Global investment in research and development (R&D) is at an all-time high. It’s estimated that $2.4 trillion, the equivalent of two percent of global GDP, has been spent on R&D projects in the last year. It’s no wonder, as innovations discovered through R&D can yield huge returns when managed strategically.
However, despite innovations needing to be patentable to prove profitable, studies have calculated that approximately 30% of all R&D investment is wasted on ideas and approaches that have existing prior art. The key to truly lucrative R&D is to innovate in untapped territories–areas without conflicting patents.
So how can the high risk of duplication be mitigated?
The answer lies within the realm of intellectual property (IP)—a vast, complex, and rapidly shifting landscape. Developing a well-defined IP strategy, based on comprehensive intelligence and mapping is key when mitigating the high risk of duplication.
In fact, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization, 3,276,700 patents were filed in 2020 alone. A strategy that can inform, support, and direct R&D investment can give you the competitive edge in a highly competitive marketplace.
How intellectual property insights can direct R&D efforts
Every organization hopes that its R&D investment will yield the critical innovations or technologies from which they can develop new products, services, and indeed new profitable models for their business.
However, for the R&D model to deliver genuine value, it needs to find fertile fields and untapped territories, which often proves problematic. This is due in part to the principle of "multiple discovery."
Forwarded by Robert K. Merton, this well-established theory posits that scientists will invariably, independently, and simultaneously invent the same solutions. In the marketplace, the negative impact of this duplication of efforts causes patent interference and FTO issues, which then can nullify the investment for those who come second place at the patent office.
Even with the impenetrable wall of trade secrets guarding these blunders of "multiple discovery," numerous examples can be found in the public sphere. For instance, the microchip was invented twice and independently within six months, by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce in 1958 and 1959, respectively. The multi-use material polycarbonate was discovered twice in 1953, by Dr. Daniel Fox of General Electric Co., and one week later by Dr. Hermann Schnell of Bayer.
So, in the modern era, with even more R&D being conducted, researchers will inevitably invent duplicate solutions independently, unless directed strategically.
An R&D approach lacking IP foresight is one of the principal causes of misspending and even lawsuits. Indeed, in the last decade, the US has seen an average of 5,000-6,000 IP lawsuits filed every year.
With the gargantuan scale of global R&D efforts, multinational lawsuits are even more likely. A high-profile example is when Samsung had a world-leading R&D budget of $14.9 billion in 2021 and was fined $538 million for infringing Apple’s patents on several of the original iPhone’s functions back in 2011.
Most companies would find such a punitive fine prohibitive—the best way to mitigate these risks is to assess the patent landscape continuously. Through effective landscaping, pre-existing prior art or applications that may affect the commercialization of your R&D can be identified early and either avoided entirely or through modifications to differentiate your IP.
Indeed, the shift is already beginning. In a recent study conducted by CAS, 60% of IP managers said their top priority over the next 12 months was to more effectively utilize IP insights for R&D, business discovery, and shaping or supporting strategy.
The competitive advantages of integrating IP analytics
Historically, IP considerations have been treated as an afterthought for legal departments, put in place once an invention or innovation has been created. This retrospective approach adds considerable financial and legal risk to an already sizeable investment.
However, by leveraging IP analytics to inform R&D from the conception phase, and throughout the development cycle, a company can limit risk, maximize efficiency, and minimize the misapplication of budget.
IP strategy integration allows organizations to:
- Identify trends and expanding areas of research, where early patent filing may be critical.
- Track competitor activities to proactively protect investments, set clear markers of success, and maximize ROI.
- Create clear checkpoints, such as proof-of-concept, functioning prototype, and final technical solution checks that can be measured against IP insights.
- Tier allocation of resources and budget at each stage.
CAS offers several solutions and services to power your IP search and patent monitoring efforts throughout the innovation journey. By leveraging the world-renowned CAS human-curated data sets and platforms, researchers throughout the organization can gain deep insights, identify risks early, and find new connections to explore at all stages of the innovation journey.
Much is gained when IP insights are shared across key stakeholders, internal teams, external research partners, contract research organizations, and collaborators. This integrated approach can then open- up new avenues of opportunity for partnerships with existing external patents.
The key to research and development is to spend smart, not big
It may seem counterintuitive, but often the world’s innovation leaders are not necessarily those with the biggest spend in R&D. Moreover, spending big is no guarantee of return:
“There is no long-term correlation between the amount of money a company spends on its innovation efforts and its overall financial performance. Instead, what matters is how companies use that money” - Jaruzelski, Chwalik, Goehle, ‘What the Top innovators Get Right’
The most successful innovative companies are those strategically channeling their R&D towards the untapped territories.
Take Volkswagen for example. In 2020, the company invested $14.5 billion in R&D, the 4th highest in the world yet ranked 31st on Forbes's most innovative companies of 2020.
Comparatively, Tesla invested a diminutively low figure of $1.1 billion in 2020, yet ranked 11th in the same list. This is due to its broad and impressive innovation ambitions that span beyond its state-of-the-art motor vehicles. Exploring innovations in aerospace, AI, renewable energy, and batteries are all part of the business’s long-term strategy. And with their history of patentable and profitable innovations, you would not bet against them.
With global R&D business budgets at an all-time high, a well-defined and integrated IP strategy based on the latest insights and interpreted by experts is the smartest and best way to manage risk and navigate your company’s R&D path into the untapped territories of the future.
Utilizing CAS solutions will enable you to edge out the competition and gain important market authority.
“CAS solutions have evolved to open up IP analytics to innovators across R&D sectors. We take pride in partnering with organizations around the globe to protect inventions, monitor competitor IP, support legal status and due diligence study, and assist in the integration of IP workflows to maximize the return from R&D efforts.” - Anne Jones, Senior Customer Success Specialist, CAS