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CNRS opens up intellectual property to small businesses

The CNRS, France’s flagship research organisation, is to allow small and medium-sized businesses to access 1,000 of its 4,500 unused “patent families” for collaborative projects.

The organisation announced on 15 November that businesses would be able to exploit unused IP held by the CNRS as part of a programme to support their competitiveness. A “family” of patents is a national patent and its associated international patents.

The PR2 programme will allow businesses to work in partnership with CNRS laboratories to bring inventions to fruition and adapt them to their own needs.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Pierre Gohar, head of innovation and business relations at the CNRS in a statement. “Small and medium-sized businesses can acquire patents quickly and easily, while the CNRS gets to open its doors to a section of the economy to which it has previously had little access since most of our partnerships are with large businesses.”

The CNRS estimates that it spends around €17 million per year on maintaining its 4,500 dormant patents.

The project was launched by CNRS president Alain Fuchs at the first “innovation contacts” day, organised by research minister Laurent Wauquiez. The minister plans to host regular informal meetings to bring together large and small businesses with public sector research organisations and investors.

According to the ministry, the decision to host the events was inspired by the now-defunct First Tuesday forum in the UK. The group was formed in 1998 and still holds meetings in five branches across Europe on the first Tuesday of every month in a bid to link businesses with venture capital. However, its operations were scaled back considerably in 2002 at the end of the dot com boom years.