Open AIR Leads the Way on Regulation for Innovation in Lower-Income Countries

Faculty of Law - Common Law Section
Faculty member
Research and innovation
Image of globe+logos OpenAIR IDRC
Among the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is the necessity to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.”

A new project from the Open African Innovation Research Network (Open AIR) aims to engage with this and other SDGs by improving global regulatory systems to ensure that the benefits of innovations in health care, but also in data governance, food security, and green technologies, are more equitably distributed around the world. 

Open AIR has been granted nearly $2 million from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) to address a core deficit in the way innovation is regulated. This new project is steered by the Open AIR leadership team, which includes Common Law’s professors Jeremy de Beer and Chidi Oguamanam, as well Centre for Law, Technology and Society Director, Professor Florian Martin-Bariteau. Professor de Beer and Professor Tobias Schonwetter of the University of Cape Town serve as co-leads on the grant. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic has made abundantly clear, international regulatory systems, including intellectual property laws and policies, have had a substantial impact on the ability of lower-income countries to realize development goals. But while these countries have been marginalized in much research and policy discourse, Open AIR’s continuing work in Africa has proven that there is much to learn from these regions about how to approach and regulate innovation. These insights are helping Open AIR create models to better measure and value diverse modes of innovation, and to improve corresponding laws and policy frameworks for sustainable and inclusive development. Such models expose Canada and the world to important African perspectives and practices. 

Open AIR’s new project will implement a new research agenda on the regulation of innovation. Improved regulatory systems will remove barriers that inhibit innovation in lower-income countries and will ultimately underpin solutions to a diverse array of global challenges. The project will have a central, but not exclusive, focus on the African Continental Free Trade Area, a new economic union of 55 countries with 1.3 billion people and a combined GDP of US$ 3.4 trillion.  

Open AIR aims to build upon its past successes by fostering momentum amongst a global community of practice working toward more inclusive and sustainable regulation for innovation. In seeding its ideas and models around the world, Open AIR is increasing the diversity of voices included in these global debates, while giving rise to a “network of networks” that now carry on and further develop the vision of creating a world where the benefits of knowledge and innovation are distributed equitably and inclusively. Through action and participatory research, Open AIR is not only empowering a next generation of research leaders, but aims to give stakeholders both the insights and the tools they need to carry forward and amplify changes in peoples’ lives. 

The International Development Research Centre funds research and innovation within and alongside developing regions, investing in high-quality research that aims to bring about a more sustainable and inclusive world.