How to transform a government agency: IPO launches five-year reform plan

Today, the Intellectual Property Office has launched its One IPO Transformation programme, a 5-year drive to transform intellectual property services and enhance the value IPO adds to the UK economy. Deputy chief executive David Holdsworth shares details of the plans
Intellectual Property Office Concept House

By David Holdsworth

22 Apr 2021

IPO transformation – why does it matter?

Intellectual property is essential to making the UK the most innovative and creative country in the world. It is fuel to unleash innovation and creativity; to help British businesses build back better, and build back greener, following the pandemic. The UK already has a world leading IP environment, but a service for innovators must itself innovate.

By not just digitising what we currently do but completely transforming the “how” and “what” we do, we will remove barriers to innovation and make intellectual property rights more accessible and useful to innovators, entrepreneurs and creators.

By providing businesses and citizens with the tools they need to harness the power of intellectual property we can incentivise investment and enable knowledge sharing. Through improved use of intellectual property, we will enable UK economic growth and give the UK a competitive advantage.

Why does intellectual property matter?

First, let’s look at the numbers. Industries with an above average use of intellectual property account for over 40% of UK GDP, 15.5% (4.5 million) of total UK employment and 52.1% (£159.7bn) of goods exported. that’s a lot of money and a lot of jobs.

That’s just some of the hard numbers but then you look at our daily lives and how intellectual property is a part of all our lives. In our pockets we have mobile phones that were designed and improved upon through intellectual property. In our fridges, snacks from companies like Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Mars use intellectual property to protect their brands and manufacturing processes through intellectual property. On our TV screens we watch streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ that are underpinned by exclusive intellectual property like Marvel, Star Wars and The Crown. We interact with intellectual property every day, so it’s no surprise that today, the real bulk of a business’s value is in its intellectual property.

So, intellectual property being important for businesses, means it’s important for the UK economy. In a post-Brexit world, the UK has to carve out new opportunities to have a competitive edge and build back better in the face of fierce global competition. Having a truly world-leading intellectual property environment can help set the UK apart and attract investors. If the UK provides unique support to businesses to not only register and protect their intellectual property, but to use, commercialise and innovate through intellectual property, the UK will gain a competitive edge.

How does the IPO fit in?

We already do some really great work in the policy space – for example we are currently thinking about who should own ideas that are created by artificial intelligence. We also do a great job in the day-to-day running of the intellectual property system – we register thousands of intellectual property rights every year, our customer satisfaction rates are consistently high and the UK is ranked as the second best intellectual property framework in the world.

We know we can be so much more, though. IPO’s strategy is about how we can make life better through intellectual property. Today we are kicking off our five-year transformation programme that is setting us up to truly live that goal – we want to help creators, innovators, designers and businesses thrive, because then the UK economy will thrive, and that means everyone else will too.

How is the IPO transforming?

Over the next 5 years, we don’t want to just modernise and recreate our current processes, systems and services. We want to completely transform what we do, the way we do it and the value we contribute to the UK economy.

In the short-to-medium term, that means creating a one stop shop for intellectual property. Right now, if somebody wants to get a patent they have to use a completely different system from the one they would for, say, a trade mark. This makes simple tasks unnecessarily difficult for our customers. For example, at the moment if somebody wants to change their business address, they have to tell us that information for each separate patent, trade mark or design they have registered. In future they will be able to change this information themselves, one time in one place. We want to bring all of our core services under one roof, and that includes empowering researchers to make better use of our IP data. 

Longer term, moving on from ageing technology and process will free up our resources and our people. It will allow us to focus on those bigger picture objectives around helping businesses make better use of their intellectual property. That’s where we feel we can really enable and accelerate UK innovation and be global intellectual property leaders. 

I’d encourage you to reflect on all of the times you interact with IP in your daily life, from the cars you drive, to the clothes you wear; or the books, music or films you enjoy – and consider the value it brings to you as an individual, to businesses and then the wider economy. When you think about it, we are surrounded by intellectual property every day – that’s what working at the IPO has made me realise.

Other than that, if you would like to know more about our transformation plans, you can either take a look at our new transformation prospectus, or join us at our transformation event at 11am – 12pm on 12 May to learn more.

David Holdsworth is the deputy chief executive of the Intellectual Property Office, an executive agency, sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy,

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