Danny Titolo is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.
The Open African Innovation Research and Training project (Open AIR) is an initiative that aims to assist African creators, innovators and entrepreneurs. The project will run for three years from 2011 to 2013 and will act as a conduit by turning the ideas of great thinkers into reality and practice. In three years, the project hopes to launch African intellectual property to the next level by fostering a collaborative environment conducive to innovation and creativity.
The principle investigators of the project are Professor Jeremy de Beer of the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa and Dr Tobias Schonwetter of the Department of Private Law at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Professor Chidi Oguamanam of the University of Ottawa is a co-investigator and member of the the project’s Steering Committee. We are proud that Professor Ikechi Mgbeoji, of Osgoode Hall Law School and member of IP Osgoode, will be participating in the project launch in Cape Town.
The Open AIR project intends to achieve its goal by making intellectual property knowledge more accessible by encouraging more individuals to participate. The initiative is based at the University of Cape Town Intellectual Property Law & Policy Research Unit in South Africa. The project is also receiving support from the University of Ottawa Centre for Law, Technology and Society, Canada’s International Development Research Centre, and Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
There currently exist two conflicting schools of thought on intellectual property in Africa. One school that supports intellectual property as a facilitator of innovation and creativity while the other feels it can be restrictive. The main reason for this divide is the lack of empirical evidence to support either view definitively. Two hypotheses which may explain why this divide is such an issue in Africa are: (1) African innovation and creativity are not properly valued by current IP-related metrics, and (2) African innovation and creativity are being constrained by sub-optimal IP-related policies and inefficient IP-related practices.
The project will ultimately determine how Africans utilize different systems of intellectual property and facilitate innovation and creativity for more participatory development. The goals are feasible considering Africa is known for being sustainably vibrant, democratically supportive, and collaboratively shared throughout society.
In order to build capacity among current and future research collaborators, policy leaders, innovators, creators and entrepreneurs, the project has set-up seminars, workshops and a researcher fellowship program.
The project is currently inviting applications for a three- or six-month Fellowship in Cape Town, South Africa to work on the Open AIR project. The fellow will conduct research on a case study within one or more of the project’s thematic areas in an effort to grow the project’s pan-African network. Some of these thematic case studies will be carried out in the fields of copyright, patents, trademarks, as well as cross-cutting areas such as The WIPO Development Agenda, The Traditional Knowledge Commons and Publicly Funded Research. More information about the Fellowship can be found here.
Funding for the project is set to be approximately $2.75M USD over the next three years. The project will invest in pan-African research and hopes to build on a previously successful project, Copyright and Access to Knowledge (ACA2K). The ACA2K was based at the Wits University LINK Centre, also in South Africa.