This section presents the high-level synthesis of the work. It should be used as a reading guiad, assisting the ICP Wiki user to navigate its contents.
In Alternative Energy, we found enormous recent activity and investment in the development of new tools and products worldwide, and an exponential grown in the number of patents mirrors this activity. We began our research with the intention of limiting our scope to the US only, but given the global scope of the alternative energy market, and the fact that almost all the market leading companies have grown in foreign countries where the markets for this technology have been biggest and which can be considered historical centers of technology innovation, we chose to include Germany, Denmark, and Spain. Additionally, among the countries considered emerging economies, we decided to look at China for the geopolitical implications relating to its relationship with the United States, but also for its surprising and fast growing number of patents.The potential reasons for this may be many, but some are attributable to consistent combination of push and pull policy choices in some of those countries.
We chose wind, solar and tidal/wave technologies with the expectation that we would find variations among their approaches to openness and closedness, since the technologies represent different levels of maturity and patenting activity. The maturity can be measured both by the stage of development of the technology and the stage of development of the market. For instance, wind is considered a mature technology because it is fairly well understood, and the cost of generating electricity with wind turbines is closer to the cost of conventional sources of fossil fuel generated electricity - though it is still more expensive. Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology is less mature and can be quite expensive, therefore the research and innovation around solar PV technologies is sure to play a critical role in bringing its costs down and generating more efficient technology. Tidal/wave technology is relatively immature compared to wind and solar, and is mostly in the demonstration phase at this time.
What we found was relatively traditional industrial innovation practice - research and development at big companies, venture-backed startups, investment by governments in national laboratories with traditional knowledge and technology transfer processes in place. The end products and their industrial sellers appear to be much less affected by emergent commons-based processes than software, culture, and educational materials. They are products like massive wind turbines or solar arrays, physically manufactured at high expense, covered by entire families of patents, and subject to a very traditional innovation paradigm. The wind market is concentrated amend some top industries that have been acquiring small innovative companies for many decades. We did find some uptake and endorsement of open source software, especially around the advance of Smart Grid technologies, though we did not research deeper on that, as well as intriguing new projects around access to energy data, which point to intriguing hypotheses about how CBP could emerge in the field and begin to disrupt the industry in the future.
There is clearly a desire by many of the key stakeholders in energy to “change the game” and increase the overall rate of innovation in renewable energy. This desire has been expressed in the US very clearly in President Obama’s innovation strategies, including by Energy Secretarty Chu and Commerce Secretary Locke. The OpenEI (to share smart grid data in a manner consistent with the US data.gov system), U.S. OpenLabs, and the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy (DSIRE) all point towards the intrusion of new market forces into what has been a fairly traditional industrial sector, one that has had more in common with the creation of airplanes or automobiles than with software engineering or educational materials construction. The Obama administration is also working with new market forces via the Kauffman Foundation for entrepreneurship, hosting (and even webcasting) events at the White House and in general positioning itself as a force for more openness in energy data and potentially in technologies. In a recent meeting (05/08/2010), knowledge sharing and new way to bring research from universities into development and the market were key themes, in addition to the necessity of generating jobs within the US borders.
It is estimated that, until recently, 2/3s of investment into alternative energy R&D within the USA came from the private sector, however, there is a broad acceptance that the government should be the responsible for investing in new, risky, and possible disruptive, basic research for innovation within AE. This is due also to the disappearance of large corporate laboratories - such as Xerox Lab, BellLab, and others - which has increased the importance of national labs and universities as key players for early stage innovative research. Thus, after a couple of decades with low public investment in renewables R&D - as of 2007, federal support for energy R&D had fallen by more than half since a high point in 1978, and private-sector energy R&D has similarly fallen - , a recent major investment under the recovery plan (ARRA 2009) was devised. By analyzing the innovation pipeline of alternative energy a series of programs were devised by the DOE. At the basic research level, 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) within Universities and National Labs were created. The EFRC represents an increased emphasis on the importance of university based research, and expands the R&D funding for this research. At the translational level, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) was created and modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). ARPA-E will fund energy technology projects that translate scientific discoveries and cutting-edge inventions into technological innovations, and will be distributed through awarding grants, cooperative agreements or Technology Investment Agreements The program should also accelerate technological advances in high-risk areas that industry is not likely to pursue independently. And, finally, the Energy Innovation Regional Clusters (E-RIC) aimed spur regional economic growth while developing innovative energy efficient building technologies, designs, and systems.
This desire by the US is actually preceded by private and public interventions elsewhere. Denmark saw industrial cooperation on “vertical stacks” of wind technologies in the 1990s, in which competition was voluntarily restricted by companies in order to achieve greater interoperability, and the wind industry in the US also collaborated via informal “club” arrangements hosted at Stanford to achieve more reliable gearboxes without demanding new patent applications and licensing. So the US government entry is not without precedent, but the power of the US government to change the market is indeed a major new player in the industrial cooperation arrangements we expect to see in the next decade.
Inside Biotechnology - Genomics and Proteomics, we found a mixture of commons-based production and more traditional, closed practices depending on the point in the value chain where we looked.
The fields of genomics and proteomics represent a rich research base for an analysis of cooperative behavior and commons-based knowledge generation - there are long-established actors, projects, and cooperative systems, covering most of the classes of products produced by biotech, and across a wide range of tools and knowledge. There is massive investment by public and private players across the research cycle, ranging from fundamental “big science” projects where data is treated as infrastructure to intermediate “translational research” where the basic discoveries are converted to potentially useful health interventions, to marketable products like genetic therapies and diagnostic kits.
“Big science” projects show the most evidence of commons-based effects on industry. The emergence of a commons in “big science genomics” is easiest to see in basic genome sequencing. Via the Human Genome Project (the genome common to all humans), the HapMap (a mapping of the genomic variation that makes us unique individuals), and follow-on projects, big government investments and accompanying public domain rules dramatically affected the industry of genomics, leading to the eventual exit from the market of corporate players like Celera from the business of selling genome databases. The commons in gene sequences also sparked the emergence of commons-based production in functional genome annotation, where the Distributed Annotation System allows for individual observations about the functions of specific gene sequences on disparate computers “snap together” to form a cohesive, parallel-generated view of genomic function.
Most big science happens through government investment in university and its outputs in the data and text products are now open by default (due to the Bermuda Rules and the NIH Public Access Policy), although tools and inventions frequently are subjected to competitive withholding and patenting. We did not observe significant evidence of commons-based industrial disruption in biological materials, research tools, although the Personal Genome Project and the efforts of private foundations investing in disease-specific research as well as a new set of technology transfer “principles” for licensing may create the conditions for such disruption in coming years. The iBridge Network by the Kauffman Foundation is also trying to disrupt the technology transfer market via an e-commerce model, though it is not explicitly a commons-based approach and instead simply focuses on lower transaction costs and increased transparency.
“Translational research” has traditionally been the province of biotechnology startups funded by venture capital, placing a high value on patents and trade secrets and thus has been resistant to commons effects as an industry. There are attempts to create “open source drug discovery” as seen in India, but most of those successes are actually more similar to big science - genotyping organisms versus identifying potential drug targets or potential drug interventions.
However, research on the translational research industry itself indicates not only that the industry is failing under its existing business models but provide tantalizing clues that a commons may be a viable approach: the only factors that correlate to an increase in the rates of drug discovery are those related to the total number of searchers. This research comes at the same time that new, non-profit entities like Sage Bionetworks are moving into the domains traditionally dominated by companies in the industry, explicitly adopting commons-based approaches. Sage is not performing research in order to generate IP, instead performing competitive translational research like target prioritization, drug response stratification, and even clinical studies under a business model in which the “profit” is the right to deposit data and outcomes into a digital commons, and marks a truly disruptive “port” of the commons model into the genomics industrial paradigm.
* Keep reading:
Read Genomics Knowledge Governance at File:Genomics Knowledge Governance.pdf
Read Sage - A Merck Project
Read Annex 2 of the Progress Report for Ford Foundation at File:FFPregressReport.pdf
Read BGP Notes
- Evidence of commons-based industrial cooperation: educational materials
We found evidence of commons-based cooperation and production in the educational materials industry. The field of educational materials (EM) refers to a subset of the book, games, Internet, and software publishing industries that is focused on providing resources to a variety of educational market segments. EMs are available as both digital and non-digital solutions.
At the K-12 educational level, digital solutions include a range of technologies used to enhance the delivery and the administration of K-12 education, including data management systems, web-based course and assessment materials, and online tutoring and professional development—however, we focused on those digital solutions products that have specific educational purposes and where knowledge is embedded in a form that can be enclosed by some form of intellectual property. Regarding non-digital solutions, we included textbooks, course packs and other supplementary materials, and various educative toys and games.
Many of these products are experiencing market disruption as a result of rising commons-based production (CBP), which is in turn pushing the industry around EMs towards adopting commons-based industrial cooperation (CBIC) practices. There is a broad movement, known as Open Educational Resources (OER), in favor of treating educational and learning objects as open content products, which should be online, free of charge, available for remix under liberal copyright licenses, and in general subject to interpretation, iterative development, and redistribution. The OER movement is affecting educational policy at federal and local levels, and the power of the government as purchasing agent is playing a powerful role in creating market forces in the industry that favor cooperative approaches over competitive approaches.
We studied several instances of CBIC in educational materials, which are all presented on the wiki. The instances included Connexions, a software infrastructure for EMs that is flexible and modular. It is a novel teaching tool built and deployed for the Web, that supports not just text but collaboration in education and learning. Connexions features several aspects found about the commons-based EMs: the information is organized into smaller units than textbooks or chapters, web technology standards like XML are central to success, there are software and web tools to create, maintain, share and use content, there is a focus on community development and maintenance, and liberal Creative Commons copyright licenses ensure that the public’s legal rights are protected. Connexions has resulted also in radically lower textbook prices in some cases, showing how digital objects produced by the commons can affect the non-digital industrial economy of EMs.
Connexions in 2007 hosted more than 4000 learning modules, more than 220 courses or books, about 550,000 users, 2000 authors, and 200,000 hits per day from almost 200 countries. Since then the OER movement has only gained popularity and prominence, so we can expect these numbers to be higher today. It is a non profit project funded by philanthropic donations and grants.
Interestingly, we observed the emergence of for-profit OER producers like Qedoc, who focus their efforts on the creation of software tools rather than proprietary content, using a default rule of CC license usage in return for free-of-charge access to the software. We also profiled projects WikiEducator and Wikiversity, both of which apply a more traditional wiki model to planning education projects and creating learning resources. Each of these projects exists inside a universe of similar projects, demonstrating that the overall EM space is being dramatically changed by the impact of the Internet and accompanying commons-based effects. However, the traditional industry players are fighting against the advance of CBIC in many places, with strategies around customization that lock in clients where the content is commodity, but services are proprietary.
The EM industry is susceptible to commons effects for many reasons. One was that the government funders of EMs could begin prioritizing open resources as part of a focus on up-to-date materials and cost reductions, as we saw in debates from Texas and California. The government intervention on textbooks, for example, affects what was previously perceived to be the greatest barrier to OER (textbook adoption processes) and may have turned it into an advantage for OER. Another was that the industry already operated via copyright licensing, and therefore could leverage much of the infrastructure we associate with individual commons based cooperation, like liberal copyright licenses, wikis, mailing lists, and more, to allow individual cooperation with industrial players and open up space for novel projects like Connexions to challenge traditional industrial players by competing for new learners.
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