UNCTAD Virtual Institute Chief, Vlasta Macku (left) and Intan Hamdan-Livramento, World Intellectual Property Organization economistBreakthrough innovations was the topic of the April 6 Vi videoconference for 31 students and lecturers of Vi Russian affiliate member, the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO). The presentation was based on the World Intellectual Property Report 2015.

Intan Hamdan-Livramento, economist at Vi partner, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), presented the report, which explores the role of intellectual property in innovation-driven growth.

"Two centuries of breakthrough innovations have seen a 15-fold growth in per capita incomes in frontier economies (United Kingdom, United States),” she said. “Intellectual property (IP) rights matter for innovation incentives and it is at the center of the innovation–growth nexus.”

Along with a historical assessment of the impact of airplanes, antibiotics and semiconductors on business activity, the report considers the potential of 3D printing, nanotechnology and robotics, and explores the outlook for innovation-driven growth.

“What we see through these six case studies is that innovators frequently relied on the IP system – patents, trademarks, copyrights, industrial design rights -- to actually have some sort of return on their investment in innovation policies,” Hamdan-Livramento said.

According to WIPO's report, it is important that the IP system enable knowledge-sharing by providing a flexible tool for innovators to decide which technologies to share, with whom, and on what terms.

"Knowledge-sharing is an important factor of innovation facilitated by intellectual property," she said. "The airplane innovation ecosystem at the experimental stage at the beginning of the 20th century was a one in which inventors shared and collaborated with one another."

Links between scientific research organizations and business are pivotal, and government has an important role in driving investment in a lot of breakthrough innovations, Hamdan-Livramento explained.  

"Aviation, antibiotics and semiconductors all benefited from government spending on research," she said. “More recently, governments have been pivotal in enabling research into 3D printing, nanotechnology and robotics, among others."

In terms of future prospects, she noted that since the global financial crisis, the growth rate of real GDP per capita went from 2.9 percent to 0.9 percent, and questions abound about whether this signifies the end of fast growth.

“Optimists say that we still suffer from overhangs from the financial crisis, but that there is unprecedented investment in innovation, and a more diversified innovation landscape. So there are reasons to be hopeful that faster growth rate will come.

“The pessimists say that we are in a ‘secular stagnation,’ growth will fall short of its potential, and that the benefits of innovation have been realized,” she said.

WIPO’s report brings up issues about the adequacy of the tools used to measure the impact of innovation on economic growth.

“Perhaps GDP isn’t capturing everything that needs to be captured, and that we need to look at other variables.  There are economists working in this area, but we’ll just have to see how it develops over time,” she concluded.

Watch the multimedia presentation
Read the report