Expert insight

How IP enables accelerated progress on the Sustainable Development Goals

25 April 2024

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emerged from a collective ambition to create a blueprint for global action, charting the path to a better future for everyone. But, with just over five years to 2030, progress is lagging.

Collective, concerted effort, supported by technological solutions, is required to achieve these goals. To unlock such innovations, the intellectual property (IP) framework is a necessary catalyst. Across various sectors, ranging from green technologies, biotechnology, transportation, agriculture, or telecommunications, IP makes the journey from invention to impactful solution possible. It also supports the education, training, and building of a strong skilled workforce. For the pharmaceutical industry, it helps drive progress in building a sustainable future and achieving universal health coverage (UHC). Our commitment to the SDGs, especially SDG3 on Good health and well-being, underscores our dedication to improving lives worldwide through innovative medicines and vaccines.

Keeping this 2030 milestone in mind, the World Intellectual Property Organization chose the theme ‘IP and the SDGs: Building our common future with innovation and creativity’ for World IP Day this year. It is an opportunity for us to reflect on how IP within the pharmaceutical industry makes a positive impact on global development, for healthier and more prosperous lives.

Contributing across the SDGs

As one of the most innovative industries in the world and one of the largest investors in research and development (R&D), the innovative pharmaceutical industry is defined primarily by SDG9 on Industry, innovation, and infrastructure. Technological progress helps us develop lasting solutions not only for health but for economic development and environmental protection by supporting a skilled workforce, providing healthcare solutions across the world, and promoting sustainable manufacturing processes. It also strengthens local capacity through voluntary collaborations, including technology transfer, and promotes open trade.

This has been demonstrated recently during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw unprecedented collaborations, real time development of new and novel vaccines and therapeutics, as well as delivery systems. Through over 450 voluntary partnerships across the world facilitated by the IP framework, the pharmaceutical industry mobilized to scale-up the development and delivery of the medical countermeasures we needed to help end this pandemic.

Reaching as many people as possible means being as innovative in our approaches to patient access as we are in the scientific development. We leverage our industry expertise, experience, and knowledge by working with others, part of our commitment to SDG17 on Partnerships for the goals.

The pharmaceutical industry works with a diverse range of partners from the health sector as well as other industries to advance technological progress, find new delivery solutions, and accelerate the adoption of novel technologies. We also collaborate with financial institutions and the insurance sector to develop innovative funding mechanisms. This is in addition to collaborations with government, universities and hospitals, civil society organizations, international organizations, and people living with or affected by the illnesses we seek to treat and even eliminate. By working with a diverse range of actors, we can ensure that we develop holistic solutions, break silos, and have a positive effect on economies, communities, and individuals.

Industry, with patients at the core to its approach, has endeavored to put words into action. This is illustrated through Global Health Progress, an interactive knowledge hub highlighting over 300 collaborations to accelerate progress on the SDGs between the innovative pharmaceutical industry and more than 1,100 diverse partners.

It features examples like the Global Health Innovative Technology (GHIT) Fund, which has played a pivotal role in supporting novel drug development, technology transfer, voluntary liscensing, and capacity building, with the aim of addressing infectious disease burdens in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). And, to overcome access barriers to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) prevention, treatment, and care in LMICs, Access Accelerated, a cross-industry initiative, is mobilizing public and private investment, seeking scalable solutions for impact. Another public-private partnership is the AMR Action Fund, the largest collaboration of its kind focused on investing in the development of new antimicrobial drugs.

IFPMA has also partnered with Speak Up Africa for a flagship program called the Africa Young Innovators for Health Award, which fosters the talent of young African entrepreneurs who are innovating to achieve UHC and support the healthcare workforce, including through an IP rights clinic so that they can protect and scale their health innovations. Our partner H3D Foundation further illustrates the importance of global partnerships and technology transfer to discover, develop, and manufacture medicines fit for African populations, with the aim of strengthening the capacity of early- and mid-career scientists in the region.

Committed to health for all

The pharmaceutical industry is steadfast in its commitment to achieve the SDGs and, in particular, to develop, produce, and provide the innovative medicines and vaccines that enable people to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. IP rights play a dual role in helping us reach global goals, as both a catalyst for innovation and a safeguard for powerful partnerships based on mutual understanding and respect, enabling us to realize our ambition of ‘health for all.’ As we navigate the path toward a sustainable future, we will continue to harness the power of IP to accelerate global progress and help build a better world for generations to come.

This blog was cross-posted on The Economic Times of India on 25 April 2024.