Transforming innovation in LMICs: A Q&A with WIPO’s Technology and Innovation Support Division

Published: terça-feira 11th junho 2024
Category: Blog

Dr. Bazirake (center) and the research team from the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (the IP Office). Photo credit: Natalia Rodriguez (2019).

Research and development (R&D) are crucial drivers of innovation, economic growth, and societal progress. In this Q&A Andrew Czajkowski, Director of the Technology and Innovation Support Division at World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), explores the pivotal role of Technology and Innovation Support Centers (TISCs) and the Research4life Access to Research for Development and Innovation (ARDI) program. Discover how these initiatives are bridging the knowledge gap, fostering innovation, and driving economic growth in low and middle-income countries. We delve into the transformative impact of TISCs and ARDI, and learn how they empower researchers, inventors, and entrepreneurs worldwide.

Could you please start by introducing yourself and your affiliation with WIPO?

Andrew Czajkowski

Andrew Czajkowski

My name is Andrew Czajkowski and I’m the Director of the Technology and Innovation Support Division, which aims to develop local capacity for using intellectual property to support research, innovation, and economic and social development in particular through the effective use of technology information.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and what led you to your current role as the program manager of ARDI at WIPO?

I have a degree in Nuclear Engineering from Queen Mary University of London and have been working in the area of intellectual property and innovation for over 30 years. I started my career at the European Patent Office as a patent examiner, helping researchers, inventors, and entrepreneurs protect their inventions, and then transitioned to a role there as information officer, promoting the use of patents as a source of technology information. After joining WIPO, I was given responsibility for addressing a major challenge identified by the organization under its Development Agenda, namely to help developing countries to bridge the “knowledge gap as well as [the] digital divide [separating] the wealthy nations from the poor”. This work ultimately led to the creation of the Access to Research for Development and Innovation (ARDI) program, which I continue to lead to the present day.

Can you explain what the ARDI program is and its primary goals within the framework of WIPO’s mission?

The Access to Research for Development and Innovation (ARDI) program was established in 2009 to promote the integration of developing countries into the global knowledge economy, allowing them to more fully realize their creative and innovative potential. Access to and the effective use of technology information, found both in patents and in scientific and technical sources, is an important means for achieving WIPO’s mission to “lead the development of a balanced and effective international IP system that enables innovation and creativity for the benefit of all”.

What are WIPO’s Technology and Innovation Support Centers (TISCs), and what are their main goals in LMICs?

TISCs provide researchers, inventors, and entrepreneurs with access to and support in using technology information as well as other services to enable them to effectively protect, manage, and create value from their innovations. TISCs are established in institutions like universities, research centers, and business support institutions, so that their communities can benefit from high-quality locally based technology and innovation support services. any low and middle-income countries often have underdeveloped innovation and intellectual property ecosystems; TISCs help fill these gaps and enable these countries to reach their innovative potential and participate in the global knowledge economy.

Could you explain how both programs complement each other in supporting innovation in LMICs?

ARDI provides free or low-cost access to scientific and technical content, particularly in applied science and engineering. TISCs provide expert support in using this content to promote innovative research and intellectual property creation, management, and commercialization or utilisation. Over 1,500 TISCs have now been established in 93 countries, and in 2023 alone, they received over 2.2 million requests for such support!

How is ARDI incorporated into TISC training, and why is this a focus area during the events?

WIPO provides training in order to help TISC staff develop the necessary knowledge and skills to deliver a range of different technology and innovation support services. Knowing how to access and effectively use the content available through ARDI is important for TISC staff to deliver many of these services. As a result, WIPO works closely with Research4Life partners to ensure that training for TISC staff incorporates learning on how to access content available through Research4Life programs, including ARDI, and how to find relevant resources within this content.

Can you provide an example of how TISC and ARDI resources have significantly helped an innovator or research project in a LMIC?

ARDI has been an important resource for innovation for example at Kyambogo University, a TISC host institution in Kampala, Uganda, where a method for extending the lifespan of bananas through enzymatic inactivation has been pioneered, helping reduce food waste and facilitating the export of local bananas to the world.

What are some of the challenges both TISC and ARDI face, and how are you overcoming them?

One of the major challenges both programs face is that many researchers, inventors, and entrepreneurs are simply not aware that these programs exist and thus miss the opportunity to benefit from them.

What inspires you the most about working in the field of intellectual property particularly in the context of Research4Life and LMICs? Looking back, what accomplishment are you most proud of and why?

Intellectual property can be a powerful force for promoting innovation, creativity, and development for the benefit of all. TISCs and the Research4Life programs are a great example of this: TISCs help people make the most of patents, both to protect their inventions and as a source of inspiration for innovative research; the content available through the Research4Life programs including ARDI complements the information and knowledge disclosed through patents and is an important enabler for the work done by TISCs. I am proud to have contributed to establishing these two programs and to be part of the community that continues to develop them for the benefit of researchers, inventors, and entrepreneurs around the world.

Thank you for sharing your insights with us. Is there anything else you would like to add that we haven’t covered?

When I started working in the field of intellectual property and innovation over 30 years ago, I didn’t have a computer and had to go to a vast library of patent documents on paper to collect the information I needed as a patent examiner. Since then, the digital revolution has made this information tremendously more accessible and more useful for search and analysis, giving us the ability to instantly access information and knowledge from around the world and pinpoint and analyze relevant information and knowledge to an extent that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago. New technologies including artificial intelligence tools have the potential to again transform the way we work with the information and knowledge accessible through patents and scientific and technical sources, and I believe that TISCs and the Research4Life programs, including ARDI, will help innovators make the most of these new opportunities for promoting innovation, technology transfer, and economic growth.

If you are a researcher, inventor, or entrepreneur in a low and middle-income country, search here for your nearest TISC. Also, visit our content portal to explore the wealth of scientific and technical resources available through ARDI.