Intellectual property meets transdisciplinary co-design: prioritizing responsiveness in the production of new AgTech through located response-ability

Burch, Karly Ann; Nafus, Dawn; Legun, Katharine; Klerkx, Laurens


This paper explores the complex relationship between intellectual property (IP) and the transdisciplinary collaborative design (co-design) of new digital technologies for agriculture (AgTech). More specifically, it explores how prioritizing the capturing of IP as a central researcher responsibility can cause disruptions to research relationships and project outcomes. We argue that boundary-making processes associated with IP create a particular context through which responsibility can, and must, be located and cultivated by researchers working within transdisciplinary collaborations. We draw from interview data and situated IP practices from a transdisciplinary co-design project in Aotearoa New Zealand to illustrate how IP is a fluid boundary-requiring-and-producing object that impels researchers into its management, and produces tensions that need to be noticed and skillfully navigated within research relations. We propose located response-ability as a conceptual tool and practice to reposition IP within the relations that make up a transdisciplinary co-design project, as opposed to prioritizing IP by default without recognizing its possible impacts on collaborative relations and other project aims and accountabilities. This can support researchers practicing responsible innovation in making everyday decisions on how to protect potential IP without disrupting the collaborative relations that make the creation of potential IP possible, and the existence of protected IP relevant and beneficial to project collaborators and wider societal actors. This may help to ensure that societal benefits can be generated, and positive science–society relationships prioritized and preserved, in the design of new AgTech.