The Open AIR Project – Exploring the Role of Intellectual Property in Open Development

The Open A.I.R. project – African innovation research and training on the role of intellectual property in open development – is helping African innovators, creators and entrepreneurs turn knowledge into concrete practices that have the potential to transform economies and drive human development forward. It is investing  between 2011 and 2014 into a pan-­‐African research and capacity-­‐building network. Funded by Canada’s IDRC and Germany’s GIZ, the network is administered from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, with additional hubs in West, East and North Africa. Its experts are working in a dozen different counties throughout the continent, in collaboration with partners in Brazil, India, Canada, Switzerland and elsewhere.

The 21st Century has ushered in new modes of innovation and creation based on collaboration among interconnected networks of people, knowledge and resources. But research and capacity building around IP systems have not kept pace with these trends. Polarised views on how IP facilitates or restricts innovation and creativity persist because there is little empirical research on this topic. Open A.I.R. will address this gap by objectively exploring ways in which the African intellectual property systems that govern knowledge can work better as tools for open innovation and collaborative creativity, and then training key public and private sector actors to use these new insights effectively.

The research involves diverse but interconnected case studies to understand the current reality in several thematic areas, and foresight-­‐driven scenario building to acknowledge and prepare for the inevitable uncertainties of the future. Outreach and training activities include seminars and workshops, an emerging leaders fellowship program and a development-­‐oriented intensive course curriculum. Through these activities, the Open A.I.R. project will raise problem awareness and facilitate critical policy engagement, change discourse and behaviour to facilitate collaboration and reduce bottlenecks, empower a networked, epistemic IP community in Africa, and reconfigure IP-­‐related valuation metrics, capital and power structures.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Tobias Schonwetter (UCT, Principal Investigator):

Prof. Jeremy de Beer (uOttawa, Principal Investigator):

Ms. Nan Warner (UCT, Project Manager):