I was reminded of the history of innovation recently during a conversation in the impressive surroundings of the Royal Courts of Justice in London. The occasion was a reception to celebrate the 125th anniversary of intellectual property firm, Marks & Clerk – founded in 1887 through a partnership between Sir George Marks and Sir Dugald Clerk. Both were engineers by background. Sir Marks was involved in civil engineering projects with a focus on funicular lifts, or cliff railways, while Sir Clerk was a mechanical engineer – and is named as the ‘inventor’ of the two-stroke engine. The Clerk two-stroke cycle engine process was patented in 1880, three years after the Otto four-stroke cycle engine had been patented by the German, Nicolaus Otto. Marks established an office in New York in 1911 with Thomas Edison – who is renowned as one of the most prolific inventors ever with 1,093 patents to his name in the US alone.The incandescent light bulb patented by Edison is slowly being supplanted by new alternatives such as LED lighting – and electric bikes are slowly eating into the market share of the Clerk two-stroke engine (which is also used widely in large engines for ships). However, these 18th century inventions have accounted for major changes in the way we live today and have had enormous benefits in terms of economic growth.
It is fascinating to reflect on the historical overlap between invention and the registration of patents – and that businesses such as Marks & Clerk were originally founded by inventors. Intellectual property rights underpin our economic system and are core to industrial growth. The entrepreneurs of today tend not to own intellectual property firms – but they do need to take a keen interest in the management of the intellectual property within their companies.
In this issue of the magazine we focus on water. An analysis of the trends in patent filing in the water industry throws up some interesting insights – including the fact that China dominates the volumes of patents being registered in the water sector; and that patents related to desalination are growing much faster than patents for water generally.
I’ve had some excellent conversations recently with modern day entrepreneurs – in particular the four entrepreneurs and CEOs honoured at the GP Bullhound Cleantech Connect 2012 Awards. They are Alan Gooding of Smarter Grid Solutions; Mike Fister of Enecsys; Chris McBean of E-Leather and Mary Turner of AlertMe. Interviews with all four are included in the Cleantech Connect Awards special supplement to this issue.
It is always enlightening to get inside the heads of successful entrepreneurs. To have been around in the 1800s and had the opportunity of interviewing Marks, Clerk, Otto and Edison would have been truly inspiring.
Anne McIvor, Founder and CEO, Cleantech Investor - December 2012
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