One month shy of the end of a year full of challenges, it is important to take stock of the advances that we have achieved as a country in the field of intellectual property management, to analyse what we are doing well and to understand what we can improve, focusing on strengthening the issues where we have already made progress. We need to recall that this doesn’t involve doing everything perfectly, rather it means being the best at what we know how to do best. With this in mind we will share some statistics below about innovation and intellectual property in Colombia and some of the challenges that we are facing.
Innovation is a key element not only for the economic development of the business sector, but also for the country’s growth. The effects of long-term investment in innovation are important for everyone as they have an impact not only on the economy, but also on society as a whole. However, these investments often represent a high level of uncertainty. In addition to this uncertainty, we are facing new complex, ambiguous and volatile situations where new technologies are transforming industries and even giving rise to new sectors. Nowadays, while we are still emerging from historical events that changed the way we do business, such as what happened with COVID-19, we are starting to see the fruits of the efforts that Colombia has made towards properly managing the knowledge assets that make our companies competitive and drive our growth as a society.
In the most recent analysis carried out by the Global Innovation Index (GII), which the WIPO uses to measure innovation based on criteria that include institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure, credit, investment, and linkages; knowledge creation, impact and diffusion; and creative processes, Colombia ranked 70th out of 131 economies in the knowledge and technology products pillar, 8 places below other countries from the region such as Chile and 17 places below Mexico.
This pillar includes variables such as knowledge creation, patent applications by origin, and international PCT applications by origin, among others. In the general ranking, Colombia has been improving its position year after year, currently located at number 63 out of a total of 131 economies analysed.
For its part, according to figures from the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce (SIC), in 2017 we could see how the relationship between the country’s GDP and the number of patents requested in Colombia both by residents and foreigners increased proportionally. This leads us to think that greater investment in innovation results in greater economic benefits for companies and the country. However, this effect has been reversing over time according to the GII in Colombia. Expenditure in R&D has been decreasing, along with the number of people dedicated to research, thereby leading to a decrease in the generation of new intangible assets that can be protected through different mechanisms envisaged by intellectual property rights.
In terms of innovation, according to the Business Innovation Ranking 2022 created by ANDI and the Semana Group, which analysed 347 companies from 17 economic sectors, the results by economic sectors show that the most innovative sector in the country was the industrial sector at 26.7%, followed by the food sector at 16.7%, the energy sector at 13.3%, the chemical industry at 10% and the beverage, construction, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, petroleum and gas, fashion, marine, insurance, animal feed, health and technology sectors at 3.3% each.
This ranking also mentions that in 2021, 72.3% of companies analysed increased their investment in R&D&I, 12.3% maintained the same figures and only 9.6% decreased investment compared to 2020. However, although the indicators related to investment show positive results and the submissions for different types of IP applications across the world increased during the pandemic, in Colombia’s case, the country’s poor results in the GII are to a large extent associated with weaknesses in the variables involved in intellectual property management.
For 2022, according to the data reported by the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce until the month of October, we can see that only in the month of May did we have an average number of patent and industrial design applications made by residents and foreign residents comparable to those between 2018 and 2020. Although the following month experienced a sharp drop, the sum of the year in total is already starting to show a recovery in terms of patent applications in the country. We will have to wait to see how these figures turn out this year.
However, all these statistics have their origin in the relationship of the parties that make up the innovation ecosystems, which interact and determine the direction of the innovation efforts for each actor. Nonetheless, the government plays a fundamental role within this entire ecosystem from its position in formulating public policies, through which it works to strengthen the institutional structure of the system, empower instruments of protection and compliance, and spur training and general knowledge of the advantages of IP. Furthermore, the government promotes and incentivises research focused on finding solutions to the country’s current challenges.
The formulation of these policies is moving forward while also directly impacting risk mitigation. For example, these policies offer loans under favourable conditions and tax incentives for R&D activities, early adoption policies for innovative technologies and public funding of educational programmes to increase the supply of specialised talent. All this enables sectors with the potential for development and innovation in the country to concentrate their efforts on generating solutions at a sufficient scale so that production is profitable with a manageable level of risk. This allows us to drive the production of technologies that are monetisable for developers and accelerators and which can be run by those who acquire the technologies, thereby increasing the competitiveness of different links in the business value chain.
Here it is important to highlight the efforts that have been promoted in Colombia to encourage intellectual property. For example, in November 2022, the Government of Colombia passed CONPES 4062 on “National Intellectual Property Policy”. This policy, from the National Economic and Social Policy Council, aims to chart a 10-year action plan (2022-2031) to incentivise creativity and innovation through the generation, management, and consolidation of intellectual property. This policy develops five strategic pillars, of which three are related with the intellectual property value chain (generation and management, protection and compliance) and two are of a supporting and cross-cutting nature (training and institutions). Within the main policy actions, we can find the design of intellectual property guidelines and handbooks, the design and implementation of an inter-institutional anti-piracy agreement, ongoing training for civil servants in the judicial branch, and the design of a training programme for the appraisal of intangible assets along with other actions.
However, in order to achieve the desired impact on development and competitiveness in the country, we need these public policies to remain in place and provide an answer to our reality, not only concerning technological needs, but also our capacities, allowing us to define priorities that are globally aimed at developing solutions based on the metaverse, cryptoassets, mobile apps and artificial intelligence. Colombia must identify which of these areas it has the ability to focus and be competitive.
Today, the current government’s challenge is to maintain incentives for creativity and innovation, such as special tax rates for young entrepreneurs, tax benefits for R&D&I investment, as well as tax benefits for investment and/or donations to cultural and creative projects, among others.
For our part, for us as Colombians, businesspeople, academics, and researchers, innovative activity and entering new markets are the key. Our challenge is to spur the development of research focused on transferring knowledge to the market and to offer solutions to challenges in sectors where Colombia has proven to be competitive globally. As stated above, this doesn’t involve doing everything perfectly, rather it means being the best at what we know how to do best and of course managing and protecting intellectual property.
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