A Time for Change in a Time of Change

A Time for Change in a Time of Change

Peter (Zak) Zakrzewski is an adjunct professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University, where he co-created a course in Management of Innovation and Design. He also teaches design at The Centre for Creative Communications. 

We live at a unique time, a time of profound global economic, social and cultural shift. The pace of change around us is only increasing. Innovations born in the next few years are going to create the new economy based on solving the critical issues facing humanity: sustainable energy; transportation; life sciences; research in cancer and other diseases, etc. Innovation, as the 2009 Kauffman Foundation report on the economic impact of MIT argues, creates wealth and economic and social progress. (Entrepreneurial Impact: The Role of MIT, Roberts, Eesley, 2009). According to the report, active companies spawned by the MIT ecosystem are equivalent in revenue to the seventeenth-largest economy in the world. Closer to home, an outstanding initiative to create a similar centre of excellence in research and innovation is The MaRS Centre in Toronto. Innovation and design are not only increasingly important competitive business tools and agents of social change in the new global economy, but their outcomes are mission critical intellectual assets.

In creating the new course in Management of Innovation + Design (MGMT6800U) at the Schulich Business School at York University, my colleagues Robert Kozinets, Kelly Parke and I, have recognized the multi disciplinary nature of the innovation process. As such, we have identified a number of areas of research and expertise critical to innovation. I call the approach of identifying the various salient practices of innovation –Innovation Mapping. One of the key components of this map is the strategic role of Intellectual Property rights. Between patents, trademarks and copyrights, IP provides a wide blanket of protection for the innovator’s financial and intellectual investment in their invention, branding and design.

Last week, we had a pleasure of hosting at Schulich, Rex Shoyama, Assistant Director of IP Osgoode and David Meurer, Senior Research Assistant at ArtMob. In our panel discussion, we quickly realized how much IP practice shares with innovation, entrepreneurship and almost any business practice today, the experience of being affected by the new, emerging technologies and cultural practices of the open source movement, social media, convergent media and participatory culture. The new disruptive technologies associated with the Web 2.0, cloud computing, peer to peer transfer, mp3, open source innovation model, etc, challenge the existing business models as much as they do the current Intellectual Property practice. Witness the well publicized struggles of the major music labels with the free for all attitudes of the young generation of music fans. The answers to these dilemmas lie as much in the knowledge of business and law, as they do in the understanding of the relationship between technology and cultural practices. Prompted by these new developments, both entrepreneurs and IP practitioners have a unique opportunity to be inspired to develop new business models and ways of thinking, which better reflect today’s social goals and values. As the International Expert Group on Biotechnology, Innovation and Intellectual Property argues in their recent report, “The twilight of Old IP does not signal the end of the importance of IP. We are entering a New IP era, in which IP is used to sustain and maintain collaborations and partnerships, so that knowledge gets to those who need it most to produce and disseminate new products and services”.

We believe that a continuing, vigorous exchange of ideas between our respective communities, focused on many common issues and outcomes can only enrich the discourse and benefit all concerned. In this spirit, we would like to encourage any Osgoode students and faculty, interested in Innovation & Design as strategic areas of inquiry, to contact me or my colleague Kelly Parke to get involved in our classes, discussions or our blog. You can reach us at: pzak@schulich.yorku.ca or kparke@yorku.ca.