CIC energiGUNE: Industrial Property management by a European leader in energy storage

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The battery sector is experiencing rapid growth and is one of the European economy’s great bets for achieving the longed-for ecological transition. Today, a series of decisive factors are converging in this sector, proving its current importance and giving us a glimpse of its promising future.

On the one hand, the high demand generated by the automotive industry is accompanied by the need to store surplus energy from renewable plants and increase energy efficiency. On the other hand, R&D in this sector is booming, developing alternatives to traditional lithium-ion batteries to meet ever-growing market demands. Moreover, given that this sector is generally seen as a priority, there is generally sufficient investment available to successfully achieve these objectives.

CIC energiGUNE, a research centre that has become a benchmark in Europe and is a member of the Basque Research and Technology Alliance (also known as the BRTA or), is operating in this scenario. On the occasion of the research centre’s tenth anniversary, we interviewed Aloña Salazar, its Head of Industrial Property.

CIC energiGUNE: Research and excellence

What is CIC energiGUNE?

CIC energiGUNE is a research centre with a focus on energy storage. It is considered one of the top three storage centres in Europe. We have three main activity areas: electrochemical energy storage, thermal energy solutions and, recently, we have opened up a new area of activity involving hydrogen technologies.

CIC energiGUNE has reached its tenth anniversary, what are the greatest milestones of the past ten years?

Without a doubt, the international acknowledgment we have received from combining a highly prestigious positioning in terms of excellence with a marked tech-transfer activity both with internationally recognised industry leaders and the local industry.

What challenges does CIC energiGUNE face in the next ten years?

We aim to keep advancing in the creation of value for industry, maintaining a leadership position at an international level.

Technology transfer in the energy storage industry

Your mission statement is “to generate excellent research on materials and systems for storing energy”. What are the main lines of research in this area?

CIC energiGUNE’s lines of research in the field of batteries are focussed on the development of the next generations of beyond-lithium batteries and thermal energy storage in all that relates to the improvement of energy efficiency, electrification and thermal management, which are key for decarbonisation and, therefore, for achieving the goals of ecological transition.

Let’s talk about technology transfer. What are the paths you follow to ensure that the results obtained in your labs reach society?

There are different routes: high-impact publications, doctoral theses and training and empowering talent, industry transfer through the development of research projects or licencing technology and the generation of new technology-based companies that take the research directly to the market.

What is the role of industrial property protection in this process of technology transfer?

We are aware that it is necessary to have the industrial and intellectual property associated to out technologies protected in order for the technology transfer process to be optimal. Likewise, the management of said industrial and intellectual property must follow a clearly defined strategy that is highly transfer-oriented.

CIC energiGUNE partners with companies in R&D projects. How do you define the relationship with these entities from the point of view of industrial property?

Each partnership is different and, therefore, the cases are diverse. The conditions of each case are established in the clauses of the partnership agreement, clearly defining the starting background, the rights of access to the previous IP, the ownership of the results, protection of the same, conditions of exploitation, etc.

intellectual propety protection batteries

Battery and energy storage patents

Currently, you hold an extensive patent portfolio. What has this protection meant to you?

Our main objective is to protect the technology we have developed in the strongest manner possible so that we may assert the differential and competitive edge it provides us with. As I mentioned earlier on, this is a key factor in enabling its transfer. Likewise, the fact that we have a technology protected by a patent is indeed a very powerful marketing element that has attracted numerous entities interested in our technologies. 

Which geographical areas do you consider to be a priority for protection and why?

We do not have a single strategy for extending patents. The diversity of technologies that we protect requires that this question is analysed for each family and the decision depends on the circumstances of each case. However, the areas where we most commonly extend our protection to are Europe, USA, China, Japan and South Korea.

How does ABG Intellectual Property partner with CIC energiGUNE? How would you describe your experience with us?

ABG Intellectual Property is the prop supporting us when we walk the road of protecting assets. Our partnership starts during the budding stages of the ideas provided by our research team, to which ABG applies its knowledge and experience in order to protect the resulting technology in the best manner possible.

Iain A. McGeoch Our IP attorney highlights:

We have a special relationship with CIC energiGUNE that has been going on for years. Throughout this entire time, we have witnessed the centre’s expansion and how it has become a European leader. Its level of Industrial and Intellectual Property has been no less significant. In addition to its growing patent portfolio, it is also worth noting the increasing importance and sophistication of the concerns that the centre has expressed with regards to IP, something that ABG finds truly rewarding to see.

One of the fundamental factors of this growth in the IP field has been the time devoted to working hand in hand with the centre, and especially with the researchers. Both ABG and CIC energiGUNE management have paid special attention to ensure that researchers embrace patentability concepts that are often far from those that are usual or desirable in a scientific paper. Likewise, this closeness allows us to work on technical questions in great detail, all of which materialises in sound patent documents. The synchronisation of IP with business development has also been an increasingly important focal point for the research centre, something which is seemingly logical, but not so easy in practice. There is nothing more rewarding for ABG than reading that the IP rights that we have jointly crafted have represented an element of value for the centre’s expansion.

Iain A. McGeoch

ABG is a leading European IP firm. ABG’s more than 60 professionals combine experience, outstanding technical knowledge and deep legal expertise to be at the forefront of IP law.
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