Seems to be an interesting event! Examiners from the EPO will be visiting Cambridge this Friday to give a presentation on what they do and how they do it but also to provide an opportunity for academics and companies to ask questions about general or specific issues they may have about patent filing, prosecution and maintenance.
Over the last two days I attended the DRUID conference in New York. It has been an excellent experience. While this might be partially explained by the unbeatable location, I found the intellectual conversations and particularly the DRUID debates extremely inspiring and on a fantastic high level.
The conference features two debates, with the first one on engaging with practice (and the problem to create impact) and the second on focused on theoretical and empirical contributions in academic papers.
Particularly when I was listening to the second DRUID debate it struck me that the debate circled around a particularly view of what must be considered one particular way to understand what theory is. It seems to me that most colleagues (possibly mostly the younger ones) understand theory predominantly as an instrument to provide explanations of existing phenomenon, particularly of those which warrant explanation (i.e. are relevant). Accordingly, the type of theory to be developed and tested usually seeks to explain ‘why’, in other words to explain the causalities within and around certain phenomenon (i.e. interrelations of constructs). From my understanding, such an understanding essentially forces researchers to become concerned with existing (ex post) conceptual or empirical phenomenon and will inevitable aim at developing explanatory theories. Let me try to explain why I think this approach is linked the problem that the community faces about creating impact through research (i.e. discussed during the first debate) and how this could possibly be changed.
There is an alternative way of thinking about what theory is, which was briefly touched upon by Martin Kilduff during the second debate. One may want to consider whether to disregard the phenomenon focused approach and substitute it with a focus on economic or managerial problems (e.g. the strategic alignment problem). Focusing on a problem (instead of phenomenon) offers a different cognitive space and thus a way for the field to create the impact it deserves with all the intellectually power of extremely capable colleagues behind it. Let me try to explain how I see it.
Focusing on problems will drive researchers to theorize solutions, some of which might be sub-optimal, but through empirical testing, validation and refinement one may (eventually) arrive at a fairly optimal solution to a certain problem. Hence, when focusing on problems the type of theory to be developed will be of inherently different nature than the theorizing that takes place when aiming to explain phenomenon. Instead of taking an ex-post observatory approach researchers will be forced to develop theories, i.e. an understanding of causalities that need to be set in action for solving a problem. These kind of theories can likewise be tested empirically, even though we may need slightly different methods (e.g. simulations). The next step would then be to develop policy frameworks (which can turn out to be highly relevant policy implications) as well as tools and techniques (to be put forward as managerial implications), which in turn can be tested empirically (i.e. their performance). We may also need to develop particularly skills, if not guidelines to frame and define problems.
Taking such an approach to empirically supported theory development may contribute to changing the research conducted in the community towards a way that creates impact, while being rigorous. Research will then become a creative (problem solving) endeavour with relevance and impact.
Very nice to seeing Mingjin earlier this week in the Bay area, who was in fact my first PhD student. Great to see that she is getting on so well with her research trying to find out how complementors in an ecosystem impact the focal firm’s IP strategy.
Very pleased to report that we received funding from CRASSH, the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (University of Cambridge) to study OpenIP models models for emerging technologies and implications for an equitable society. The interdisciplinary group will kick-off in October involving colleagues from the Synthetic Biology Strategic Research Initiative and OpenPlant (Department of Plant Sciences), Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences, IdeaSpace and the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. Watch out! More to come.
Thanks to everyone for coming along to today’s fifth Strategic IP Forum at the IfM and particular our excellent speakers from BenevolentAI (Gareth Jones), Microsoft (Patricia Christias), Eagle Genomics (Anthony Finbow), the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (Ross Rounsevell) and Martin Callinan (Source Code Control Ltd).
A short report with a summary and insights from our IP management best-practice teaching workshop that Marcus Holgersson from Chalmers and I ran at the IfM in September 2016 has just been published by WPI. Thanks again to the EPO, UKIPO and EITIM for supporting the workshop. Read more here:
Our article based on this working paper made it into the Research News section on the University homepage: How an open approach to patents could help build a sustainable future | University of Cambridge
Very glad to announce that Patricia Christia from Microsoft agreed to come and talk at our Strategic IP Forum on Thursday. She will provide an introduction to Mircosoft’s Azure IP programme.
A short piece in The Conversation on our research about OpenIP strategies and sustainability: How a open approach to patents could help build a sustainable future
Very glad to confirm Ross Rounsevell from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, who will share his perspective on „Opportunities and challenges in academic informatics commercialisation“. We look forward to another interesting event with lots of discussions this time on IP strategies for software. Further details here.