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BMBF Research Project: Patents on Plant-Related Innovations

Project title: 

An economic and empirical analysis of the impact of patents on plants on market concentration, innovation, biodiversity and welfare, especially of farmers and consumers, in Europe.

Project description:

The plant breeding sector is confronted with a technological paradigm shift. While traditional plant breeding was largely based on experiental knowledge, modern plant breeding is becoming closer to industrial innovation processes. Plant innovation is the result of laboratory research that requires high investments in R&D. Firms thus have incentives to protect plant innovations with patents, as is common in many other industries. Critics argue that patents create monopolies, block innovation and competition, and foster concentration in the market.

The overarching goal of the project is the differentiated conceptual and empirical analysis of the positive and negative impacts of patents on plant-related inventions on the general welfare in Europe.

The first project goal tackles the short-term impacts of patents on plant-related inventions: 

  • How do patents on plant innovations affect the prices of seed and indirectly the prices for agricultural products?
  • What are the effects of the use of technologically advanced, innovative and patent protected seeds (e.g. on crop yield)?
  • Who benefits from the use of innovative and patent protected seeds – seed companies, farmers, or consumers?

The second goal focuses on the long-term impacts of patents on plant-related inventions:

  • What are the effects of a (liberalized) patent regime for plant inventions on the
    • concentration of patent ownership in the seed industry?
    • concentration of the supply side in the seed industry?
    • innovation in plant breeding?
    • biodiversity in agriculture?

Details on funding and organization of the project

The research project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the program "The Bio-Economy as a Societal Change (Module II)" for the period 2017 to 2021.

The research project is carried out by the Research Group of Technology and Innovation Management at the Department of Business and Economics of the Philipps University of Marburg. Project leader is Prof. Dr. Michael Stephan (), Ms. Aylish Dietrich () is the lead researcher and responsible for the project coordination.