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: Commons for a Healthy Public

- 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 techology transfer paradigm, often these inventions do not reach their full potential to serve the public good. The current model of commercialization entails restricted access to the fruits of public investment, lack of transparency and it tends to foster monopolies. Cassical 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. But intellectual property rights, for example patents, still constitute the basis for private commercial exploitation of knowledge. More public awareness and new civil society alliances are desperately needed, not only to reclaim the (knowledge) commons, but to co-develop frameworks, tools and legal mechanisms to protect them.

Dfferent initiatives around the world currently struggle to "save our seeds" (as commons), achieve “access to medicines” or disseminante “green techologies”, amongst others. In the past these movements independently started to design and to establish legal mechanisms. They sought policy concepts that could foster the general availability of public innovations and protect them from re-appropriation - just as the "Free Software" and "Free Culture" movements protected software and content via – for instance – the “Copyleft” mechanism as a commons. We believe, all of these movements could benefit greatly from joint analysis, exchange of good practice and lessons learnt, and should debate jointly future strategies.

Date and Venue

Date: 21st May 2013

Venue: Campus Charité Mitte, Berlin/Germany



  1. Lukas Fendel, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM)
  2. Dr. Peter Tinnemann, MPH, Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology, and Health Economics, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin


  1. Silke Helfrich, Commons Strategies Group
  2. Markus Beckedahl, Netzpolitik
  3. Prof Dr. Jacqueline Müller-Nordhorn, Berlin School of Public Health


Working Language: English

Participants: 25 max.

Event format: expert / discussion “salon”


'The side event aims to convene stakeholders from the different movements, to

  1. share (legal) knowledge and expertise,
  2. deepen joint understanding of knowledge as a commons,
  3. mutually improve alternative knowledge innovation frameworks, licensing schemes and incentive mechanisms

with the ultimate goal to enhanced public research and development towards the public good."

Suggested Participants

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