EI creates IP exchange for SMEs

4 Sep 2006

Enterprise Ireland (EI) will this week launch an internet portal aimed at enabling Irish firms to both sell intellectual property (IP) and license IP from overseas firms to create new revenue opportunities.

The portal, which can be accessed through www.techsearch.ie later this week, is being positioned by EI as a primary portal for Irish small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) for B2B (business to business) technology licensing.

The agency is targeting the site at sectors that include ICT, biopharma, medical devices, food and beverages, engineering, construction and timber and energy and environment.

The site includes an IP audit enabling Irish firms to test themselves to see how ready they are to partake in licensing agreements. The audit produces a detailed bespoke report that includes recommendations enabling a firm to optimise its position in terms of IP trading.

Another aspect to the site is a DIY search facility that allows Irish businesses top search for technologies worldwide. It links four key databases each of which list available technologies across a variety of sectors.

The sites that the search facility links to include yet2.com, the Innovation Relay site, the European Space Agency site and Pharmalicensing.com.

The site will also contain useful documents such as legal guides and case studies as well as an ezine and patent search tool.

Jim Cuddy, manager of innovation and technology transfer at EI, told siliconrepublic.com that licensing technology between companies is a growing business. He added that firms use the process of licensing one another’s IP in order to complement their existing research and development (R&D) activities.

Cuddy highlighted the licensing of technology in a variety of industries ranging from automotives licensing IP from computer firms to mobile phone manufacturers licensing music functionality into their products.

Cuddy said that the rationale behind licensing non-core technologies is to complement existing R&D strategies and in turn create a more meaningful and commercially viable end product. “We are seeing this activity particularly in the area of electronics manufacturing in Ireland. Much of the sub-contract activity has migrated to eastern Europe and the companies in Ireland in order to survive are licensing technologies from abroad in order to add to their R&D and create their own-branded goods. This activity is also quite rampant in the biopharma sector.”

Cuddy pointed to the example of Donegal-based manufacturer of cranes for the construction sector, Masol. “Masol acquired the technology they use in their cranes through an agreement with an Italian company. The company has since been very successful and this year was featured in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards.”

Cuddy also cited Dublin-based Vimio, which earlier this year signed an agreement with Microsoft to license the software giant’s video-optimisation technology to strengthen its offerings in the world of mobile media distribution. The deal was signed under Microsoft’s IP Ventures programme to facilitate product and business development for entrepreneurs and SMEs.

In January EI became the first development agency in Europe to enter into a formal agreement with Microsoft’s IP Ventures programme to facilitate product and business development for entrepreneurs and SMEs. Under the programme, Microsoft opens up internally developed technologies to government agencies such as EI, which in turn work with the local start-up and venture capital community to encourage business growth and deliver innovative technology to new markets.

Cuddy said that while the licensing of IP is an area that Irish SMEs across a variety of industry have been slow to get into, it is nonetheless gaining pace. “Globally, the open innovation agenda is moving so fast internationally.

“Last year, we witnessed 26 licensing deals by Irish companies and we are likely to do 35 this year. The significant factor to watch is the actual size of the deals being struck. We will see more valuable licensing agreements taking place,” Cuddy said.

By John Kennedy