IP policy advisers: a good use of public money?

An advert on Twitter caught IP Draughts’ attention. It is for a Senior Executive Officer with the UK Intellectual Property Office. The salary is around £40,000 per annum. The job title is “Oxfordshire Growth Hub IP Policy Advisor”. The role is to work at least partly within the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). Applications close tomorrow.

There are 37 LEPs within the UK. They are vehicles for identifying the investment needs of their regions, working up plans and obtaining government funding. The Oxfordshire LEP covers the county and city of Oxford.

Given the fact that government money is being spent in Oxfordshire in support of the local economy, and given the importance of innovative businesses to that economy, IP Draughts can see the point of including an IP specialist within the policy team.

So far, so good. What puzzles IP Draughts is the list of the main duties of the IP policy adviser (or “advisor”; the IPO seems to prefer US spelling). These are listed in the job advert as:

• Support the delivery of the Local Industrial Strategy as the LEP aspires to be ‘one of the top three global innovation ecosystems’. This will involve:
o Including IP in the drafting of the LEP’s Investment Prospectus that will underpin the LIS, recognising the region has world-leading knowledge assets and IP whose value can be maximised;
o Focusing on the activities in Pillar 2 of the LIS (A Powerhouse for Commercialising Transformative Technologies) to ensure IP’s role in unlocking growth potential and commercialisation is realised;
o Developing interventions to support the proposed Oxfordshire Finance Hub to enable businesses to accelerate IP adoption and investment in R&D, considering where IP can help to de-risk breakthrough businesses.

• Embed support and raise IP capability in the Growth Hub to enhance the offer to both breakthrough and cornerstone businesses. Both the internal Growth Hub team but also Advisors who are working across all Oxfordshire ERDF funded business support programmes with a particular focus on ISfB and eScalate

• Provide 121 support to programme clients where appropriate. This external element is vital to accelerate IP adoption

• Work with the LEP and local partners to include IP in European Regional Development Fund (or UK Shared Prosperity Fund) programmes, representing IPO and the LEP on technical assistance groups and embedding the IPO offer into the Innovation Support for Business Programme;

• Collaborate with LEP partners to consider the role of IP in knowledge exchange, skills for entrepreneurship and access to finance, working across the Innovation Directorate’s policy teams to provide insight and evaluation;

• Ensure IPO is represented in wider Government initiatives in the region including the Cambridge-Oxford Arc, and working with the Cities and Local Growth Unit, British Business Bank, DIT and Innovate UK to meet objectives;

• Work between IPO’s International Policy Directorate, Department for International Trade and the LEP to develop capability of OxLEP’s global hubs and international clusters based in science and technology parks – providing a conduit to IPO attaches support in major overseas markets;

• Develop evaluation processes to measure the impact of policy interventions and local actions to identify best practice and impact IP capability plays in adding value to regional innovation support initiatives;

• Advise Ministers and IPO senior managers on IPO business support policy;

• To actively contribute to the Business Support Policy’s team objectives and to the wider ID objectives.

And all this for £40,000 per annum!

In IP Draughts’ mind, the above description is opaque, wordy, and jargon-filled. It is task-oriented, focussing on specific initiatives with fancy names, rather than goal-oriented, explaining what value the role brings. Is this deliberate – to make it difficult for anyone to criticise the value of the role or to judge whether the incumbent has performed well – or does it simply reflect the vagueness of the overall objective?

Boiled down, the role seems to comprise the following elements:

  • ensuring IP is thought about and included in regional investment policy documents
  • raising awareness of IP issues within the teams involved in developing and implementing such policies
  • providing a source of IP expertise within those teams
  • liaising with other parts of government including overseas IP Attaches
  • advising and informing government ministers and the senior management of the IPO about their work

It must be difficult to establish useful metrics on whether activities of this kind contribute beneficially to the Oxfordshire economy. But at one level, if government is investing hundreds of millions of pounds in the local economy, should taxpayers care too much about the size or composition of the civil service team that administers that investment?

The niggle that runs through IP Draughts’ head in relation to this role, and the IPO’s policy activities more generally, is whether awareness-raising on IP issues is a useful government activity. He doesn’t doubt that it is well-intentioned and in response to political direction, but is it ultimately productive and good value for money? He would love to receive reassurance from someone whose judgment he trusts that his worries are unfounded.

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Filed under Intellectual Property, Legal policy

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