Awardees call for Intellectual Property support for all Young Entrepreneurs

Photo Credit: World Intellectual Property Organization

On World Intellectual Property (IP) Day, 26 April 2022, the Africa Young Innovators for Health Awardees shared their experiences as young health innovators during a high-level panel discussion on “Innovating for Better Health: Supporting Young Innovators through IP.”  The discussion focused on the critical elements – financial support, visibility with investors, and understanding of IP and incentive systems –  needed for a sustainable health innovation ecosystem to function and advance promising, disruptive solutions designed by young innovators.

Awardees Conrad Tankou and Nuriat Nambogo joined Yacine Djibo, Founder and Executive Director, Speak Up Africa; Thomas Cueni, Director General, IFPMA; and other award-winning innovators and global health IP leaders.

Young people are not merely recipients of innovation but co-creators of the future they inherit. “In Africa, we have so many challenges, especially in health that are all around us. We need solutions that are affordable and scalable and we can come up with such solutions,” Nuriat Nambogo from MobiCare Uganda said. Nuriat also highlighted that MobiCare said. explained that MobiCare Uganda explained that “funding is a challenge when it comes to women innovators.

In addition to funding, Nuriat highlighted the limited training and support to not only women innovators, but all innovators in Africa for developing new healthcare technologies and filing for IP protection.

Conrad Tankou, CEO of Global Innovation and Creative Space (GIC Space), highlighted similar challenges in building the proprietary GICMED technology to increase access to cancer screening, testing and treatment for women in rural and peri-urban areas. “Whenever asked who owned the rights to this technology, I used to give a straightforward answer that it was either GIC Space or me. And yet there was no protection for what we were building.”

The Awardees’ challenges are not unique; they reflect challenges many innovators in developing countries face when seeking to solve pressing global health challenges. IFPMA and Speak Up Africa formed the Africa Young Innovators for Health Award and the Women Innovators Incubator to create a supportive platform for young innovators, not only through financial support but also access to dedicated business and IP protection expertise.

“From our first edition, we received over 300 high-quality applications that reflected a dynamism that no one was talking about. But everything we hear and talk about today is reflected in these entrepreneurs and their innovations. These programs offered extra support and visibility of their work,” said Yacine Djibo, Executive Director, Speak Up Africa.

Conrad recommends all entrepreneurs in developing countries take IP seriously, especially at the start of their journeys. “The same way we consider research and development to understand the problems we want to solve in the market should be equivalent to understanding intellectual property because it gives you incredible value and credibility for what you’re trying to build.”

Thomas Cueni, Director-General, IFPMA, pointed out the need to support the enormous talent pool within Africa, noting that a fifth of Africa’s working population are starting new ventures and willing to take risks to solve the challenges they see in their environments. “Today, we have seen programs propose concrete solutions for challenging the barriers young innovators face. But we have also learned how young innovative ideas are protected and supported by IP. For any innovator, IP is an incentive. IP must also be used to promote access,” he said

He closed the discussion by marking World IP Day as the beginning of a new area of innovation for health progress but only if the full power and potential of young people innovating solutions for our most significant global health challenges are recognized.

About World IP Day

Every April 26, WIPO celebrates World Intellectual Property Day to learn about the role that intellectual property (IP) rights play in encouraging innovation and creativity. This year the theme of World Intellectual Property Day is “IP and Youth: Innovating for a Better Future” and celebrates youth-led innovation and creativity. World Intellectual Property Day 2022 is an opportunity for young people to find out how IP rights can support their goals, help transform their ideas into reality and make a positive impact on the world around them.

The event was co-organized by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) with support from Speak Up Africa and the Geneva Health Forum.