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Spotlight On South Africa: Intellectual Property Trends in South Africa

As the international intellectual property (IP) market becomes increasingly collaborative, countries interested in growing their IP Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will continue to adapt laws and regulations to increase the ease of IP generation and to increase collaborations with international partners. Addgene’s feature Spotlight on... strives to capture a snapshot of an evolving IP marketplace and its role in the global IP landscape.

IP Spotlight: South Africa

Intellectual property (IP) developed at universities plays an important role in promoting and developing the overall growth in the business and technology sectors of a country’s economy. It is necessary for a framework to be in place that ensures technology created at universities is used by other researchers and private industry to further innovation. Often, guidelines for the use of university technologies are governed by country specific legislation.

South Africa, one of Africa’s largest economies1, has twenty-three4 public higher-education institutions. These institutions position the country as a leader in many IP spheres. In 2010, South Africa invested about USD 2.3 billion to research and experimental development, representing about 0.87% of its total GDP3.

Even with a research budget of less than 1% of total GDP, in 2010, South African researchers produced more than 7,400 papers. This represents an increase of almost 3,900 publications over total publications in 20007. Part of this boom in research publications may be attributed to a public policy which focuses on improving scientific research in the country6. With such a potential for novel technology and IP, products resulting from publically funded South African research require the protections afforded by a uniform set of guidelines. Since 2008, the use of university generated IP in South Africa has been governed by legislation for ensuring that public IP is used to improve the economic growth and quality of life in South Africa9.

In late 2008, the Parliament of South Africa, passed legislation modeled after the US Bayh-Dole Act of 19808. This legislation, known as No. 51 of 2008: Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research and Development Act, 20085 (IPPFRD). IPPFRD offers protection and management guidelines for public university-created, South African intellectual property. Just as the Bayh-Dole Act addresses the use of IP created at publically funded institutions, IPPFRD addresses the surrounding the ownership of, dissemination of, and use of publicly funded IP. Additionally, IPPFRD details the purpose of a technology transfer office in South Africa and outlines how technology transfer managers should report IP created through public funding, what considerations should be made in order to disseminate publicly created IP, and describes how technology transfer offices at public institutions are charged with managing IP between their home institution and others. IPPFRD envisions that IP created from publicly funded research is made available to the people of South Africa.5

With a focus on socially responsible licensing, IPPFRD has led to the development and dissemination of many technologies relating to healthcare and other technology sectors. Some healthcare related patents or licenses include technologies relating to HIV/AIDS research13, tuberculosis vaccine administration13, and diagnostic reagents for malaria10. Other technologies focused on promoting societal growth include water sustainability technologies10, “Green Economy” frameworks10, and other natural resource management technologies. Biosciences, information and communications technologies, and material science/manufacturing technologies, amongst others, have all been impacted by licensed South African technologies. Through local collaborations, such as South Africa’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and global partnerships. South African institutions are committed to improving South Africa’s well being and competitiveness in the global economy through research and innovation.10, 11, 12

As innovations in technology become increasingly important for the economic development of countries, protocols protecting IP are critical. On the other hand, facilitated sharing of IP leads to further research through collaborations. Accordingly, it is more than important than ever to have an effective system for building research collaborations through IP sharing while protecting the rights of the IP holders. As part of the effort to help university technology transfer managers in this endeavor, Addgene ensures that depositing is free for depositing labs, tracks materials shared between academic researchers globally and protects the interests of IP holders through material transfer agreements. To date, Addgene has collected and shared plasmids from several public institutions in South Africa. We here at Addgene are proud to be part of the global academic research community.

See Also:

  1. The 5 Largest Economies In Africa
  2. South Africa GDP
  3. Survey shows failure to reach R&D target of 1% of GDP
  4. South Africa's universities
  5. No. 51 of 2008: Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research and Development Act, 2008
  6. National survey of research & experimental development (2009/10 Fiscal Year): high-level key results
  7. SA research output up
  8. The Bayh–Dole Act: A model for promoting research translation?
  10. CSIR
  11. University of Pretoria - Innovation and Technology Transfer Support Technology Transfer Office (TTO)
  12. Durban University of Technology - Technology Transfer and Innovation
  13. Socially Responsible Licensing of Health Technologies: Policy and Practice in South Africa