Campus and Community

Pan-European Seal Programme: an opportunity for “continuous learning” in the area of Intellectual Property

In 2000, WIPO‘s member states designated April 26 as the World IP Day or WIP-Day, with the aim of raising awareness of how patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and designs impact daily life. In order to celebrate this day, we highlight the Pan-European Seal Professional Traineeship Programme and we share the experience of 4 Técnico graduates who joined this programme.

António Ferreira, Inês Malpique, Hajrabibi Ali and Alexandre Cuco heard about the programme through the Technology Transfer Office (TT @ Técnico), namely the Intellectual Property Unit (NPI). They decided to travel to Munich and explore career opportunities, but the pandemic deprived them of intercultural experiences, since they are working remotely. After 8 months the expectations have been “largely exceeded”.

The NPI challenged the 4 alumni to give feedback on the first months of traineeship at the European Patent Office (EPO). To this end, the NPI arranged a meeting, via Zoom, where the alumni talked about the steps before the beginning of the traineeship, in September 2020, demystified possible obstacles and stressed the importance of what they have learnt so far, encouraging other young people to apply for the programme.

With the exception of António Ferreira (Industrial Engineering and Management alumnus), whose traineeship is in  Innovation Support area, at the European Patent Academy, all the other three alumni are working in areas directly related to their training: Inês Malpique (Biotechnology alumna) and Hajrabibi Ali (Microbiology alumna) are doing their traineeship at the Healthcare, Biotechnology and Chemistry Examination Department and Alexandre Cuco (Mechanical Engineering alumnus) is doing his traineeship at the Mobility and Mechatronics Examination Department.

The courage to take risks

Alexandre Cuco lived in Munich while he was doing his master’s thesis at Airbus. The big coincidence is that he lived quite near the EPO building, “which caught my attention and aroused my curiosity about patents”. When he applied for the traineeship, he had not delivered his master’s thesis yet, but he really wanted to enter the job market. “I felt that this type of programme would help me make the transition to my professional career,” he says.

About the experience at Airbus and EPO, Alexandre Cuco says “the two are completely different, but they complement one other”. At Airbus, the Técnico alumnus worked in a research and development department, and he remembers quite well when one of the researchers got a patent. “It was very interesting for me because, for the first time, I saw what happens when you patent something”, he recalls. Now at EPO, he has the opportunity to scale up his knowledge in this area. “It is very important that recent engineer graduates know how they can protect their inventions”, stresses the the alumnus.

After doing a lot of laboratory work during her master’s thesis, Inês Malpique wanted “to explore alternative career options outside the research lab” she recalls. The intellectual property issues, which she didn’t know much up to then, aroused her curiosity immediately, “namely the IP rights in science” as well as the opportunity to travel to Munich and have an international work experience”, so she decided to take up this challenge.

According to the Técnico alumna “the programme is designed for continuous learning, and not just limited to the work we do”. “We have had different training topics, which focused on understanding our strengths and weaknesses and use them in the professional world; productivity, effectiveness and organisation; and job interviews and CV”, she shares. A German language course is also offered to trainees. “There is an evident concern for ensuring a good training and the best preparation possible for our future careers”, stresses Inês Malpique.

”Intellectual property and innovation are of great importance and should be valued by all engineers”

Hajrabibi Ali shares the same opinion and considers the programme “quite comprehensive”. “All of us have a tutor, which helps us a lot, because it is a demanding programme”, she says. “Even though we are trainees, we are in fact part of the team and the institution! We are experiencing a really stimulating atmosphere and multicultural environment at EPO”, although the pandemic has jeoperdized a little bit the essence of the traineeship.

“I wasn’t thinking of doing a PhD (at least for now), but I knew that I wanted to spend some time abroad and I was not excluding the possibility of pursuing alternative careers, related to my training area (Biology / Microbiology)”, she recalls. When the opportunity came to do this traineeship, her first thought was: “Why not?”.

Entrepreneurship and innovation have always inspired António Ferreira. “My main motivation was that it is an international professional experience, in a prestigious and renowned institution like the EPO”, he stresses. “I wanted to know other countries and learn about other cultures. The possibility of going to Munich captivated me immediately”.

António Ferreira confesses that he didn’t know much about IP, but nowadays he has a firm conviction: “Intellectual property and innovation are of great importance and should be valued by all engineers, especially those who are just beginning their careers”. “Innovation plays a fundamental role in the European paradigm, both in companies and in research centres, universities, technology transfer centres, startups, etc., so it is very rewarding to be part of an institute that promotes and creates innovation”. During his traineeship at the European Patent Academy, he has had the opportunity to “contact several European innovative companies, mainly SMEs” and “to learn about the role of intellectual property in SME’s growth”.

An experience that opens doors to the future

“I believe that the best quality of any Técnico student is the ability to adapt and solve problems quickly”, says Alexandre Cuco. “We don’t need any prior knowledge of IP before applying for this traineeship, we learn everything here. If you are looking for an international experience and want to understand what it is like to work at a prestigious EU institution, this is an excellent opportunity”, says Hajrabibi Ali.

The 4 alumni are considering the possibility of investing in a career in this area. “It is definitely a possibility, but if it doesn’t happen, the lessons laernt from this traineeship will always be with me in my career”, says António Ferreira. “As an engineer and industrial manager, the link with the industry sector will always be important. The knowledge acquired in this traineeship will certainly be an asset in the future”, he adds. “Being selected for this programme in a prestigious institution like EPO, will open doors for a professional future that I possibly would never have thought”, says Inês Malpique.

The role of NPI in promoting this programme and other activities

The Pan European Seal results from a memorandum of understanding established between Instituto Superior Técnico, EPO and EUIPO. “The programme aims to train students in the area of Industrial Property through traineeships at these European institutions”, stresses Patrícia Lima, coordinator of NPI. “Many students see Industrial Property as another alternative for their professional careers”.

Besides promoting this programme, NPI also manages the entire Técnico’s Intellectual Property portfolio and disseminates the Intellectual Property to the academic community, together with the Portuguese Institute of Industrial Property (INPI).