Australia’s 40 universities are hotbeds of innovation. They are constantly generating good ideas, based on new research activity across a broad range of disciplines. Government research agencies also generate large amounts of innovative ideas.
At the same time, Australia is experiencing a golden age of startups. New companies are springing up everywhere, driven by a spirit of entrepreneurship and a can-do mood of optimism.
Many of these companies, or the individuals who are founding them, come out of Australia’s university system. But it has long been a criticism of R&D in Australia that there has been a disconnect between academia, government and industry.
Despite the CSIRO’s commercial spinoffs, the advent of CRCs (Cooperative Research Centres), and even with the growth of university commercialisation arms like the University of Queensland’s UniQuest and UNSW’s NewSouth Innovations, this prevailing view remains.
Now IP Australia has launched an initiative aimed at helping to bridge the gap.
Called Source IP, the service aims to ‘facilitate innovation and commercialisation by providing a means for public sector patent holders to signal their licensing intent and promote their key areas of technology within a single platform’.
IP Australia says the Source IP platform addresses an existing barrier to collaboration and commercialisation.
“Business finds it hard to access information about available public sector IP,” says Australia’s Casey Martone. Put more simply, it has been hard to find out what university-based IP is available for companies to bring to commercialisation.
“Collaboration between science and industry is a goal of the Government’s National innovation and Science Agenda,” she says.
“Source IP is about making it easier for Australian businesses, including small businesses, to access innovation and technology generated by the publicly funded research sector in Australia.”
The Source IP website displays patents filed by Australian public research organisations, which include all universities and a range of other research organisations and government agencies. The website enables these organisations to update their entries for promotional purposes, and to explain the principles and application of the technologies they display.
“Source IP has been specifically created to help expose potential collaboration opportunities to businesses seeking to work with public sector research partners and to facilitate quick and easy contact,” says Ms Martone.
Her business card bears the grand title of ‘Assistant Director, Public Awareness and Engagement, Strategic Communication’, which basically means her job is to get out and talk to people.
“We do a lot of that,” she says. “We work with incubator hubs, small business advisory bodies, organisations like Startup Australia, showing them and their members the basics of IP, so that when they work with IP advisors and attorneys they can ask the right questions and make the right decisions.”
“We are trying to be proactive, letting people know what they need to know about IP. Under our remit we cannot offer advice, but we can educate and inform. We are getting very positive feedback from these sessions.
“We host them in conjunction with our examination staff, who have subject matter expertise. It’s a great way for them to get a real world take on what is happening in the startup and small business sector, and also for small business to access people with expertise and intimate knowledge of the IP system.”
Ms Martone says IP Australia is also working to improve its expertise in digital IP.
“That is an area that is growing strongly. It includes software patents and the like, but we still need to do more work with industry on that area, to develop the expertise that will allow us to help startups better understand the issues that arise from IP in software.
“Even if they are not IT companies, many of them are increasingly relying on IT systems and IT-based technology.”