Minutes - TRIPS Council - View details of the intervention/statement

H.E. Ambassador Dr. Walter Werner
231.   Australia has long recognized the value of collaboration between the public and private sectors in promoting innovation, and the Australian government has in place a number of programmes aimed at helping the two sectors work together. 232.   One example is the Cooperative Research Centres Program, or CRC. 233.   The CRC Program provides grants for up to ten years to support industry-led partnerships between industry and research bodies. It is organised along sectoral lines and is designed to address specific challenges identified by individual industries. 234.   To qualify for funding, Cooperative Research Centres must include at least one Australian industrial entity and one Australian research organisation. There is no set funding limit for the Centres. 235.   A second stream of the program, known as CRC-Projects (CRC-Ps), provides funding of up to AUD 3 million for a maximum of three years for industry-led collaborative research. CRC Projects must involve at least two Australian industry entities (including at least one SME) and one Australian research organisation. 236.   The Australian Government has committed AUD 731 million to the CRC Program over the next four years, and there are currently 113 collaborative projects under way. Over the programme's lifetime, the government has provided AUD 4.6 billion in funding, while programme participants themselves have contributed a further AUD 14.1 billion, supporting a total of 316 projects. 237.   The CRC Program has paid handsome dividends, with an independent evaluation conducted in 2012 concluding that it delivered a 3:1 return on investment. 238.   Examples of the programme's more notable success stories include: a. The development of longer-lasting insulated rail joints (devices used to monitor trains and detect damage to railway tracks) that have produced annual savings of AUD 30 million for the rail industry; b. Productivity improvements of AUD 65.3 million resulting from the use of products developed by a cooperative research centre for polymers; and c. Approximately AUD 120 million in additional earnings flowing to Australian hearing aid pioneer Cochlear, after it adopted new technology developed by yet another Cooperative Research Centre. 239.   Another important programme is the Research and Development Tax Incentive. This programme lowers businesses' R&D costs by offering annual tax offsets of up to AUD 100 million for eligible R&D expenditure and providing eligible small and medium-sized enterprises with a cash refund if they make a loss. 240.   The tax incentive programme seeks to address the obstacles that many Australian companies face in raising finance for R&D activities in an environment in which success is far from guaranteed, and innovation can inadvertently benefit competitors. It therefore sustains a range of productive R&D activities that would otherwise remain on the drawing board. 241.   I would like to turn now to some of the specific issues identified by Singapore in its discussion paper which Australia has co-sponsored along with other delegations. 242.   First, how do we balance our support for innovative businesses with accountability for the use of public funds? Australia employs a range of checks and balances to ensure that tax payers' money is spent responsibly. Industry support programmes are evaluated under the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science's Evaluation Strategy 2017 – 2021, which provides a framework to guide the evaluation and performance assessment of the Department's programmes and policies. 243.   As already noted, applicants for funding under the CRC Program must meet strict eligibility criteria, while companies claiming the R&D tax offset must also meet certain requirements. 244.   Second, how should we manage the IP that results from collaboration between the public and private sectors? 245.   It goes without saying that collaborations of this kind can be quite challenging, due to the complex intersections between confidentiality, the use of pre-existing IP, the publication of research findings, commercialisation, and decision making around IP rights. Recognizing these complexities, Australia's IP Office, IP Australia, strongly advises would-be collaborators to give due consideration to IP management issues before embarking on joint research projects. 246.   IP Australia has developed a variety of tools that are publicly available on its website, ranging from s, to model confidentiality agreements. 247.   Finally, how can government agencies help the private sector capture and develop expertise in R&D, and acquire IP? 248.   In recognition of its growing importance to the development of innovation frameworks, knowledge acquisition and promotion of entrepreneurship, IP Australia has introduced a number of initiatives aimed at supporting collaboration between research organisations and the business sector. 249.   The Australian IP Toolkit for Collaboration (IP Toolkit) is a joint project between the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and IP Australia, designed to facilitate collaboration between researchers and industry. 250.   The IP Toolkit contains background information, guides and a range of tools –such as model contracts - that researchers and businesses can draw upon to help them manage IP arrangements in a collaborative setting. 251.   Another initiative developed by IP Australia is Source IP, which connects businesses with Australian public sector research organisations seeking to license their patented technology. Source IP was launched in November 2015 and is particularly focused on making it easier for Australian businesses, including micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses, to access innovations and technology generated by the publicly funded research sector in Australia. 252.   The Source IP site has generated a substantial amount of interest, attracting users from a number of countries and recording over 200 contact requests to date. While Source IP does not currently list international patents, IP Australia has been discussing with overseas counterparts the possibility of expanding the platform by providing a link to their equivalent sites on Source IP or granting access to Source IP in their own jurisdictions. 253.   Source IP has already made an impact. It was, for example, instrumental in the successful collaboration of a small Australian tech start-up called Forcite Helmet Systems with the University of New South Wales (UNSW). 254.   Forcite is developing the world's first smart helmet, embedding communications systems into light recreational sports helmets and streamlining communications systems used by motorcycle emergency services. 255.   Through Source IP, Forcite gained access to patents held by UNSW and has now integrated a UNSW patent into its helmet design. 256.   Another initiative helping Australian businesses bolster their R&D expertise is the Entrepreneurs Program, which consists of two strands, Accelerating Commercialisation and Innovation Connections: a. Accelerating Commercialisation helps eligible entrepreneurs, start-ups, small to mediumsized businesses and researchers to commercialise their novel product, process or service. By providing expert guidance, connections and financial support, it helps to bring fresh innovations to market as quickly as possible, increasing their prospects for success; and b. Innovation Connections is a facilitation service that provides expert advice and solutions on knowledge-related issues, and a brokering service to connect businesses with knowledge providers and research organisations. This may include a matched funding grant that assists with direct access to research facilities.
The Council took note of the statements made.
34.   The Chair said that the item had been put on the agenda at the request of Australia; Canada, Chile; the European Union; Hong Kong, China; Japan; the Republic of Korea; Singapore; Switzerland; Chinese Taipei; and the United States of America. It covered two aspects of the broader topic of IP and innovation:
a. "The societal value of IP in the New Economy", a topic that the Council had discussed at its meetings last year. A relevant communication has been submitted to facilitate discussion (IP/C/W/650); and
b. "Public-Private Collaborations in Innovation", a theme proposed by the co-sponsors for 2019. A relevant communication had been submitted to facilitate discussion (IP/C/W/652 and Add.1).
35.   The representatives of the United States of America; Singapore; Australia; Switzerland; New Zealand; Chinese Taipei; Chile; South Africa; Hong Kong; China; Canada; Japan; Mexico; the European Union; the Republic of Korea; Brazil; China; India and the Dominican Republic took the floor.
36.   The Council took note of the statements made.
IP/C/M/91, IP/C/M/91/Add.1, IP/C/M/91/Corr.1