IDBS Blog | 21st October 2013

Does Collaboration Keep You Up at Night?

Collaboration often lies at the heart of great innovations. So why should the thought of collaborating keep anyone up at night? Businesses which collaborate effectively usually flourish over those operating in splendid isolation. However, issues around data security and intellectual property (IP) protection can undermine the collaborative process. Failing to address these concerns risks turning collaborations aimed at enhancing competitiveness into threats to IP and, ultimately, commercial survival. Securing IP, the lifeblood of any innovative organization, is paramount. If it’s your innovation, it’s all about protecting it, ensuring your IP isn’t undermined with a copied or diluted product, and being the first to market.

Within multi-layered, multi-national companies, as more people access data across the enterprise, maintaining stringent security is essential. If it’s possible to download data en masse, content could be taken to new jobs by departing personnel. Outside of the enterprise, increasing externalization across many industries, for example the food and beverage sector, adds further complications. Using external resources, which access and create commercially sensitive data, mean data can, in theory, be replicated outside of the originating organization. Further, an outsourced group maybe given inadvertent access to sensitive data outside of their specific projects; this could then be used to create rival projects or sold to competing organizations.

These are real concerns. Companies rarely publically admit to stolen IP, however cases do occasionally surface. Officials from the US Justice Department estimate the value of a recent trade-secrets theft was between $7 million to $20 million, and describe these crimes as jeopardizing its leadership position in innovation and a danger to the US economy. Rather than raising the ramparts and limiting internal and external collaborations, how can data be secured and IP protected?

ELN (Electronic Laboratory Notebook) systems such as IDBS’ E-WorkBook are effective tools which offer a secured environment to manage the innovation lifecycle. They offer the ability to limit access to content based on roles and responsibilities, so only specified individuals are able to access data within projects. These controls can be applied to external contributors to limit visibility to prescribed areas. The granular security within E-WorkBook eliminates an individual’s ability to pull together data across a project, as all transactions create an audit trail. This offers a deterrent while also providing clear evidence of stolen IP if required. Managing data security and IP on a multinational level is a critical requirement as organizations become increasingly global.

Why do businesses like Coca Cola and KFC so closely protect and guard their secret recipes? Because their commercial survival depends on it.

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