StudentshIP Enterprise Awards 2015

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Baroness Neville-Rolfe launches a new online training package - Intellectual Property (IP) Tutor - at the StudentshIP Enterprise Awards.

Hello. I am delighted to be here to launch our new online training package - Intellectual Property (IP) Tutor - and present the prizes for our StudentshIP Enterprise Awards. There are 3 important themes today:

  • helping people understand the value and importance of IP
  • giving people the skills they need to compete in a demanding employment market
  • ensuring growth that will create job opportunities for the future

Ministers are sometimes accused of only talking about success and of ignoring anything which does not fit into this happy pattern. I want to do the opposite and mention some of the reasons why it is essential we make progress on these 3 issues.

I take as my text a European Commission report of September 2014 on member states’ competitiveness. Say what you like about the Commission, they are good at putting together dispassionate, reasonably objective, accounts of how matters stand.

Some of their report makes uncomfortable reading. Our manufacturing constitutes a significantly lower percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) than it does in most member states; and manufacturing productivity is increasing more slowly than most. Our young adult population scores significantly below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average on basic skills and qualifications. And whilst larger companies tend to provide training or education, most companies are small and just 15% of employers offer apprenticeships, many of which are low level. Plenty to work on there. And we are making good progress especially on apprenticeships and on improving the results in our schools.

Of course there are some good points in the report. For example on innovation we are recognised as above average.

That makes it all the more important that we press ahead energetically with advances like those we are discussing today. The only way to get better is to actively seek to improve.

I turn now to IP, our main subject.

The UK has a proud history of innovation and creativity and we also enjoy a rich cultural heritage in which the creative industries make a vital contribution.

As Minister for Intellectual Property I am clear that future generations should understand the ins and outs of intellectual property. This is important for everything from defending our biggest or newest brands to the copyright in pop music and the patents for life saving drugs.

I believe that every child should leave school with a basic understanding of IP principles and a respect for others’ IP. All graduates should know enough about IP to manage ideas effectively within their chosen field.

To achieve that goal we need to make IP an integrated part of learning from the earliest school years through primary, secondary and higher education. In a recent report, Mike Weatherley MP said the government needed to support education professionals, with online resources and lesson plans, so IP finds its way into the curriculum via other subjects.

From the earliest age, our children will be given opportunities to connect with the basic principles of intellectual property.

We have worked with Aardman Animations – a great example of a highly successful British company. We have developed a competition, aligned with the new film Shaun in the City, that allows children to explore the different types of intellectual property. Alongside this there are lesson plans and activities for teachers to introduce the concepts of innovation, creativity and IP in the classroom. These aren’t for standalone ‘IP lessons’, they link to core curriculum subjects. By doing all this children will understand how IP links to the real world – from fiction and works of art to the world of fashion where designs and brands are a huge part of value created, to wearable electronics now used in sport or long term medical care.

Over the coming year, we will be extending this further by developing materials aimed at secondary school pupils. These will link into topics such as business studies, information technology and music. We will be building an online portal, drawing together resources, games and videos to support IP education for all students throughout their school and university life.

As children grow up it won’t just be school lessons that are important. It will also be the culture they experience in their peer group. We need them really to understand why IP is so important. Many young people aspire to careers in IP rich industries – even if they are not aware of it. The UK has an outstanding record in creative industries – music, computer games and television. We have a proud record in invention and design too – Dyson being just one house hold name that excels in this area. These businesses rely on intellectual property. By protecting their IP they are able to generate income for their business, build a competitive advantage and invest in future innovation.

We are working with partners to demonstrate the value of IP to businesses. The BBC’s ‘Dragons’ Den’ has inspired many would-be entrepreneurs to protect their IP from the outset. Working with UK Music we developed Music Inc, an app based game that allows people to experience the highs and lows of taking a new artist and nurturing them to become a star. In the year since we launched the game we have had over 190,000 players and we can see that, as they see the impact of piracy, their behaviours within the game begin to change – so we know this approach really can work.

You are here today representing the brightest and best of the UK’s talent - our university students. We know that they are looking to maximise their employment prospects and that the job market for student leavers has changed. Today’s graduates know that they can no longer rely on their core qualifications alone to secure graduate level employment.

For these reasons, giving them a sound understanding of business and professional conduct, along with nurturing entrepreneurial attributes is important. IP is a key element of this innovative enterprise and is now vital for University leavers.

A survey of students told us that 80% felt that IP was important for their future careers, yet only 40% think their knowledge is sufficient – clearly there is room for improvement here.

Over the coming years, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) - will be reviewing the benchmarks for university courses. These set out the essential elements a degree course must cover. The IPO is working closely with the QAA to include IP in the relevant subject benchmarks.

Engineering is especially important. I know as my step daughter works on the international construction of a nuclear fusion reactor at ITER in the South of France, the biggest construction project in Europe on some metrics. An amendment has already been made to the benchmark for engineering degrees and all engineering courses offered from September 2016 will include a component of IP learning.

Today we are here to launch IP Tutor, an excellent online learning tool. You will have an opportunity to try it for yourselves later today. It covers all the basic forms of IP – patents, designs, copyright, trade marks and trade secrets. It has a number of different paths tailored to meet the needs of different disciplines. So, whether you are a student in a STEM subject or one of the humanities, specialising in business or law, or a creative arts student – there is an IP Tutor option for you.

Learning is a vital first step but we also need to help students put what they learn into practice. I will shortly be awarding prizes to the winners of the StudentshIP Enterprise Awards.

These awards promote and celebrate the practical application of IP skills. We had an excellent field to choose from. Competition was fierce, with some really strong entries and great ideas. And no one knows who is going to win!

We know that, right now, the IP education we are giving young people is not good enough. But this will improve. It must improve. Ours is an increasingly knowledge based economy – we invest more in intangible assets than in buildings or machinery. Future generations need to understand IP. It is through the development of new ideas, design and creativity that we will secure long term growth. And through this long term growth we will create job opportunities. Through integration of IP into the school room and university life we can achieve this. I hope you will join me in spreading the word – IP is essential for our future.