Page published on 12th December 2023
Page last modified on 16th February 2024


This year (2023) our Careers in Ideas task force ran their first ever Summer of IP campaign. It proved hugely popular, not only among participating students but also among the IP professionals and employers who provided events and opportunities for them. Helen Smith from the IP Inclusive executive team tells us how the campaign worked, evaluates its success and looks forward to a re-run in 2024…!

Helen writes:

Increasing diversity in the IP professions

In the dynamic landscape of the IP professions, the importance of diversity cannot be overstated. The field of IP plays a pivotal role in fostering innovation, protecting creative endeavours and driving economic growth. Diversity and inclusivity within the IP professions bring together individuals with varied backgrounds, perspectives and experiences, thereby contributing to a richer tapestry of ideas and solutions. In an era where technological advancements and global interconnectedness are shaping the future, a diverse workforce in the IP sector not only mirrors the diversity of the innovations it seeks to protect but also enhances its ability to navigate the complexities of a rapidly-evolving global marketplace. Embracing diversity in the IP professions is not therefore just a matter of ethical consideration; it is a strategic imperative that fuels innovation, promotes equity and ensures that the benefits of intellectual property are accessible and applicable to a broad spectrum of society.

However, there remain constraints faced by under-represented groups such as women, disabled people and people from minority ethnic communities, in terms of both accessing the profession and also retention and promotion to senior roles. IP Inclusive’s latest project aimed at diversifying the recruitment pool was Summer of IP, an outreach campaign conceived and led by theΒ Careers in Ideas team. Its purpose was to raise awareness of IP-related careers, encourage a wider range of people to pursue them, and improve access to them by providing “taster” activities and guidance. Longer-term, its aim was to increase equality, diversity and inclusivity within the UK’s IP sector.

The events were open to all but we endeavoured to target the campaign towards groups of people who are currently under-represented in the IP professions and/or who might not otherwise have been aware of or had access to IP careers guidance and experiences. Our initial priority was marketing the campaign to charities and social mobility organisations. Next we targeted emails to university careers services, prioritising universities that are more likely to have students from diverse and under-represented backgrounds (based on data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)). We also promoted the campaign to IP recruiters and to schools via the UK IPO’s education distribution list. Finally, we made use of the Careers in Ideas and IP Inclusive social media channels (Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter) and published various blog posts and articles on the Careers in Ideas and IP Inclusive websites and elsewhere.


Introductory events and coffee dates

Summer of IP 2023 kicked off with 14 inspiring events put together by the team of volunteers at Careers in Ideas. These were aimed at raising awareness of IP generally and of the possible careers options. They included pre-recorded events, live webinars and in-person/hybrid events and covered a range of topics including:

  • Introductions to IP and the IPO
  • Types of IP
  • Different career roles in IP and candid descriptions of working in these roles
  • Public sector IP careers
  • Qualification options for IP solicitors and barristers
  • Training as a patent or trade mark attorney
  • Working as an IP paralegal
  • Working in-house.

These events were a great success and feedback from participants indicated that they valued the broad overviews which provided “a detailed, thorough insight into all aspects of IP”Β and the diverse roles available. One participant commented:

“What struck me during the event was the diverse backgrounds of the panellists and the unique paths each individual had taken to enter the profession.”

Another commented on an event that provided “a refreshing perspective that made the path to IP law feel more accessible and less overwhelming.” They also appreciated “the candid anecdotes shared by speakers [which] humanised the journey, making it relatable and encouraging.”

Advice and tips about the application process and securing a position were well-received. For many, the highlight was the opportunity to talk one-to-one or in small groups with an IP professional.

The overall feedback was that the campaign had encouraged numerous participants to pursue a career in IP. One piece of feedback read:

“The webinar not only reaffirmed my career choice but also provided practical tools and insights. The clarity I gained on tailoring my application, presenting myself effectively in interviews, and thriving in the competitive world of IP has not only provided me with direction but also bolstered my confidence, setting me on a determined path towards a successful career as a patent attorney.”

Another wrote:

“I would not have learnt as much as I did were it not for the Careers in Ideas team, and I cannot express my gratitude enough for this initiative.”

Another thread of Summer of IP coordinated by Careers in Ideas was the opportunity for a one-to-one virtual coffee date with a volunteer IP professional. Again, feedback from both sides was excellent:

“The coffee date added a personal touch to the programme, allowing for more extended informal discussions, and enabling me to openly discuss my career journey in a friendly and approachable setting.”

“By chatting over coffee I have learnt a lot more about the IP industry as a whole and gained valuable insight into the different roles within it.”

“We had a great chat and I hope to see her in the profession in some way after completing her degree.”

“He had lots of insightful questions, some of which really got me thinking!”


Employer-led events

The introductory events inspired many to apply for one or more activities offered by IP employers through the second part of the Summer of IP initiative. These activities ranged from open days and webinars to mentoring sessions, work experience opportunities and even a mock trade mark opposition hearing. These were designed and run entirely by the employers, with the Careers in Ideas team coordinating and advertising the opportunities. The events provided invaluable opportunities for participants to gain real-life, relevant experience of the IP sector, and to ask questions of and meet and network with IP professionals who might otherwise have seemed out of reach.

Overall, 19 employers hosted 30 events: 21 in-person across the UK and 9 online. The vast majority were open day or taster activities. We were thrilled that two employers each hosted two work experience students for a week. The events covered patent and trade mark roles in private practice and in-house, solicitor/barrister careers, public sector careers and one event relating exclusively to support roles.

The feedback from employers was overwhelmingly positive, with many keen for the campaign to be repeated in 2024. The Recruitment Officer at one employer wrote, “Our event was a huge success, so much so that I had partners wanting to hold similar days literally next month!”

Many of the in-person events were over-subscribed and some of the online events had well over 100 attendees. Everyone reported that the participants were enthusiastic and showed good engagement with the topics, asking lots of questions. The interactive elements, such as claim drafting, “IP Detective” workshops and the mock trade mark opposition, were particularly well-received, one participant noting that “the hands-on approach was incredibly helpful and informative”.

The feedback from participants was equally encouraging, with many reporting how inspired they felt to pursue a career in IP after the event(s) they attended. They reported the events as detailed and insightful, with many providing practical tools. Feedback received included:

“Participating in the Summer of IP event undeniably encouraged me to pursue a career in intellectual property.”

“I felt more informed about the opportunities and requirements of different roles, less daunted, and more confident.”

Another participant explained that she managed to secure experience of both IP solicitor and barrister roles and greatly enjoyed both learning experiences. She said:

“None of this would have been possible without the existence of this initiative … to give me the push to try out these roles.”

The highlight for several participants was meeting and networking with IP professionals, as well as other participants. They appreciated the warm welcome they received and the insight they had into the different workplace cultures. Comments included:

Β “I won’t forget how welcoming and healthy the culture felt.”

“It was fantastic to gain a feel of the strong sense of teamwork.”

“The hosts were easy-going, personable and welcomed all questions.”

“Everyone I encountered was approachable and friendly, fostering an environment where everyone felt ‘reachable’.”

A number of participants responded to an invitation to write a blog post on their Summer of IP experience. These have been published on both the IP Inclusive website (under News and Features) and on the Careers in Ideas website (under News).

Such feedback helps to demonstrate that we were successful in meeting our aims of raising awareness of and encouraging people to pursue IP-related careers and providing individuals with practical experience of an IP workplace. In terms of the latter, the work experience opportunities and internships on offer were particularly valuable, allowing individuals to gain a deeper understanding and experience of the world of IP.


Reaching our target audience

But were we successful in reaching our intended audience of people from groups which are currently under-represented in the IP professions? It is hard to gather data on this, but at least to some extent we seem to have been. Participants in the events came from a range of universities, including many from non-Russell Group universities. A range of ethnic backgrounds and different genders were also represented. One particularly encouraging piece of feedback we received read:

“Especially as a BAME female student who is visibly religious, it was really encouraging to hear how determined everyone was to diversify the field and how ready they were to be inclusive. I was able to experience this when I attended open days and my religious needs were accommodated. The Summer of IP has definitely boosted my confidence in regards to entering a ‘white-male dominated field’ and I will always remember the selflessness of all those who participated as they supported us through their words of wisdom and by suggesting tools and mediums to improve our understanding of IP. To all those considering participating in the Summer of IP or being involved with IP Inclusive I strongly suggest you go for it! Whether you are set on working in IP or just exploring different career paths, IP Inclusive is a great place to start.”


What next?

In view of the overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants and employers alike, and the numerous requests to run Summer of IP again, we are starting to plan for Summer of IP 2024! We are planning to retain the overall format, which was well-received, and to make use of the contacts we made this year.

We also have a number of changes in mind:

  • We plan to start the whole campaign earlier for maximum reach and target new audiences via a launch event aimed at raising awareness of IP careers and Summer of IP among charities, social mobility organisations and university careers services, many of whom are still not aware of IP careers.
  • We are looking to provide suggestions for employer participants about how to select attendees that fulfil the Summer of IP objective of increasing equality, diversity and inclusivity, and informing a wider range of people about IP as a career, without using positive discrimination or making assumptions.
  • We plan to gather more comprehensive feedback, both immediately after the events and further down the line.
  • We would love to see more employer-led opportunities, especially work experience placements or internships, which are so valuable to candidates in acquiring real-life practical experience and in building their knowledge and confidence.

In the meantime, we are in the process of revamping the Careers in Ideas website, and the Careers in Ideas Mentoring Hub is ongoing, which helps would-be recruits navigate their way into the IP professions. If you’d like to be involved in any of these projects, please e-mail us: [email protected].

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