As the government grapples with the need to map out what the post-COVID landscape might look like, there is one thing for certain, now is the time to take the opportunity to do the right thing for our world. There is much discussion about the need to ‘build back better’ – Robert Games, Managing Director of IP Attorney, Albright IP talks about the need to ensure we rebuild around a green economy with a focus on innovation that addresses climate change…
If we want a more resilient and sustainable future, we have to grasp this opportunity to reinvent our economy and put ‘green’ business and renewable energy at the top of our ‘build back better’ agenda. Climate change must be at the heart of any plan to address the post-Covid19 economic crisis.
Governments around the world have proved how swiftly they can move in the face of a pandemic and there is no reason they cannot act with same speed and agility to tackle carbon emissions. A recent international survey carried out by Ipsos Mori shows that most people believe that climate change is just as important an issue as the coronavirus, suggesting there would be support for a recovery plan that embraces carbon reduction strategies.
A critical ingredient in any green recovery plan is innovation, in all its guises. Whether it’s the development of smarter energy systems, more energy-efficient manufacturing processes, decarbonising heat, the harnessing of digitisation or the introduction of green travel solutions, there’s huge opportunity for so many companies to rethink the way they work and do things differently.
We can’t risk slipping back into our old ‘business as usual’ ways – something the EU has already recognised. It’s developing a Green Deal that will make the combined EU economies more stable and sustainable, with a focus on supporting businesses that are reducing carbon emissions and / or increasing digitisation. It is emphatic in its view that not a single Euro should be spent on propping up old, dirty industries.
It wasn’t that long ago that renewable energy technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines were regarded as ineffective, expensive, and too reliant on subsidies. Last year, renewables accounted for 72% of all new energy sources installed around the globe – backed by investments that could achieve returns of more than 800%. And just this month, Britain chalked up a record two months without using coal. Our world energy map is changing irrevocably, and now we have the chance to change other sectors, too.
If we’re to succeed, however, innovation must be supported, encouraged, and promoted. It should be on the agenda for every company, large or small, and the government needs to step up and ensure the right environment exists to enable new ideas to thrive.
What if, for example, work to develop charging networks for electric vehicles (EVs) was to be incentivised and supported? Earlier this year, the results of a six-month trial to test the world’s first pop-up electric vehicle charge point in a residential street in Oxford were revealed – paving the way for a potential wider roll-out.
The UEOne pop-up charge-point project was developed and manufactured by Albright IP’s product design sister company, Duku as part of a consortium alongside Urban Electric and Oxford City Council, and protected by us.
The project involves designing, prototyping, testing and manufacturing six retractable bollard-style charge points. The bollards rise automatically when required and disappear out of sight when not in use. The consortium received funding from Innovate UK to help it realise the concept and prove its value in meeting the growing need to fast track the UK’s EV charging network.
This is a great example of how companies with expertise, can join forces to address a need, taking new thinking and new approaches, with the support of government funding, and delivering a solution that’s not only scalable, but offers the double benefit of helping both the environment and the economy. As the common parlance would have it, what’s not to like?
It’s important, of course, for companies to protect their ideas and innovations, and the patents process enables organisations to do so. However, this can take a long time … which is where the ‘Green Channel’ comes in. This is a route by which companies can access an acceleration of the ‘search and examination’ process which is integral to applying for a patent.
To qualify, the invention or process must have an environmental benefit. It’s simple to apply on-line and if successful, the whole patent process will be speeded up. And, importantly, it also places the applicant in a much better position from which to apply for R&D tax benefits and the Patent Box.
The Patent Box is designed to encourage companies to keep and commercialise intellectual property in the UK. It allows companies to apply a lower rate of Corporation Tax – currently 10% – to profits earned from its patented inventions.
The EV charging trial is a perfect example of how, with the right support and partnership approach where appropriate, the UK can take the lead in exploring and applying innovation, and play a role in any economic recovery.
It’s good to see that the government has acknowledged the need for ‘green investment’, with its recent announcement of £2bn package for England, for projects like home insulation and the cycle repair voucher. This is part of its wider £3bn plan to cut emissions. But this simply isn’t ambitious enough – Germany, for example, is investing €40bn (£36bn) in green jobs and energy efficiency, and France, which has already pledged €15bn to tackle the climate crisis. We can and must do better. The BBC have reported that the Government has spent £190 bn on the Coronavirus crisis.
It’s unlikely there will be any single quick fix to the damage done by Covid19, but if we act now, innovate, think differently, and are willing to challenge the status quo, we have a much better chance of creating a more resilient economy and a world that’s in better shape to pass on to future generations. No one knows for sure what our world will look like post-pandemic, but I am certain that this is an economic and environmental opportunity that we cannot afford to ignore.