Archive for février, 2011

Protection of Intellectual Property Rights

Samedi, février 26th, 2011

James Dyson, the British inventor and Chief Engineer of the Dyson Company (see also Categories/Chairman’s Blog/Fairness/Job Creation in the right hand index column), writing in the Sunday Times of 16th January, 2011 on protection of Intellectual Property (IP) rights, knows that ideas, technology and exports are key to reshaping the British economy with, as in Germany, manufacturing (& not just financial services) the driving force for recovery. Manufacturing he defines as the generation of unique goods to patent and export, independent of the location of final assembly i.e. on the model of Apple and Dyson. He views as promising, therefore, for the next generation of British inventors, the technical schools initiated by the Conservative peer Lord Baker and e.g. the engineering academy opened by JCB, the British construction equipment company. Citing China as a key market offering British exporters major opportunities, he raises the issue of how to protect IP rights.
Dyson in common with other technology companies invests heavily in research and development, the associated financial risk partly offset if it can rely on its ideas and products being protected. Taking protective action around the world is expensive and time consuming, its value based on being able to enforce the rules, assuming each country plays by the same set of rules. However, a robust and solid European Union patent system is continually undermined by e.g. companies in China (and China is said to be the worst offender) which continue to ignore this and other patent protection systems, steal IP and thereby produce counterfeit goods.
China apparently has indicated that it would do more to improve IP protection, wanting to increase the number of patents it grants to 2 million by 2015. With proper enforcement of IP law China would also be a fairer and more hospitable trading environment for the Dyson Company. The Asian taskforce established before the November last visit of David Cameron to China, is proposed as having a crucial role to play in influencing action on fair , global trade by all parties involved.

Early Years Intervention

Mercredi, février 16th, 2011

Following on from the government-supported work of Labour MP Frank Field on the social mobility importance of the critical first years in the development of a child, a January 2011 government-commissioned report led again by a Labour MP (Graham Allen) recommends regular assessments of all pre-school children, focussing on their social and emotional development. In assessing how children from disadvantaged backgrounds could be given the best start in life, the report recommends early intervention to improve the lives of vulnerable children and help break the otherwise current cycle of dysfunction and under-achievement. Since success or failure in early childhood also has deep economic consequences in later life e.g. in terms of social welfare payments from the government and taxpayers when public funds are limited, more private money is called for to support early intervention schemes to help set up children on the right path in life.
A summary of this report by Katherine Sellgren, a BBC News education reporter, can be found at www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-12216967 . In her summary she also notes that the report highlights the impact of poor parenting skills, American research that shows the early years are the greatest period of growth in the human brain and, again from the US, the successful US Family Nurse Partnership scheme which could serve as a potential model for vulnerable first-time mothers in the UK.
An independent, Early Intervention Foundation is recommended to drive early intervention forward, assess policies and attract investment. This should be led and funded by non-central government sources such as local authorities, ethical and philanthropic trusts, foundations and charities, as well as private investors some of whom have already expressed interest.
A second report from Mr Allen is expected before the summer parliamentary recess and with more details on how private sector money can fund proven early intervention schemes. Perhaps this will also be seen as an opportunity for the City of London bankers seeking to reduce the level of public opprobrium attached to their perceived excessive salaries and bonuses, to support such a worthy cause (see Categories/Chairman’s Blog/Bonuses & Competition in the right hand index column), taking again as an example the US, whose citizens once they have prospered are not only expected to, but also do, put money back into good works in the community.

Quangos Bonfire

Mardi, février 8th, 2011

Before the election there was much Conservative party talk of a policy which was finally announced in government last October as a Bonfire of the Quangos (Quasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisations), aimed at abolishing 192 Quangos to save money (£1 billion was the target) and reduce the associated bureaucracy.
However, a report by the Commons Public Administration Committee issued in January 2011 has concluded that it could take over 10 years to make significant savings due to existing contractual commitments and rental leases. The Conservative Chairman of the Committee, Bernard Jenkin, views it also as a wasted opportunity to help build the Big Society (See Categories/Chairman’s Blog/Big Society in the right hand index column). He thinks that the responsibilities of an additional 118 Quangos which have been merged mostly into existing government departments, would have been better transferred instead to e.g. charities or mutual organisations, which would in turn have provided much more clearly identified public bodies for stakeholders and civil society to engage with.
Responding to criticisms of conflicting guidelines and ,therefore, inconsistent application Francis Maude, the Cabinet Minister, said the Quango overhaul was not a top-down exercise driven by the centre but a decentralised process led by departments with the overall aim being to increase accountability for State activities. Given the all-pervading influence of the Civil Service within these departments, it is perhaps not surprising that the Head of the Civil Service, Sir Gus O’Donnell, when giving evidence to the Committee was not able to give any estimate of how much will finally be saved, even when given the opportunity for more time to estimate this figure!