I am delighted to welcome you all to the University of Glasgow and to this, the 10th annual European Policy for Intellectual Property Conference – EPIP 2015. I understand this is the first time the conference has taken place in the UK and so I’m doubly thrilled that you chose to come to Glasgow. I know too that we, along with the organisers, are particularly pleased to see such an encouraging response: around 200 delegates are here from all over the world. That’s great and a source of encouragement to all those involved in pulling together the content of the conference – it tells them they’ve got it right – and that’s a tremendous validation of all their hard work. But it’s also immensely encouraging for my colleagues in Glasgow and for the work that goes on here.
Of course picking Glasgow was I’m sure no accident. I’d like to hope that the EPIP association recognised that we are closely aligned to it in our strategies and approaches to research, its potential, impacts and influence. If our world is getting smaller, its problems and challenges are certainly not. The big questions and issues of our day are less bound by national borders, intellectual boundaries. And if it has become almost glib to say global problems require global solutions, we shouldn’t diminish the deeply challenging, immensely exciting truth behind it: we are interconnected, interdependent in ways unimagined by our predecessors.
The knowledge economy, and our digital, big data world, presents powerful resources, with powerful potential: together they challenge our capacity and willingness to derive the host of benefits for all that are surely there to be won. What is clear, however, is that there is no one discipline, no one institution or organisation, that can do it, go it, alone. And I know this is a vision shared by EPIP. From its very origins you embraced an interdisciplinary approach to intellectual property rights – and that was innovative. You sought to understand how these play out across our economic, social, political and cultural landscapes, at national, European and international levels.
And as a University we have over the last six or so years restructured to create 7 research institutes and a range of centres to create an intellectual environment that seeks to encourage, facilitate that same ethos and practice of inter-disciplinarity that defines EPIP. It is this same approach that I’m sure has enabled the University to attract large multidisciplinary projects such as the multimillion innovation centres in Stratified Medicine, and CENSIS; one of the 4 UK Technology Hubs; the lead role in The Urban Big Data Centre (UBDC), a £12M research resource, and critically within the context of today, secured the lead in January 2013 for the launch of CREATe. Ranging across some 8 subject areas, 7 Universities, and a RCUK centre, funded by the AHRC, ESRC and EPSRC, CREATe surely epitomises our shared commitment to interdisciplinary research and community engagement. We are proud to host CREATe and to be at the centre of research that is addressing innovative ways in which our creative and cultural industries can thrive and be leaders in the global digital economy.
So, in coming to Glasgow and in choosing as your focus the Creative Economy and copyright law you have found a truly sympathetic intellectual context for your conference. You have come home.
But EPIP is shaped by and promotes another important aspect, one that again fits so comfortably with the ethos of Glasgow. The drive to work across disciplines to gain new and deeper insights is not an end in itself. Recent years have seen UK research wrestle with the concept of ‘impact’: how and in what ways has the knowledge we generate impacted on the world around us? In all sorts of ways this is not a new question or concept. Was there ever a time when big ideas were only ever meant to lie buried in a research paper or inert in a lab? I just need to glance back over my shoulder to some of the great academics and pioneers that have worked at Glasgow: Adam Smith, Joseph Black, James Watt, Lister, Lord Kelvin, to highlight the fact that you can’t hold great ideas and insights down! They emerge to shape our world, as many continue to do to this day.
But I know too, that there is a vast intellectual reservoir that can remain untapped, unseen and underutilised by those many stakeholders that might benefit….if only they knew! The challenge is how to make our work, work for others? Your conference, as your President elect, Professor Kretschmer, identifies in his forward to the programme, sets up one: it is through building a wider world of interconnections – interconnections that range beyond academia. EPIP provides a forum where the latest research is opened up to policy makers from international organisations, governments, industry, trade bodies. To quote Martin: ‘There are not many conferences where academics mix that easily with members of Parliament, government officials and firms.’
Drawing in, and so also drawing on – it’s a two way street – the wider community is surely right. My University was and is a pioneer of Easy Access IP – an initiative that aimed at releasing IP to the community, opening it up for organisations, businesses, policy makers to use freely. We recognise that the research we undertake can inform the policies of governments and agencies – whether in matters relating to public health, social justice, global security and the creative arts. But nobody underestimates the challenges around this agenda. Indeed your discussions, papers and debates will range around the fault line of the benefits and/or pitfalls to our economies, politics, social and cultural wellbeing, through adopting either a restrictive, or permissive, approach to data and IP. But it’s a debate that has to happen; it’s one that has to be considered from multiple perspectives; and it’s just this same debate, and the same way you will undertake it, that will engage you over the next couple of days here in Glasgow.
And so again may I welcome you to the city and the University. You’ve come to the right place! And may I wish you a very interesting, stimulating and fruitful time here.