IPR University Center

(IPRinfo, Special Issue
September 2006)
Niklas Bruun
Professor, Director
IPR University Center

The Center has established its position as the leading academic institution in Finland in the field of Intellectual Property Rights.

Intellectual Property Rights is an area, which requires versatile knowledge and know-how. It is impossible to assess legal issues related to IP protection without technical and economic knowledge. Economic, technical and legal points of views are, therefore, also necessary when researching, teaching and developing IPR. Multidisciplinary research and co-operation are key words for success in this field.

The IPR University Center was founded more than six years ago due to the general concern over the lack of Finnish education and research in the field and that what little there was, was fragmented. The activities of the institute provide opportunities for co-operation of the different fields of science, law, economics and technology.

The Center has gradually established a position as the leading academic institution in this field in Finland with an active international profile. The institute conducts, coordinates and initiates academic research and teaching on all levels of IPR issues.

The new graduate school increases opportunities
This year the IPR University Center was granted funding for 2007-2011 for a graduate school called “The Innovation Incentives and the Regulatory Infrastructure” (INNOCENT). The graduate school will offer full-time research positions for five to ten researchers. The first Nordic graduate school focusing on intellectual property is now a reality.

The graduate school will be international and multidisciplinary. The INNOCENT graduate school has considerable national and international backing. Seven Finnish and five foreign universities support its activities. Further information on the application procedure will be published early in September. The graduate school will have a home page in connection with the home page of IPR University Center (https://ipruc.fi).

The foundation of the INNOCENT graduate school is a significant achievement for the IPR University Center. Since its foundation the institute has systematically striven to increase education and teaching in IPR, in order to construct a strong basis for the further development of the basic studies in Finnish universities. IPR education should be a part of the basic studies in natural sciences, technology, as well as in economic disciplines and law, and be even included in the basic education given to secondary school students.

The role of IPR has grown
It is no longer controversial to argue that the significance of IPR protection has grown significantly during the current harsh competition and continuous internationalisation.

The growing need to protect research results and other immaterial commodities emphasises the importance of knowing, understanding and managing IP rights. The mechanisms through which IPR is utilised must be effective, so that the products being developed can become commercially viable.

One example of the growing awareness of the significance of IPR in Finland is the new legislation on inventions in universities, which will come into force at the beginning of 2007. It will give the universities an extensive right to acquire the rights to inventions made by academic personnel. The goal of such legislation is to increase the utilisation and commercialisation of innovations in research. Inventive academics will be rewarded with economic compensation.

The Finnish universities cannot meet these challenges without adopting clear patent policies that, on one hand, ensure that the values of free academic research are not endangered, but, on the other, effectively contribute to the commercialisation and use of valuable innovations.

Co-operation means strength
All experience so far shows that, at least for a small country like Finland, co-operation, especially in the field of IPR, is essential. It is, for instance, clear that all small universities cannot accumulate the required know-how and resources for transfer-tech operations but that these services must be based on co-operation and joint institutions.

The establishment of the IPR University Center is in itself a clear indication that co-operation is needed for national resources to be used efficiently. Full participation in international academic co-operation and exchange also requires a strong institution at the national level. The same is true when influencing policy and legislation on an international level.

The strength of Finnish innovation policy so far has been that different actors have been able to come together and find common solutions in very difficult issues in a spirit of technological entrepreneurship. One of the institutions trying to take this tradition of open dialogue further is the IPR University Center. Our experiences are encouraging, and we are convinced that the institute has an important role to play in the years to come.