North Highland with the Intellectual Property Office

Performance Improvement in the Public Sector

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is the official UK government body responsible for intellectual property (IP) rights including patents, designs, trademarks, and copyright. They operate and maintain the intellectual property system in the UK, which encourages innovation and helps the economy and society to benefit from knowledge and ideas.

The IPO needed to significantly reduce the backlog of patent applications sustainably.  The approach needed to have an immediate impact and include a clear medium to long term plan for improvements while maintaining quality and government-mandated timelines. The IPO wanted a bold and innovative approach for delivering an end-to-end patent process to significantly increase their efficiency, whilst maintaining quality.  For many years there was a mismatch between pending casework and Examiner resource, despite an extensive recruitment process.

North Highland (NH) used a hypothesis-driven approach to unlock and trial tactical and strategic solutions using Lean principles, root cause analysis and data. A hypothesis-driven approach was used to unlock tactical and strategic solutions to maximise efficiency. Our approach focused on the “why” before the “what.” To accelerate understanding of the IPO’s problem statement and opportunities we took a hypothesis driven approach which is highly effective in:

  • Targeting process concerns and discovery insights, focusing on delivering value from day one.
  • Maintaining focus and priorities, enabling a fast failure, learn quickly approach, targeting true root causes and understanding the “right” problem to focus on.
  • Using hypothesis testing to generate insights for future sprints, identifying recommendations with tangible benefits, and building sustainable momentum

The project consisted of collaboratively establishing and prioritising hypotheses; testing and experimenting; then delivering recommendations and an evidence-based roadmap. Throughout it was imperative to reinforce an organisation-wide appetite for change and a culture that encourages experimentation. Key outcomes included:

An immediate reduction in the patent backlog

  • A 27% reduction in patent backlog was seen in all patent examiner groups that ran the rapid hypotheses tests. This reduction was sustained post project as the IPO scaled the solutions across all examiner group.

Sustainable momentum built across Patent Groups.  

  • By testing and deploying some recommendations in-flight during the testing phase, we increased momentum and the internal capabilities needed to support ongoing change and implementation. Bringing key people along for the journey helped to reinforce an organisation-wide appetite for change and culture that encourages experimentation and acted as a pilot for setting the IPO up for their upcoming transformation initiatives.

Recommendations incorporated into the IPO Corporate Strategy 

  • The recommendations made by the project team were incorporated in the corporate strategy for the IPO to be delivered throughout 2020-2022.

Peter Mason, Deputy Director in the Patent Examination Division, highlighted the achievements across the project and North Highland’s impact to have “changed our view of how to innovate and develop solutions. This resulted in effective collaboration, engagement and built-up momentum for change.”

View the North Highland profile in the MCA Members Directory.