:
Debdatta Chakraborty is Research Editor and Yogini Joglekar is Managing Editor at ISBInsight, the flagship research periodical of the Indian School of Business.