Every 26th April, we celebrate World Intellectual Property Day to learn about the role that intellectual property (IP) rights play in encouraging innovation and creativity. WIPO’s 2020 campaign puts innovation – and the IP rights that support it – at the heart of efforts to create a green future. “The campaign also celebrates the many inspiring inventors and creators around the world who are betting on a green future – the women, men and young people who are working on cleaner alternatives to legacy fossil-fuel-based technologies and better and more sustainable food and natural resource management systems, and who are using the IP system to support their work and its uptake and use in society.”
We saw this as an opportunity to ask three of our own clients in that space how significant IP was for their business. Soizic-Arzhele Peyrusse, Head of Marketing and Business Development at AA Thornton, reports
AA Thornton: Ahmed, Fanya and Andy, in our last article we discussed what led you to work on those greener/ more sustainable solutions. This time I would like you to tell me a bit more about those solutions you have come up with. What stages of development are you currently in?
“Our barrier coating for fibre-based packaging provides a complete solution to replace single-use plastics, and eliminates confusion among users and customers. Completely free from micro plastics, our technology also fits seamlessly into the recycling infrastructure of any country by providing a solution that is biodegradable, compostable and recyclable. The product currently is in process of getting certified for food contact in Europe and America.
The way our product works is the sol-gel is extracted from sand to which non-toxic materials have been added at a molecular level to give it outstanding properties, such as water impermeability, 60% oleophobicity and antimicrobial effect without having any biocidal agents. Our main product is for the fibre packaging industry which gives the properties mentioned above. The second product is a flexible coating for metal and our current focus is on electronics industry. Plastic is currently used to protect fibre packaging, PCBs in the wearable technology market and drink cans to name a few. The SGMA barrier coating makes fibre water impermeable and printed PCBs water and chemical resistant. We are currently working with a chemical distribution company to supply our product to the electronic industry the food safe certification work is pending in Europe and America.”
EPIQ’s inventor with team members.
“Our work is oil waste cleaning and fossil fuel pollution control. Originally, we used conventional methods, which are to apply oil eating bacteria as part of a cocktail to treat the oil contaminated soil in a “land farm”. The process takes a long time, months usually, takes up a lot of space, and results were patchy. It wasn’t satisfactory. However, by that time we had taken on a Syrian chemist, who subsequently developed a substantially more effective alternative method for bacterial oil remediation. We ended up creating a bioremediation process which is measured in days rather than months, which is more effective and consistent in results.
The use of cheap, local materials and equipment helps to keep costs low, and variants can be applied for different geo-climactic conditions. The current process for example is well suited to desert conditions such as for the vast cleanup works starting soon in Kuwait after Sadam-era contamination from the invading forces at the time. The other interesting thing is that it has mostly been developed using very basic equipment – hot plates, stirrers, plastic tubs and wooden spoons. A classic kitchen invention! To be honest it is still an improving process, with constant adaptations and sometimes compromised translations.”
“Concentrated solar power (CSP) integrates cheap, durable, and long-lasting thermal energy storage, which can be used to generate electricity after the sun has gone down. Odqa has turned up the heat on CSP with its proprietary aerospace heat capture system, which increases the operating temperature of the receiver tower, unlocks the use of high-temperature cycles in the power block, and raises the power output by up to 100%. This increase in power output significantly reduces the price of electricity produced, making it cost-competitive with all other forms of dispatchable power.
Odqa is developing a new CSP system by applying aerospace technology to build a state-of-the-art solar receiver. We use a very specific set of scientific principles the team came up with, which leverages the knowledge base of aerospace industry accumulated in the last fifty years of continuous research and development on jet engine propulsion. Our receiver is currently between TRL-4 – TRL-5 and our predictions from the model match the outcomes from the prototype. Therefore, we are confident that we are ready for the next stage of development. The next stage of development will be about integrating our device with other components to test our solution on a system level, and it will take around 18 months. Our operational proof of concept prototype is capable of reaching unprecedented temperature levels (1000 degree Celsius plus) with solar energy while maintaining 90%+ devise thermal efficiency figures which is a world first!”
AA Thornton: That’s very impressive! You have obviously come a long way since you first launched your businesses. Since we are here to discuss innovative thinking and strategic use of IP rights, how significant would you say that IP has been in helping you get to where you are today?
“Securing our invention with patents has allowed us to minimise risk and secure investment to bring the company to this stage. We currently have four patents pending. Taking the patent route is in line with our business model which will eventually allow us to implement commercialisation of our technology on a global scale through appropriate licencing and partnerships.”
“Intellectual property is the core of what we are doing! Everything from the investment thesis our investors believe to the commercialisation strategy we are building relies on the best practices of the intellectual property strategy and patents we will be granted. In addition to that, we see patents as the way we crystallise the value created as a result of all the time and money spent on the development activities. They have the utmost importance because of the nature of our business. When all the strategy of commercial activities depends on the enforceability of a patent and how it is well crafted, the amount of money spent on it is always seen as money well spent. Up until now, we have applied for only one patent family which we expect to be filed in more than fifty countries. In the coming months, we are planning to apply for at least two additional patent families further to reinforce our presence in our intellectual property space. ”
Odqa CTO, Ahmed Refaat
“Our business is constantly adapting and improving so it’s important that we have focus, and that clear patent applications are made, while at the same time not causing too many compromises. Intellectual property is definitely very important for us”.
AA Thornton: It is great to know that you have been able to utilise IP protection, and in particular, the patent system, to create an appropriate strategy that works for you. To conclude this interview, what advice would you give to anyone in need of IP support?
“For me, working with lawyers who understand what I do is very important. It must be one of the hardest aspects for IP lawyers to make sense from some of their clients, who have lived their inventions sometimes years, and who may also find it hard to articulate. One of the more surprising aspects of our relation with AA Thornton is how easily you guys appeared to understand and handle this, and to adapt to the continuously moving target. I would definitely recommend looking for people you can work with easily, and who “get it” and speak your language!”
“As a start-up company, protecting our IP is the main priority and with help of AA Thornton’s great team (Marianne, David and Dan) we have managed to do this. The team’s attention to detail has been a great asset and has helped with filing the appropriate patents. The IP audits carried out a few months ago provided further insight to protect additional elements of our inventions, which would otherwise have remained as a know-how and would have been more difficult to implement as we go further down the commercialisation route. So I would recommend to look for advisers who will go the extra mile for you”.
Fanya Ismail with her team and
Innovate UK award
“Since we are a small team, we didn’t have resources to hire a separate intellectual property strategy team outside of AA Thornton, and we are very glad that we didn’t as AA Thornton helped us understand the boundaries of the protection of intellectual property in such a way that we formed our own intellectual property strategy and decided how we wanted to proceed with our intellectual property decisions without any additional costs. Your team has been very helpful and accommodating in every way imaginable. You know we are a small start-up trying to make an impact with limited resources and all of our interactions reflect the professionalism we were looking for.”
“WE BELIEVE IN THE POSSIBILITY OF A BETTER FUTURE, AND WE ARE GLAD THAT WE CHOSE YOU IN OUR JOURNEY AS YOU ARE EQUALLY PASSIONATE ABOUT OUR EFFORTS TO CHANGE THE WORLD. THANKS AA THORNTON, WE WOULDN`T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT YOUR INPUT!” Ahmed Refaat
We hope you have enjoyed reading more about EPIQ, Odqa and SGMA Sol-Gel Materials & Applications, and how they have been able to design an IP strategy aligned with their business objectives (you can find our previous article here). If you would like to know how we could support your green tech solutions please get in touch at aathornton.com.