Innovation in the UK Motor Industry – World IP Day 2019

By Allen Dixon

“Make no mistake, intellectual property (IP) has always been, and will always be, the lifeblood of the automotive industry.”

David Wong of the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers thus summarised the importance of IP to this sector before Members of Parliament, government department officials, and industry and NGO representatives at the recent Intellectual Property Awareness Network (IPAN) 2019 World IP Day summit at the UK Houses of Parliament.

In a new feature video on the event produced by Ideas Matter and IPAN, the chairman of IPAN John Ogier explained that the event focussed on the tremendous changes that are happening in the automotive industry, and the role of intellectual property in these innovations and changes. 

Participants described the types of innovations that have already begun to appear in motor sport cars and consumer vehicles.  David Wong explained that the future is about ACES: Automated, Connected, Electrified and Services innovations, and that while “There are no autonomous vehicles on our roads yet … two-thirds of new cars on British roads today have some form of driver assistance systems.” 

Dr Stephen Lambert, of McLaren Applied Technologies, explained how electrification is becoming a huge trend even in the motor sport sector.  And Manjari Chandran-Ramesh, of the IP Group Plc described how every new car is more connected than the previous one.

“We see smart motorways helping with traffic flows, and sensors that help people find, and indeed park, their car.  Vehicle manufacturers are exploring the jump from making cars, to providing connected services through the cars,” says Ms Chandran-Ramesh.

Industry representatives explained that intellectual property protection has always been vital for promoting innovation in the automotive sectors, and that IP will continue to be important even as the types of inventions and the ways IP is developed and used are changing. 

According to Dr Lambert, “Historically IP has worked the automotive industry by really heavily protecting and not telling anybody what you’re doing.  In order to move forward in the next wave of the automotive industry—connected vehicles, autonomous vehicles, electrification—a lot more collaborative work is going to needed to make that IP really work and get out there in the ecosystem.”

The way IP that is created in the industry is likely to change, says David Wong, given that in the past, internal or in-house R&D was very important in the automotive sector, but that “in the future it is likely to be reaching out beyond the four walls of the industry to work with players outside, which could be start-ups or scale-ups from the technology sector or other disrupters.”

Members of Parliament at the event expressed their views of the importance of protecting IP with respect to the automotive sector and more generally.  Given that the sector has about £80 billion of turnover in the UK and represents about 12% of exports, “We want to remain a world leader in the automotive sector,” said Chris Skidmore, MP, and Minister for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.  “If we want to keep our best minds working on that technology in the UK, a strong IP system is a must.”

Pete Wishart, MP, who is Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Intellectual Property, said that the event and World IP Day more generally were designed to promote awareness of how such “patents, copyrights, trademarks and designs impact on daily life and celebrate creativity and the contribution of creators and innovators to the development of societies across the globe.”

Mandy Haberman, Vice Chairman of the IP Awareness Network, summed up the positive reaction of those attending the event: “In the media, in the press recently with Brexit and everything else that’s been going on, the messages that have been coming across – particularly from the automotive industry – has been doom and gloom…  And yet, when you listen to these speakers and they’re talking not about how the automotive industry has been but where it’s going and what’s happening, suddenly it’s incredibly positive and incredibly exciting.  It was really an eye-opener to listen to them today.” 

You can watch the Ideas Matter / IPAN feature video here, and learn more about the IP Awareness Network here.