The absence of a policy to protect novel creations and innovative ideas in the country has been described as a major setback by players in the innovation space.
They said existing intellectual property (IP) laws do not provide enough protection, exposing the investments of local innovators to numerous risks including stealing of original ideas – which they lamented remains a major disincentive.
To address the absence of protection, the Association of Ghanaian Start-ups (AGS) is advocating the development of a comprehensive framework that not only protects ideas but also promotes investments in the space.
Its president, Solomon Adjei – speaking at the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Symposium organised by the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP) in Accra, urged government to fast-track processes for developing and implementing the national Innovation, Technology and Ideas protection policy to promote innovation growth.
“We are in an open economy where foreigners come around and realise we do not own our innovative and creative ideas, because we do not have policies, systems and laws to let original owners benefit from them; and that is why we need the policy urgently.
“A lot of young guys have innovations, but they cannot protect them because they are told that ideas are not in only one person’s head. These are brilliant ideas that can be funded for national development, but because they creators are not protected and rewarded these ideas remain untapped. There is no provision for this currently, because the law under the Registrar of Companies on IP does not cover this critical angle since it is believed that ideas are in everyone’s head,” he lamented.
He added the current National Innovation and Technology bill seeks to address some of these challenges innovators face; hence the need for government to fast-track processes and get it in parliament to be passed into law.
The Deputy Director at the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Nasiru Salifu, mentioned that the ministry has put together a national Science, Technology and Innovation policy (STI) that is still in the draft stage awaiting Cabinet’s approval – to address most of the issues raised by innovators and entrepreneurs; such as ideas protection, funding for entrepreneurs, addressing gaps in research and development (R&D).
“One of the things this act seeks to do is set up a national innovation hub that will be a one-stop shop for all the concerns raised in the ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship to thrive. This hub will bring entrepreneurs, researchers, innovators and government together to help build a robust ecosystem,” he said.
NEIP inspires next-generation innovators
The NEIP is embarking on an initiative to create a culture of innovation among next-generation entrepreneurs to increase creativity and enhance chances of developing more tailored solutions to socio-economic problems.
It believe that the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship must be imbued in the youth at an early stage to improve their level of thinking and creativity, in terms of idea-generation. To achieve this, NEIP brought together students from tertiary institutions and senior high schools in the Greater Accra Region.
Chief Executive Officer of NEIP, Kofi Ofosu Nkansah, on his part reiterated that his outfit is focused on innovation and creativity; and as such is hopeful of the implementing legislation to provide the background and funding resources so the agency is able to support entrepreneurs and innovators alike.
The introduction of boot-camps, national innovation challenges and hackathons are some of the initiatives that will be introduced to support innovators.
“One area that innovators are also lacking is filing patents, trademarks and designs among others, so we are not able to protect the properties and innovations of our developers. So, we are working with the Registrar of Companies, Copyright office, and other relevant bodies to synchronise the system and help young people get protection for their intellectual property,” he said.