As Botswana transforms from a resource-based to a knowledge based economy, diversification through the development of Intellectual Property (IP) Policies and supporting services for innovative purposes has become critical in maintaining the country’s sustainability.
This is according to a representative from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and Entrepreneurship Support Division, Lien Verbauwhede.
She says it is important to encourage and cultivate the use of IP for economic, social and cultural development that fosters creativity and innovation. “Universities and research institutions have been challenged to undertake research that has immediate relevance in the country and to promote commercialisation that will have practical results,” she says.WIPO has a membership of 188 countries and its mandate is to assist member states with the development of IP policies for their universities. Botswana has been selected as the first pilot country for the programme.
“It has become evident that despite the government’s effort to promote diversity in the national economy, the gap in Botswana between results created at universities and research institutions and their transformation into actual products and services for the market place is still gaping.”
Therefore she says the main goal of this initiative is to assist institutions in Botswana to set up adequate frameworks for the dissemination of knowledge. Verbauwhede further highlights that this would promote the country’s optimal use in the innovation chain and bridge the gap by assisting in the development of a solid IP Policy. Attesting to this, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology, Keoagile Molapong says that as institutions seem to lack infrastructure for intellectual property management, it is imperative to include institutional guidelines and better processes to manage IP.
“We are at a point where we want to see these institutions operating technology transfer offices and building active links with industry in matters of innovation and intellectual property,” Molapong states. The government of Botswana in partnership with WIPO formulated and adopted the National Intellectual Property Development Plan during the 2012/13 year. The Plan aims to maximise Botswana’s potential to use the IP system, anchored by five pillars of; bridging gaps in governance, enhancing capacities for financing IP generation and commercialisation, developing capacities to raise awareness, offer education and training while conducting research in relation to IP and develop entrepreneurship capacities and enhancing institutional capacities.