Commons for Public Health - 2013

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Side-Event to the „Economics of the Commons Conference – From Seed Form to Core Paradigm” (ECC), for further information on ECC see: Overview_of_the_Economics_of_the_Commons_Conference

Working Title: Public research for the public benefit. Towards a commons-based knowledge transfer and innovation system

Idea: Publicly funded research plays the key role in generating solutions to tackle major societal challenges – in health, food, green technologies, culture & arts, and other sectors. Yet within the current innovation and tech transfer paradigm, these inventions often don’t reach their full potential to serve the public good. Not only does the current mode of commercialization entail restricted access to the fruits of public investment, it also tends to foster concentration and lack of transparency - all of them classical consequences of the enclosure of the (knowledge) commons.

Increasingly, initiatives are seeking ways to make publicly generated knowledge available for the greater public benefit. The “Open Access” movement is gaining momentum in the battle for better access to knowledge. In other (“harder”) areas, where intellectual property rights (such as patents) constitute the basis for private commercial exploitation of knowledge, more public awareness and new civil society alliances are still desperately needed. Not only to reclaim the (knowledge) commons, but to co-develop frameworks, tools and legal mechanisms to protect them.

The different initiatives around the world who struggle for saving our seeds (as commons), the “Access to Medicines” movement and the “green tech” movement have independently sought to / started to design and to establish legal mechanisms and policy concepts that would foster the general availability of public innovations and protect them from re-appropriation. Just as the Free Software and Free Culture movement came up with protecting software and content as a commons via – for instance – the “Copyleft” mechanism. These movements could greatly benefit from a joint analysis, an exchange of “best practices” and “lessons learnt”, and a debate on future strategies.

Date and Venue

Date: 21st May 2013

Venue: to be specified



  1. Lukas Fendel, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM)
  2. Peter Tinnemann, Institut für Sozialmedizin @ Charité Berlin


  1. Commons Strategies Group, Silke Helfrich
  2. + max. 2 other partners (to be specified)

We are currently looking for further partners.


Working Language: English

Participants: 25 max.

Event format: expert / discussion “salon”


'This side event aims to convene stakeholders from the different movements, to share (legal) knowledge and expertise to deepen our understanding of knowledge as a commons, to mutually improve alternative knowledge innovation frameworks, licensing schemes and incentive mechanisms for enhanced public R&D towards the public good."

Suggested Participants

Health / Biomedical R&D
Food / Seeds
Software / OA / Knowledge / General Licensing