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)

Working Title: "Public Health, Seeds, Open Knowledge and Clean Tech: A Common(s) Pathway? - Discussing 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 technology transfer paradigm, these inventions often do not reach their full potential to serve the public good. The current model of commercialization tends to entail restricted access to the fruits of public investment, lack of transparency, and monopolies - classical consequences of the enclosure of the (knowledge) commons.

Increasingly, initiatives are seeking ways to make publicly generated knowledge available for the greater common good. The “Open Access” movement is gaining momentum in the battle for 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.

Different initiatives around the world currently struggle to "save our seeds" (as commons), achieve better “access to medicines” or disseminate “green technologies”, amongst others. These movements have independently started to design and to establish legal mechanisms and policy concepts that could foster the general availability of public innovations and protect them from re-appropriation. For instance, the "Free Software" and "Free Culture" movements protected software and content via the “Copyleft” mechanism.

We believe that all of these movements could benefit greatly from a joint analysis, an exchange of good practice and lessons learnt, and a debate on 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: ca. 35

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 of enhancing public research and development towards the public good.

Invited Participants

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