The protection and management of intellectual property rights is an important part of innovation in the field of green and sustainable technology. They can play an important part in Iceland’s contribution towards tackling the environmental challenges we are facing today. This was the focus of the ISIPO’s 30th anniversary conference, IP and sustainability: Innovation for a brighter future, which took place in Reykjavík on the 4th of November.

The conference was hosted by author and futurist Bergur Ebbi . In her opening address, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir spoke of the transformation of societies and industries by innovation in the three decades since the ISIPO opened its doors in 1991. “Throughout the years, the office has supported Icelandic innovators to maximise the potential of their inventions and creative works by helping them protect their intellectual property. In that way, it has played a part in creating a dynamic and robust innovation eco-system in Iceland, a foundation for our economic prosperity”, said Ms Jakobsdóttir.

The prime minister also said that innovation in the field of green technology that was built on intellectual property could be Iceland’s most important contribution in the fight against climate change. “And we have the potential to punch far above our weight when it comes to contributing to these sustainability efforts through innovation. The stories we will hear today will show that Icelandic innovation has the potential to play a significant part in an innovation revolution for green technology”, said Ms Jakobsdóttir.

Borghildur Erlingsdóttir, Director General of the ISIPO, said in her speech that just as the world was going through turbulent times 30 years ago, the world was at the cusp of another, darker, transformation in the form of climate change. She said that the fantastic innovators that were telling their stories today were an example of how innovation had the potential to contribute to the fight against that threat. “The importance intellectual property has played in those processes cannot be overstated. In fact, the innovations we see today demonstrate the huge importance intellectual property has in making innovative sustainable ideas into innovative sustainable solutions. We cannot and must not forget our role as intellectual property offices in that important process”, said Ms Erlingsdóttir.

The conference also featured greetings from the heads of three international organisations in the field of intellectual property. WIPO Director General Daren Tang greeted the conference from Geneva, Switzerland, EPO President António Campinos from Munich, Germany and EUIPO Executive Director Christian Archambeau from Alicante, Spain.

Natural resources and intellectual property

Many of Iceland’s foremost innovation companies in the field of green technology participated in the conference. Bergur Sigfússon, Head of CO2 capture and storage at Carbfix, spoke of the company’s recent success but in September it opened Orca, the largest the world's largest direct air capture and storage plant that permanently removes CO2 from the air, in collaboration with Swiss company Climeworks. Carbfix has built up a strong foundation in intellectual property and have plans to expand their IP protection and management in the future.

Egill Tómasson, Innovation Manager at Landsvirkjun, discussed how the national power company of Iceland has put an increased emphasis on innovation and how intellectual property will play a key role in their plans to focus more on a complex and interconnected approach to creating new energy solutions.

In his presentation, Ómar Sigurbjörnsson, Director of sales and marketing at Carbon Recycling International, discussed how the protection and management of the company’s intellectual property has allowed CRI to take part in valuable innovation collaborations in the field of CO2 recycling in recent years. The export of Icelandic IP could be Iceland’s most valuable contribution to the fight against climate change.

Innovating for a brighter future

Birta Kristín Helgadóttir, Project Manager at Green by Iceland, discussed in her speech how Icelandic ingenuity and technology can make a difference in sustainability goals in the wake of the COP26 conference in Glasgow. Intellectual property played an important role in the process by encouraging investment and collaboration in innovation.

In her presentation, Sigríður Mogensen, Head of Division at the Federation for Icelandic Industries, went over the evolution of Icelandic industry in recent decades from being a primarily natural resource based to being primarily IP based today. This development has not only protected the Icelandic economy from external shocks and contributed to increased value creation, but can also be a foundation for innovation in the field of green technology that could be of value to the rest of the world.

Health, food production, and intellectual property

Controlant’s innovation has gathered substantial interest in recent years as their technology has been instrumental in delivering Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine around the world. Guðmundur Reynaldsson, IP Manager of Controlant, said in his presentation that the use of the patent system would be an important part of the company’s future plans as it will be a key in securing investment for further research and development.

Dr. Björn Örvar, founder and CSO of ORF Genetics, presented his company’s latest product, MESOkine, a protein growth factor for the cell cultured meat industry. It is developed from genetically modified barley grown using geothermal energy in Iceland and promises to greatly reduce the cost of cell cultured meat in the future. ORF uses an integrated approach to intellectual property that focuses on patents, trademarks, and trade secrets to develop their technology.

In his presentation, Ari Ingimundarson, Head of Engineering and Operations at VAXA, discussed the company’s ambitious plans in food production and the role IP will play in VAXA’s future. Their ground-breaking technology allows VAXA to decouple growth from finite natural resources by using algae to convert clean energy into sustainable food. The company has filed for more than 20 patents and the protection of intellectual property is crucial to the company’s investments and sustainable innovation.

Panel discussion

Finally, Ásta Valdimarsdóttir, Permanent Secretary of the ministry of health and former Director General of the Icelandic Patent Office, moderated a panel discussion with Sigríður Mogensen, Ari Ingimundarson, Einar Mäntylä CEO of Auðna Tech Transfer Office, and Huld Magnúsdóttir CEO of NSA Ventures. The discussion took place in Icelandic, but among what has discussed was how intellectual property was often the key to financing innovation projects at the early stage and crucial for their further development.

All speeches and presentations are available on our streaming platform.

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Jón Gunnarsson

Jón Gunnarsson

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