By Ben Goldhirsh
With major technological advancements coming at an accelerated pace, success in our increasingly global economy depends more and more on intellectual property assets.
Patents, copyrights, and trademarks play a vital role in the economies of developed countries – in fact, intellectual property (IP) has been a key factor in the initial development of developed economies. Increasingly, emerging markets are seeing the value of fostering and keeping their own IP to help spur innovation, and provide both large and small firms with technologies that will drive success. This creation of competitive products and services that results from intellectual property ownership benefits not only consumers but society and the economy as a whole.
More and more local IP opportunities are being recognized and advanced in emerging markets such as Brazil, India and China. The total number of unique inventions issued in published patent applications and granted patents in Brazil grew 64 percent over the last decade, while patenting activity surged over 2,600 percent in China during the same period.
This IP growth in developing nations is driving not only exports, but manufacturing and domestic spending as well. In India, for instance, consumer spending is projected to almost quadruple by 2020 thanks to a growing middle class.
While it may seem simple, identifying and developing new ideas and new product innovations in emerging economies is not nearly as formulaic as it can be in established economies. Local small and medium enterprises are often constrained by limited resources, and struggle to quickly and affordably identify new market opportunities. The creation of technical solutions to cope with new development and production techniques will also be a major help to these companies as they work to access partners and talent in order to help maximize the potential of their concepts.
Another impediment faced by small companies in emerging markets is a global marketplace of ideas that is forcing companies to act mature at a young age. This increased pressure of innovation essentially changes the economics of IP development by short-circuiting the “ramp up” phase that stymies so many small companies.
But small businesses across the globe can achieve success by connecting locally-developed IP to the global marketplace. Local offices of large, global corporations can wield extensive in-house marketing, R&D and business development expertise, without increasing fixed costs – and without usurping the original IP.
By partnering with larger entities with development know-how, small and medium enterprises can not only innovate but can compete like the “big guys.” In addition, partnerships that off-load some of the ramping-up work enable small and medium businesses to focus on their core capabilities, allowing them to find solutions to local market and industry problems they do understand and bring products to market faster and more cost-effectively.
Advancements in IT and logistics have made the world truly flat. Businesses are no longer limited to a local market or region. SMEs can now attract customers whether they’re around the corner or around the world. Potential customers are everywhere and online research tools make the task of finding them easier than before. By partnering with larger companies, SMEs can learn to spend more time online prospecting and embracing a “global” business mindset.
SMEs can look to large firms setting the pace in innovative technologies highlighted in IBM’s next 5 in 5 with a continued focus to foster a great culture of innovation while also embedding strong processes that help nurture breakthrough ideas within a large organization.
Being on the small-business side of a big-business partnership can be an exciting opportunity to bring innovation and new industry trends to the forefront. An alliance with a larger company means more opportunity for a small business which, in return, equals job creation and growth. As the global economy attempts to rebound from the recession, partnering with large companies is a great avenue for small businesses to benefit from financing opportunities, mentoring programs, and a broader sales and distribution base.
No matter what geographic or industry areas a large or small company excels in, they are more likely to succeed if they partner with a company that does well in areas they do not. These strategic development alliances help both large and small businesses remain sustainable and reach new heights for their companies, a co-dependency important to turn a struggling economy into a thriving one.