A recent story in the Wall Street Journal provided an interesting snapshot into how some of the most prestigious European universities are working to invest in exciting new ideas, and turning those ideas into commercialized offerings. This “American-style entrepreneurialism,” as the reporter writes, has helped spur innovation across Europe. Yet despite these recent innovative advances, being generated by a new generation of global thinkers, the key mechanism to protect and incentivize these very endeavors – intellectual property protection – is currently being threatened in the region.
Europe has a profound stake in maintaining leadership among global innovators both now and in the future, given the significant economic growth and societal development that is associated with robust innovative ecosystems. For example, the number of European companies born out of technologies that were first developed in university labs are nearly on par with the United States at 212 and 239, respectively. Oxford University’s investment fund for some of these ventures alone has attracted more than $737 million from global investors since set up in 2015, according to the Journal.
A recent Wall Street Journal story highlights why it’s so important that European policymakers maintain a strong innovation ecosystem and not harm entrepreneurship – a growing asset for the region’s economy and people.
However, countries like the United States and China still dominate in driving innovation across key sectors. Take new medicines as a case in point; China originates about nine times and the United States about three times as many patents as Europe. To continue to improve Europe’s innovation trajectory, building off the significant progress from university and other ventures, government leaders must continue to shape and improve the intellectual property rules critical to innovators’ success. This is vital to remaining competitive and relevant globally.
But right now it appears that policymakers in the region may be moving in the opposite direction. In addition to harmful Member State price-setting policies that limit patient access to new treatments and technologies, the European Commission is conducting an “incentives review” that could result in sweeping changes to intellectual property protections for new medicines. The review could even harm orphan drug protections that have proven effective in driving discovery of new treatments for patients suffering from rare diseases.
A new Commission will soon take responsibility for the “incentives review.” The decisions it makes will have lasting implications. For the universities and industry innovators profiled by the Journal, the choice could not be clearer. Europe should maintain a strong innovation ecosystem and not harm what is clearly a growing asset for the region’s economy and people.