Open knowledge for innovation

Open knowledge for innovation

There has been a lot of in the past few weeks around the decision of the electric car company Tesla of opening its license’s patents. I find it really encouraging for innovation, and the debate surrounding the decision. Collaboration is needed now more than ever to innovate at a pace that require current challenges, whether it is the reduction of carbon emissions from cars or to produce more sustainable and economic food for a growing population. For that, we at Blendhub, have opened the license of our formulas for food powder blends as well. Having access to the knowledge used in the formulation will let our clients and others in the agrifood industry to improve their products, bring more value to the markets and contributing to create better food products, and accelerate innovation in our sector.

Although patents have always been necessary to protect innovators from having their ideas stolen, they can also be an important limitation in new industries, where competitors can help create a market, which is the ultimate goal, as Teslas’s CEO, Elon Musk, says in the company’s blog.

“Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology”, he asserts.

The decision has also been commented by Stefan Lindegaard, expert in open innovation, and Richard Brandson, founder of Virgin group, on their sites, where they presented interesting arguments in favor of openness. Richard Brandson highlighted the initiative as a challenge to others to constantly innovate and improve in favor of consumers:

“At Virgin, we welcome competition – it challenges us to constantly innovate and improve. We have never sought to monopolize a market, rather to disrupt, improve, and revamp the current state of play to the benefit of customers. This latest Tesla announcement is a win for innovation, technology and customers, and great step in the right direction for business”.

Meanwhile, Stefan Lindegaard pointed out that “in the world of innovation, the value of intellectual rights is decreasing” since “the best companies execute around – and faster than – patent protection”.

The importance of attracting talent is another argument in favor of openness, well-appreciated by Elon Musk, Richard Brandson, and Stefan Lindegaard.

Tesla’s CEO asserts: “Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be little protection indeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers. We believe that applying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position in this regard”.

Teslas’ decisions open the door to creativity and collaboration and will strengthen the electric car industry since major innovations rarely come from isolation. As Kirby Ferguson, writer, fimaker and speaker, shows in the following TED Talk, “Embrace the remix”, we are not self made, we are dependent on one another and creativity comes from copying, transforming, and combining to improve. And also innovation. Collaborating with others, whether they are competitors, suppliers or partners can lead to faster new developments.