February 19, 2024

Empowering Least Developed Countries Through the Strategic Use of Intellectual Property Rights

In a post on this forum, I discuss how companies should explore the opportunity of generating revenue through licensing their hardware or software. While not implicitly mentioned, such opportunities are available when intellectual property rights (IPRs) are secured and the company is domiciled in a country where IPRs are enforced by strong institutions. But what happens when a company is based in a country where IPRs mechanisms are weak? How do weak institutions that fail to protect IPRs impact a country's economic transformation?

Writing the Forward for a report entitled Harnessing Intellectual Property Rights for Innovation, Development and Economic Transformation in Least Developed Countries, The Rt Hon. Patricia Scotland KC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, and Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) explain that "In an era when knowledge and innovation are at the forefront of economic transformation, the role of intellectual property rights (IPRs) in shaping the future of least developed countries (LDCs) cannot be overstated." They also point out that the "report is not just a testament to the potential of IPRs in fostering innovation and growth; it is a roadmap for LDCs to navigate the complex terrain of intellectual property (IP) and use it as a tool for sustainable development. In these pages, we delve into how IPRs can be harnessed to stimulate creativity, attract investment and promote technological advancement in LDCs, thereby contributing to their economic transformation and development."

The report's authors explain that the publication "explores how LDCs can develop IP regimes to accelerate innovation, inclusive growth and structural transformation. It examines the economic rationale for strategic IP protection in LDCs and explores practical ways in which LDCs can unlock IP-related benefits and sequence the development of IP regimes, tailored to their local needs, structural characteristics and stages of development, to support innovation and development in both the formal and the informal economies."

What is more, the report "explores various forms of IP protection, particularly copyrights; GIs (geographical indication); industrial designs; patents; trademarks; utility models; and the protection of genetic resources, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions and folklore. Using these more strategically could help businesses in LDCs develop competitive advantages, while also encouraging innovation, fostering the development of productive capacities and boosting trade and investment."

I appreciate how this report contributes valuable insights, policy perspectives and practical recommendations on how LDCs can strategically use IPRs to drive innovation and development.

What are your recommendations for how to empower LDCs through the strategic use of IPRs?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

February 12, 2024

Infrastructure Opportunities in Latin America Are Deep and Wide

report published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (the EIU) asserts that "Latin America lags most of its regional peers in terms of infrastructure investment. According to the Global Infrastructure Hub (GI Hub, a G20 initiative), Latin America spent 2.2% of its GDP in 2023 on infrastructure, but actual investment needs are estimated at 3.5% of GDP. The difference of 1.3% of GDP represents nearly US$90bn in unmet infrastructure needs, and that gap will only widen if infrastructure investment does not pick up."

The EIU also notes that the shortfall in infrastructure investment is reflected in its "Operational Risk scores, which place Latin America far behind OECD economies in the infrastructure category." For example, "Poor infrastructure weighs on the business environment and growth: the lack of proper transport links raises supply‑chain costs; unreliable electricity distribution disrupts economic activity; and patchy ICT coverage leaves entire regions and their inhabitants isolated."

The report's other key findings include:
  • Latin America's infrastructure remains below par by international standards, limiting competitiveness and economic growth. Many of the region's governments are operating under significant fiscal constraints, which means that they will look to the private sector to take a more prominent role in developing much-needed infrastructure in 2024.
  • There are myriad opportunities for private investors in all sectors across the region. Most Latin American countries have adopted the public-private partnership (PPP) model, but policies, regulatory frameworks and risks vary widely from country to country. Uncertainty surrounding the policy direction of some governments—particularly in Argentina and Colombia—is another obstacle to attracting investment.
  • Even countries with well-established frameworks and experience with PPPs—such as Colombia, Mexico and Panama—will face setbacks. In particular, a lack of consensus between governments, businesses and local communities will stoke social unrest and delay development.
  • National governments do not have a monopoly on PPPs: in Brazil, for example, states and municipalities have used PPPs to accelerate their own projects—a trend that will continue in 2024 and beyond.

The EIU explains how the infrastructure gap is holding Latin America back in keeping up with new technologies. "Because of its sizeable infrastructure gap, the well of investment opportunities in Latin America is deep and wide," the report says. "The region's logistics and utilities infrastructure is in dire need of expansion and modernization, but sectors at the forefront of innovation and technology also deserve attention. The rollout of 5G technology, for example, has been slow in some countries, but progress this year—Argentina finally carried out its long-awaited 5G auction in October and Colombia in December—will generate some opportunities in 2024."

The report importantly adds:
Investment in renewable and sustainable energy sources, like solar and wind, is also growing but remains far below Latin America's potential. The region could become a crucial player in the supply chain to power the global green energy shift, owing to its large reserves of critical minerals, wide use of renewable energy sources and water availability. However, it lacks the necessary infrastructure and funding to produce the batteries and green hydrogen that will fuel the world in the decades to come. Investments in these areas are on the radar of governments in Latin America's major economies, but the biggest infrastructure opportunities—in the near term at least—will be in logistics, including road, rail, energy distribution, and ports in the likes of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.

What are your thoughts about the private sector taking a more prominent role in developing Latin America's much-needed infrastructure in 2024?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

February 7, 2024

Policy Recommendations for Promoting International Investment by Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises

A report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the trade and development body of the United Nations, correctly notes that "Small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) are important contributors to economic development, representing a substantial portion of businesses globally. Global markets offer SMEs opportunities for growth, diversification and resilience. Access to international markets enables them to tap into new customer bases, gain exposure to diverse business practices and foster innovation through cross-cultural collaboration."

Having supported initiatives aimed to promote international investment by SME's, I support the report's assertion that "SMEs encounter significant challenges that hinder their investment overseas. SME investors, relative to large Multinational Enterprises (MNEs), face distinctive bottlenecks including financial and information constraints, difficulties in dealing with regulatory complexities and, importantly, an international investment environment in which facilitation and investment promotion institutions are often geared towards attracting large-scale investment projects." The report points out "Foreign direct investment (FDI) by SMEs has been in decline in recent years: the number of outward greenfield investment projects in 2022 was only about a quarter of that in 2015."

With financial support of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, UNCTAD's report says that "Based on original empirical studies in different developing regions and selected developed economies, this report discusses how to reduce the common investment policy bias in home and host countries towards large MNEs, the role of SMEs in South–South and intraregional FDI, and ways and means to maximize the development impact of SME FDI." What is more, "It introduces a new framework to assess the relevance and effectiveness of existing investment policies for the promotion of SME investment and presents policy options to facilitate overseas investment by SMEs and reduce the existing policy bias." These policy options include:
  • Adjusting investment promotion and facilitation services towards addressing the needs and challenges that SMEs face, so that size does not hinder their access to financial incentives and facilitation mechanisms.
  • Establishing comprehensive support networks and designing accessible matchmaking program and events to help small businesses connect and to foster sustained and successful partnerships.
  • Improving SMEs' competitiveness by supporting their innovation capacity, including through digitalization, technology adoption and capacity-building.
  • Facilitating SMEs' access to capital, including by improving digital services and infrastructure development.
  • Simplifying the regulatory and administrative framework and improving access to information by using digital platforms.
  • Promoting SMEs' participation in trade to increase their international exposure and knowledge of foreign markets.

I agree with the UNCTAD that "By implementing a combination of these policies, governments can create an environment that supports SMEs in their efforts to invest and thrive in international markets and to harness the related development benefits."

What are your recommendation for promoting international investment by small and medium-sized enterprises?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.