Conference Report 2015: Soft IP

A report from the parallel session on Soft IP delivered by Sue Ratcliffe, IP Counsel, Swansea University, and PraxisUnico Conference Committee member; Naomi Jacobs, Senior Research Associate at Lancaster University, and Mike Butler, Director of the Aston Centre for People and Organisations (ACPO), and Founder and Director of The TRANSFORMATION Project, Aston Business School.

Sue kicked off the session and talked us through the various soft IP rights that can exist, including copyright, trade marks, designs, goodwill etc. and put this in context by describing the inter-relationship of these rights using the Glastonbury Festival as an example. The session aimed to communicate that IP has many facets and a lot of the rights inter-relate. However it is vital that there is awareness of the rights both so they can be used and the problems that third party rights could present if there is lack of awareness of Soft IP and its value.

Naomi gave us a fascinating insight into how her work is aimed at engaging with communities and demonstrating the Impact that soft IP can have. Her work involves sharing skills, providing a creative exchange and involving PhD students to develop and impart their knowledge. 50 projects have reached conclusion such as work with the University of Liverpool to create Red Ninja which is a prototype to control data in the urban planning environment. Another project is “Cold Sun” which is an urban gaming app that relates to weather and climate and finally there is “Seabreeze” which involves the resurrection of Morecombe Winter gardens.

A key message is that building trust between partners is vital and that soft IP can have a much wider community impact than hard IP because of the involvement of stake holders such as local communities. Mike ended the session by talking about his work in a major ERDF project directed at making Birmingham and its environs the best place to grow business, and in particular financial businesses. He has done work with major corporates such as Jaguar Land Rover but he has also engaged SMEs and formed links with the two. There has been major investment into the region but it has been found that this is often by sharing knowledge and contacts and working with communities to provide a hands-on holistic approach that can be used to develop the management tools to rethink how regions can be regenerated.

The take home message is that mutual understanding can underpin a better way of managing major regeneration projects, and sharing knowledge and experiences is important for such major projects to be successful.