The EU wants research to have more impact
Those involved in the EU’s Framework Programme (FP7 ended in 2014) will have noticed a number of key changes in the transition to its successor, Horizon 2020. Apart from the increase in budget, there is a much greater emphasis on industrial engagement and on exploiting the findings. This policy shift is driven by an observed fall in the EU’s competitiveness compared to other industrialised regions, particularly the USA. There is a desire, through Horizon 2020, for the EU to gain a greater “return” on its R&D investment than it has done through earlier Framework Programmes.
The engagement of commercial partners is central to the design of Horizon 2020 projects which now also require the inclusion of a Plan for Exploitation and Dissemination of Results (PEDR). These plans allow project partners to show the contributions their research makes to their competitiveness. They can also act as a powerful point of reference when making applications for funding to EU funded Programmes in future.
The Model Grant and Consortium Agreements define partners inputs and obligations
The required contents of and approach to constructing the PEDR are project-specific but all are informed by the Annotated Model Grant Agreement which covers both the content of the Consortium Agreement as agreed by partners and the expected outputs at each stage of the project. The Consortium Agreement is important as it defines what is expected of partners in terms of sharing both Background IP (inventions and know-how that partners make available to other partners at the start of the project) and Foreground IP (the new findings that are the result of the Horizon 2020 project activity). Who can share what and with whom needs to be agreed formally at the outset.
Consortia must try their best to disseminate their results ...
There is a “best efforts obligation” on the rights’ holders to disseminate the results and make them as widely available as possible (usually within 4 years of the project’s completion). Failure to do so can lead to the Union clawing back some of the Horizon 2020 grant.
... But there are three exceptions
While the requirement to disseminate results might appear unambiguous, there are three qualifying points to note.
First before embarking on dissemination, a protection strategy must be in place and each of the identified ‘publishable’ outcomes should be appraised to ensure the benefit to the Union of the research findings is maximised. The strategy should seek to protect rights’ holders interests and appropriate protection should be in place before disclosure is made.
Second if dissemination goes against the legitimate interests of a rights holder, they can object to it being made public. Special care should be taken to ensure that disseminating Foreground IP (produced through the partners’ research) does not lead to the unintentional disclosure of confidential/secret information that was made available as Background IP by a partner at the start of the project. Before any disclosure of findings is made, all rights’ holders must be given at least 45 days notice of the proposed action and they have a right to make a legitimate objection within 30 days.
Third, the Union appreciates that the IP resulting from a project will include conventional types (Patents, Design Rights, Trade Marks and Copyright) and intangibles (covering a broad range of positive outcomes but including know-how, trade secrets, methods and customer intelligence). Indeed, there is a strong desire that effort is made to identify the full range of intangible assets attributable to the project given their increasing importance commercially. While the Commission wishes to improve the Union’s competitiveness, it does not expect the publishing and dissemination of non-protectable IP in situations where keeping it private can convey competitive advantage onto EU firms who hold the rights. In these situations, rights holders should still seek to convey broader value to the Union through investigating how the findings can enhance their value, for example through using them to enhance Industry Standards.
Good PEDRs capture both IP and IA
Ideally, the structure of the PEDR should be agreed by partners at the project application stage and capture both formal IP and intangible assets. The anticipated exploitable outputs of the research that are described in the project application must be in the PEDR’s design as this is what the Union expects to be produced on completion of the research. The PEDR is an organic document whose design will be based both on the anticipated outputs and by the delivery path of the project. It should accommodate commercial opportunities that are core to the consortium’s research focus and new markets/application areas that are non-core.
There are important ‘compliance’ requirements to include. The approach to preparing the PEDR Exploitation and Dissemination strategy infers that there is a broader benefit to partners. The focus on formally recognising commercial exploitation routes and considering how the partners will take forward commercially the research outputs helps to make explicit this aspect the Horizon 2020 Programme.
O'Herlihy & Co. Ltd has evolved a tested process for producing PEDRs
O’Herlihy & Co. Ltd. provides a comprehensive, structured process for preparing PEDRs that is designed to maximize the value to the consortia. We focus first on the target areas of commercial exploitation and then consider (separately) what new areas might be pursued (along with the respective potential value). The PEDR is prepared collaboratively with partners using formal IP/IA templates to capture their research outputs and to prepare market assessments. Exploitation pathways are developed jointly with consortium members and all parties are clear on what will be made public, by whom and by when.
We also develop robust arguments in those instances where it is appropriate not to publish the research outputs and ensure that whole document in firmly grounded in the Union’s and H2020’s strategic priorities.
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O'Herlihy & Co. Ltd. is a UK based Innovation and Management Consultancy specialising in research commercialisation, knowledge exchange and university:business collaboration.
Note: EU guidance is constantly updated. Please check with your local representatives for the current version.