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Mission-directed research organisations like CSIRO aim to drive innovative and useful outcomes for industry, society and the environment through the application of science and research and the widest possible take-up of the potential benefits.

While approaches to the management of intellectual capital will range from institution to institution, we believe there are a number of common elements that are shared across the spectrum of research organisations. With those common elements in mind the purpose of this document is to outline a set of principles that relate to how CSIRO goes about generating impact through the application and licensing of intellectual capital.

Intellectual Capital

Intellectual capital is knowledge that can be converted to beneficial outcomes. There are two types of intellectual capital. The first is the tacit or intangible knowledge embedded in people’s powers of creativity, their 'know how' and their social networks and trusted relationships. The second is the knowledge which can be codified and “packaged” in one of the several forms of intellectual property rights (IPR). Both types of intellectual capital are used in collaborations and interactions, generating new insights and knowledge.

In CSIRO's case we aim to harnesses this intellectual capital to deliver sustainable impact for Australia and to underpin our global standing in mission-directed research. This in turn assists our ability to attract talent and to exchange knowledge with others within the global innovation system. This underpins research collaborations and partnerships.


For mission-directed research organisations like CSIRO, the work undertaken by researchers and business developers is directed at making a profound difference to people's lives. We seek to achieve this impact by generating and exchanging intellectual capital in all its forms to ensure scientific and technical knowledge is accessible and utilised.

The pathways to knowledge and technology transfer are various – conference papers, publications, forums, people exchanges and collaborations, media communications as well as through contractual means such as licensing, spin-outs, and the sale or exchange of rights. All of these paths are valid mechanisms for generating impact and need to be monitored to ensure effectiveness and appropriate use.


While achieving impact through knowledge transfer is a key goal of mission-directed research organisations like CSIRO, where the knowledge and technology being transferred has a market application and is expected to generate commercial returns, an equitable return from the commercial exploitation of intellectual capital should be expected.

This return may, as appropriate, seek to take into account the research investment made, the intrinsic value of the intellectual property, the additional investment required to realise market returns and the risks in commercialisation. Proceeds from licensing IPR are applied to the advancement of further scientific research, thus underpinning CSIRO's sustainability and the nation’s research capabilities.

Intellectual Property Protection and Access Rights

Intellectual property protection and management are tools which are used to achieve desired outcomes. In managing its intellectual capital assets, mission-directed research organisations like CSIRO will normally seek to identify and protect intellectual property that will support the achievement of impact and national benefit. This may include protecting intellectual property to facilitate follow on investment in technology development and adoption, or protecting intellectual property that may be used as a platform to encourage collaboration or to obtain access to other people's important intellectual property.

CSIRO seeks to manage its intellectual property strategically. Protecting our IPR preserves greater choice later on, including the consideration of options for making that IP freely or widely available.

In structuring IP ownership and access arrangements, there is a need to be conscious that in some circumstances legal protection may be obtained for a very broad characterisation of an invention, often significantly beyond the scope of the particular field, problem or application area of the research itself. In structuring these arrangements we will generally seek to ensure that CSIRO and our partners can harness the value of such broad or platform technologies in other application areas for the benefit of Australia.

To promote technology transfer we will facilitate appropriate access to IPR by external parties, consistent with a focus on delivering impact.

In all these endeavours it is important to be principled, responsive, flexible and creative in our dealings with external parties and our collaborators, including dealing with IPR ownership. When developing intellectual property in collaboration with others, we will work with such partners to identify the party that is best placed to manage the IPR in the national interest.


We will be transparent in our approach to IP management and policies. Our dealings in IP will be consistent with building our reputation as a high-quality research enterprise which strives to be a valued and highly respected partner in international research relationships. We have obligations to comply with government policies and international protocols including respecting the IP rights of others.

In Summary: Ten Principles for generating impact from Intellectual Capital

  1. Our primary purpose in generating and transferring knowledge is to achieve impact.
  2. We will strive to choose the best transfer path to maximise impact. These pathways include public dissemination, exclusive or non-exclusive licensing, assignment or reciprocal agreements to increase collaboration and access to third party Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).
  3. We seek to ensure that dealings and agreements with third parties appropriately preserve and protect IP, and provide a sound governance framework for IP decision making.
  4. Ownership and control of IP should generally vest with the party best placed to manage the intellectual property across the full scope of the technology and its potential utilisation.
  5. If we agree to enter into IP co-ownership arrangements, the contract will include a governance framework regulating the exercise of all relevant components of the IP and addressing the allocation of IP costs.
  6. Where the IP is expected to generate commercial returns, we generally expect a reasonable and proportionate return in exchange for access rights.
  7. We will retain sufficient intellectual property access rights to enable the conduct of further research in accordance with our charter.
  8. We respect the IP of others but support the principle of exemptions for research use.
  9. We will enforce our IPR and contractual rights in a manner consistent with our statutory charter and roles within the innovation system.
  10. In the context of maximising the impact of our research efforts we will endeavour to ensure that intellectual property and knowledge is made available for humanitarian uses and the public good. In further developing these principles and related protocols we will seek to work with our national and global peers within the research community to promote a common approach to the management of intellectual capital.

As approved by the CSIRO Board (August 2011).

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