Interview with Dr Serge Quazzotti
Dr Serge Quazzotti
European IPR Helpdesk
PhD in Organic Chemistry at Université Louis Pasteur Strasbourg (1991), Postdoctoral position at Max-Planck Institut für medizinische Forschung in Heidelberg. In 1994 joined CRP Henri Tudor in order to conduct a pilot project leading to the implementation (1996) of "Centre de Veille Technologique" which was a joint initiative of the Intellectual Property Office (Ministry of Economy) and CRP Henri Tudor. Since its creation Serge Quazzotti is acting as chargé de direction of this department, where through numerous projects and activities competencies in the fields of Competitive Intelligence and Intellectual Property have been developed in Luxembourg and resulted in innovation-support services available to private companies and public institutions, study and research results and publications, as well as numerous connections in academic and professional networks.
- Member of the Academic Advisory Board of Academy of European Patent Office
- Consortium member of the European IPR helpdesk, funded by European Commission, (CIP)
- Coordinator of the IPorta project (Innovaccess Network of National IP Offices), co-funded by European Commission (CIP)
- Activity leader in the ipeuropaware project (www.ipeuropaware.eu), co-funded by European Commission (CIP)
- Consortium member in the CASIP-SME project (www.casip-smes.eu), co-funded by European Commission (EuropAid)
- Coordinator of "Linking Innovation and Industrial Property", co-funded by European Commission (FP6)
- Coordinator of DIPS "Distance learning approach applied to enhance introduction of Intellectual Property rights in management strategies of enterprises", co-funded by European Commission (Leonardo)
INSME: Can you give us a wrong and a right definition of Innovation?
Dr Quazzotti: If you ask "what is innovation", a lot of people still have in mind researchers in Universities or big company laboratories, doing research for developing new products and solutions. Defining innovation as a synonym of research, being done only by highly qualified scientists or engineers, only affordable to Research Institutions and big companies, is definitively a too restrictive view.
Innovation can be defined as a structured process of renewing in a very broad sense. The result may be either a new product or a new service for which markets have been identified. It may also be a new process, the way the products and/or services are produced, or a new internal organisation, within the institution, for producing products or services, marketing, selling them, etc. Even the process or the organisation for doing innovations may be considered as innovation.
Common to all innovations is the fact that they always start with an idea to create or renew and that the overall objective is to create value.
Innovation has to be understood as the whole chain of achievements leading from the initial idea to the implementation or commercialisation of what has been newly created. We are talking of different steps, like e.g. the ideation process, development phase for bringing research results to a production process, business modeling and planning, marketing, commercialisation, and so forth. We can now see that research is only one part of the whole process, or absent altogether, when we assume that certain innovations do not necessarily need research. We also see that a lot of different and diverse skills and expertise are needed and we can easily understand that the value of the know-how, expertise and knowledge provided to each of the different steps of the innovation chain will be an important determinant of the value of the outcomes of an innovation process. As the input is mostly knowledge and expertise, it is obvious that the values created during an innovation process are mostly intangible assets. This explains why protection, management and exploitation of intangible assets including Intellectual Property Rights, are aspects of increasing importance closely linked to any innovation process.
INSME: Do you think that nowadays economic players are conscious enough of the opportunity that the international dimension represents for being innovative and of the benefits they could get back? If they are not, which is the main obstacle?
Dr Quazzotti: Nowadays innovation is mostly open and collaborative, meaning that different partners work together and join forces mainly under form of ideas, knowledge, expertise and know-how. In general, companies of any size, research institutions and other stakeholders are more and more used to work together on international level, which is a natural development due to globalisation. In the particular case of SMEs, my impression is that their awareness about the internationalisation opportunities very much depends on the specificities and needs of the company. A lot of SMEs are already involved in highly internationalised environments. Those are certainly aware of the added value of the international dimension for being innovative. But I also believe that not all SMEs have this need, and I can imagine that for certain SMEs there is still a lack of awareness and still opportunities to be uncovered.
However, the discussions around intellectual property are very challenging in most collaborative innovation projects and especially at international level. At the European IPR Helpdesk we are daily in contact with consortia, a lot of them comprising SMEs, having mostly questions dealing with ownership of research results, the protection of intellectual property resulting from the project in order to commercialise it , specific clauses in consortium agreements, etc. At the European IPR Helpdesk we are well positioned to observe that conciliation of interests of different types of partners, such as SMEs, Universities, or large companies having different mindsets and expectations from joint innovation projects, may result in difficult negotiations. A very important condition for ensuring the success of an innovation project, is to clarify since the beginning of the common project what are the expectations of each partner with respect to the ownership of the results of the innovation project. At the same time, already existing assets, that each partner brings into the project and which will be used as a basis for the new creations, should also be clearly identified. A common view on the joint project based on a sound agreement that clarify the expectations of every partner of the consortium before the start of the innovation project, is essential in order to prevent conflicts during or after the project.
INSME: How worldwide networks like INSME can help public bodies, stakeholders and intermediaries to foster innovation in favor of SMEs?
Dr Quazzotti: As an important and well recognised intermediary to SMEs, you know the different challenges SMEs are facing in the context of innovation but you also know and you are in contact with the different stakeholders providing assistance to SMEs in order to tackle those challenges. An important help, in my opinion, is to inform the SMEs about the different stakeholders which are able to assist them, and to actively diffuse relevant content from these stakeholders to the SMEs.
I am very proud to say that the link between the European IPR helpdesk and INSME is very efficiently working. Since a few years, via the European IPR helpdesk e-bulletin INSME is diffusing publications and informing SMEs about news, services and training opportunities offered in the field of Intellectual Property by the European IPR helpdesk to SMEs involved in transnational innovation projects.
INSME: What is according to your experience the most effective way to help SMEs and entrepreneurs to be innovative?
Dr Quazzotti: The service of the European IPR helpdesk based on 2 different pillars is in my opinion a good approach to effectively help SMEs, or even other target groups. The first pillar consists in providing first-line services by answering very concrete and specific questions coming from SMEs. This is our helpline service which can be very flexibly reached by phone, e-mail of by fax. The proximity with the customers is for this kind of service a very important condition. The second pillar consists in empowering SMEs to better deal by themselves with intellectual property in their innovation projects. This is mostly based on our training program and publications, where the objective is to enhance the general knowledge of SMEs, as well as their capacity to understand intellectual property and to integrate and manage it in innovation projects. In this context, e.g. a set of more then 30 fact sheets, explaining in a very pragmatic way how to deal with intellectual property in Research and Innovation projects as well as in transnational cooperations, is available on the website www.iprhelpdesk.eu.
INSME: Let's play a game
If I say cooperation you say...
Dr Quazzotti: consortium agreement
If I say Network you say...
Dr Quazzotti: mutual benefit
If I say Internationalisation...
Dr Quazzotti: new opportunities
If I say Intercultural communication you say...
Dr Quazzotti: internationalisation
If I say Innovation you say...
Dr Quazzotti: knowledge
If I say Change you say...
Dr Quazzotti: innovation
INSME: Your Innovation Motto
Dr Quazzotti: "Clear agreements for successful innovation and long friendship"