28 April 2017

The Value of IP to UK Manufacturing

Successful IP strategy is built on awareness of innovation and astute commercial focus. It is simple, but it does not happen by accident. In this Brexit year, our recommendation to MTA members is this: raise a culture of IP awareness throughout your business so we can turn UK innovation into real commercial leverage.

This survey shows that amongst MTA members there is a wide gulf between the IP culture of the most savvy and those who are less engaged. Market leaders take care to recognise their IP where it arises, and to protect it by registration where it makes commercial sense to do so. Over time, by this approach, their IP strength accumulates.

Failing to capture and protect IP assets represents a loss of immediate value and puts future opportunities at risk. Implementation needs leadership from management, engagement on the shop floor, and understanding at all levels throughout a business. In short, it is cultural.

The gold standard of IP protection in technology business is patent protection. But, what inventions can a business protect? And, what should they protect? The latter question, of course is the more important and its answer needs commercially sensitive decision making on IP investment. Invention spotting needs IP awareness amongst the engineers solving everyday technical problems to meet customer need. Those engineers, and the business as a whole, must also protect confidentiality of those inventions if patent protection is ever to be available.

The routine use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) is a starting point, but much more is needed. One respondent in the survey observed that an NDA is “not worth the paper it is written on”. This is not a view we share, but it is true that confidential information requires proper management, and training on the part of those who handle it.

It is now certain that the UK is leaving both the single market and the EU’s customs union. Huge change is coming – economic, regulatory, and logistical. Whatever form that change takes, UK manufacturing must seize the opportunities it brings, and act intelligently to control any new risks. One thing is certain: the world will not become less competitive. Whatever business asset or competitive edge might be available to UK business must be brought to bear.

Creating a culture of IP awareness throughout a business requires careful effort and attention, but costs little in monetary terms. The advantage is that it enables IP issues to be managed early, and in IP the difference in cost between acting early and acting too late may be measured in tens of thousands of pounds.

To read the Executive Summary of the report please click here