The successful creation and commercialisation of Intellectual Property (IP) can lead to economic diversification and financial gains for the tertiary institutions and external benefits for surrounding communities. The traditional underdevelopment of technology markets in Botswana has often been explained in terms of lack of capacity and skills among research professionals. Botswana research and innovation space is handicapped by lack of capacity to facilitate technology transfer and commercialisation.

There is general lack of expertise to manage the technology transfer process that spans the stages from Research and Development (R&D) to commercialisation and beyond. Due to severe consequences for economic development and industrial growth, this situation can be addressed through massive investment in a capacity building drive of IP professionals.

Botswana through the Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA) is a member of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) which is constituted of 19 African States as members. ARIPO was mainly established to pull the resources of its member countries in Intellectual Property matters together in order to avoid duplication of financial and human resources. The HRDC established through the HRDC Act No 17 of 2013, is charged with amongst others coordination, promotion and support of tertiary education-industry linked research and innovation activities.

In an endeavour to improve the competitiveness of Botswana’s industry and generate the knowledge needed to transform it from a resource intensive to a knowledge-based economy, HRDC partnered with ARIPO to facilitate an Intellectual Property (IP) Awareness Seminars held from the 16th - 17th September 2019 in Gaborone and from the 19th - 20th September 2019 in Francistown.

In this regard, the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) considers ARIPO as one of its strategic partners because it is well placed to help advance the Council’s function of promoting and supporting tertiary education-industry linked research and innovation activities which includes effective use of intellectual property & technology transfer culture and entrepreneurship.

The seminars were attended by representatives from Tertiary Education Providers (TEPs), Research and Development (R&D) Institutions, Government Departments, Private Companies and the Media. Among others, the seminars were intended to induct stakeholders on: the concepts and principles of IP; technology transfer and commercialisation of research outputs; leveraging on Academic and Research Publication through Copyright, and using trademarks and industrial designs as tools for branding and value addition to University outputs.

During his welcome remarks, the HRDC Chief Operations Officer, Mr Meshack Tafa stated that, as countries progressively shift towards knowledgebased economies, TEPs are increasingly playing a central role in economic growth, wealth creation, employment and competitiveness. “There is a changing demand on academia to contribute directly towards tangible economic development, therefore, this calls for research initiatives beyond just basic research. Societal expectations of academia now go beyond research, teaching, and public service”, said Mr Tafa.

The seminars were facilitated by representatives from ARIPO, Mr. Emmanuel Sackey, Intellectual Property Development Executive, Dr Byson Sebola, the Training Officer and Dr Outule C. Rapuleng, Head, ARIPO Academy. On his presentation about fostering the use and Exploitation of IP in Academic and Research Institutions, Mr Sackey stated that Universities play a crucial role in developing knowledge economy/society through education by training highly skilled labour force; research through creating new knowledge community engagement and knowledge transfer to industry/society.

Mr. Sackie noted that University/ Research Institutions should take necessary and appropriate measures to commercialise their protected IP assets. “The University and R&D Institutions should recognise the role of Traditional Knowledge (TK), Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCEs) as well as Genetic Resources in the development of inventions, innovations, new plant varieties and creative works”, added Mr Sackie. He also noted the importance of Universities to facilitate the identification, documentation, and protection of TK, TCEs and biological resources of local and indigenous communities.

On the way forward, ARIPO facilitators submitted that Universities, Research and Development (R&D) Institutions should take a proactive role in adopting institutional IP strategies and policies as well as establishing IP Management Offices. The facilitators also advised that Universities and R&D Institutions should undertake vigorous awareness initiatives for researchers and students, introduce the teaching of IP (Modules, subject or Post-graduate courses) as well as Conduct IP Audits and Protect identified IP assets. The facilitators also encouraged participants to develop partnerships with relevant institutions for support and effective exploitation of IP such as World International Property Organisation (WIPO) and ARIPO.

Giving a vote of thanks, the Director of Statistics, Research, Innovation and Development (DSRDI) at HRDC, Dr. Tlamelo Sekambo emphasised that the workshops provided an opportunity to feed ideas into how to improve Botswana’s national innovation ecosystem for innovative enterprises especially on the protection of intellectual property related inventions. “This will facilitate the creation of new ventures and spin - offs from our Universities and Research Institutions”, added Dr Sekambo. She also acknowledged the support by ARIPO and stated that she is hopeful that in the long run, HRDC and ARIPO will formalise their collaboration through a signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which is aimed at supporting the Presidential Drive for Research and Innovation as part of the country’s economic transformation agenda.

News Date: 
Tuesday, September 17, 2019