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The impact of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) on the development of European biotechnology


This multi-centred research project (GB, FR) aims to assess the impact of intellectual property rights (IPR) on inter-firm research collaboration in the European biotechnology industry. The overall aim is to provide an analysis which identifies best practice in the management of IPR.

The biotechnology industry poses major challenges for existing national and international IP regimes. It is relatively new, subject to rapid innovation and centrally concerned with knowledge production. Recently, considerable attention has been given to the implications of alternative modes of managing IP by large companies. However, there has been little investigation of how existing European IP regimes and enforcement mechanisms affect the innovative potential and competitiveness of European MNEs and SMEs. This project has two separate but inter-related components. The first is centrally concerned with the failure of the EU IP Directive to provide a harmonised IP regime in Europe. The second deals with how the existing regime affects the innovative potential and competitiveness of European firms in biotechnology in the context of inter-firm collaboration. There are five inter-related work packages.

These aim:
(a) to identify the critical steps in the evolution of the debate on the EU IPR Directive
and the main focal points of discussion underpinning them;

(b) to establish the identity of the main actors in the process and to analyse the kind of
evidence used in support of their arguments;

(c) to assess the importance of IPR as a barrier to inter-firm collaboration in different
sectors of the European biotechnology industry;

(d) to examine the appropriation strategies of firms in allocating IP rights arising from
collaborative R&D and/or investment and

(e) to identify the implications of the above for EU science policy and for the innova-
tive and competitive position of European SMEs and MNEs.

The first part of the project, (a) and (b) will be undertaken by the FR researchers. The methodology will mix historical and sociological analysis. The study of the evolution of the Directive texts and identification of the critical steps will also take into account a legal and economic perspective. The second part of the project will assess the importance of IP as a barrier to inter-firm collaboration in Europe. The main issues surrounding the development and allocation of IP in this context in, first, SMEs and second, MNEs will be identified. This project is of major relevance to EU policy-makers.
Mechanisms to promote European competitiveness in biotechnology where EU programmes have already made substantial investment, are urgently required. The research proposed here is particularly timely because efforts are being made to construct a new directive to provide a uniform and coherent harmonised IP system for Europe.


University of Sussex at Brighton
Mantell Building Falmer
BN1 9RF Brighton
United Kingdom

Participants (1)

Laboratoire d'Economie et de Sociologie Rurales Equipe SERD

38040 Grenoble