Increased creativity and innovation will result if more young people are encouraged to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), but businesses must consider how they should exploit and protect the new ideas and outputs that will materialise, an expert has said.

Intellectual property law expert Sarah Taylor of Pinsent Masons said the theme of World IP Day, which fell on Tuesday 26 April 2022 and this year celebrated youth-led innovation, provides an opportunity for businesses to reflect on the link between STEM and IP rights.

Taylor said: “There is a digital skills shortage in the UK and in many other jurisdictions globally. This is prompting a renewed drive by various organisations – governments and other public sector bodies, education institutions, business groups and social enterprises among them – to encourage young people into STEM.” 

“STEM is already synonymous with innovation, and the prospect of increased engagement of the younger generation with those subjects – a generation that is already tech-savvy by default – is likely to lead to a growth in creativity and innovation in the years ahead. Businesses will be keen to tap into this and support young STEM talent and give them the platform and resources to realise new ideas,” she said.

One social enterprise working to inspire and support young women and young non-binary people into STEM careers is Stemettes. As well as staging hackathons and hosting panel sessions where industry figures – including lawyers at Pinsent Masons at a recent International Women’s Day (IWD) event – share their experiences and advice, Stemettes publishes content with a STEM focus and lists a variety of STEM-related jobs to support women and young people into work.

Tracey Roberts, a life sciences law expert of Pinsent Masons said: “Our recent IWD event with the Stemettes highlighted the brilliant work they do to empower young women and girls to see life sciences and technology fields as inclusive sectors. It also flagged the importance of encouraging, supporting and mentoring those at school, university and in the workplace – to lift up those who are the future.”

Stemettes also work with volunteer mentors to guide students aged 15 to 25 interested in pursuing a STEM profession.

Taylor said: “Efforts to encourage a younger and more diverse population within society to pursue STEM careers will only facilitate greater innovation in an area in which intellectual property is already prolific. The law and science can complement one another, with scope to patent new inventions, and protect confidential information or trade secrets and new ideas. Trade marks and design rights also provide a route for businesses to build a brand around the innovative new products, services and processes that emerge. On World IP Day, we would encourage organisations to promote STEM to today’s youth and consider how they will protect and exploit the IP that those change-makers generate.”

Richard Salmon, a fundraiser at Stemettes, said: "Young people worldwide are rising to the challenge of innovation, applying their inventiveness, curiosity, and imagination to chart a better road for the future. Stemettes aims to provide young people with resources, relationships, and skills through a variety of high-quality interventions.” 

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