Global Access

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  • Global Access: the foundation’s Approach to Managing Innovation

    At the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we believe in the transformative power of innovation. We are constantly pushing ourselves and our partners for new solutions to improve global health, to alleviate hunger and poverty in the developing world, and to improve access to quality education. By working together to apply creative thinking to enormous challenges, we believe that we all can fix some of the world’s toughest problems.

    Innovative solutions to these problems often come in the form of new technology. But none of these innovations will make any difference in the lives of the people who need those vaccines, those seeds, those toilets, unless these innovative products actually reach them. So our ultimate objective is to make sure that the people we are trying to reach actually receive the innovative products that our partners are developing. This is part of a concept developed by the foundation called "Global Access."

    Specifically, Global Access means that knowledge and information generated by our projects will be promptly and broadly disseminated and that the developments created will be delivered at an affordable price to the people who need them most.

  • A Comprehensive Approach

    To ensure that access, we adopt a comprehensive approach that spans the full product development life cycle, from discovery through to delivery. We challenge partners to formulate sustainable strategies for ensuring that the product reaches our target beneficiary markets while taking advantage of profits that may be generated in other markets. An important part of these strategies is the management of any Intellectual Property that arises from the work we fund. Such strategies allow for IP protection when it is demonstrated that it will support and sustain the foundation's Global Access objectives.

    In the end, we want to make sure that the products developed with our funding actually enter the markets we serve - the charitable markets - and is of real and meaningful benefit to those populations. For us, that's where the real results lie.

    This training is intended to help you understand the role of Intellectual Property rights in the foundation’s approach to achieving Global Access.

We believe in the power of innovation to solve problems

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Global Access

  • The Role of IP in Global Access

    Global Access is a creative concept we came up with in 2003 that requires our grantees and partners to commit to making the products and information generated by foundation funding widely available at an affordable price, in sufficient volume, at a level of quality, and in a time frame that benefits the people we're trying to help. What role does Intellectual Property play in the foundation's approach to furthering Global Access? Intellectual Property provides a great opportunity to think creatively and strategically about how we can reach our ultimate beneficiaries. The careful and deliberate management of IP (patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and rights in data) and the associated rights created or accessed through foundation-funded projects, is a critical component to achieving Global Access. Global Access commitments also apply to collaborations with for-profit entities. Whether it is a groundbreaking diagnostic tool or a new toilet that does not require a sewer connection or electricity, they are allowed to sell what they develop with foundation funding at a profit in the developed world, as long as the products are made available to the people who need them most.

  • Obligations

    In the spirit of establishing attainable and meaningful goals, the foundation strives to right size Global Access obligations for each of our partners. Global Access obligations are specific to each project, depending on a number of factors, including foundation goals and needs, project duration, engagement model (i.e., grant, contract or program-related investment), partner alignment, complexity and scope of project, stage, presence and nature of Background IP or Background Third Party IP involved, future use of Funded IP, and the structure and experience of the partners involved.

    Approach Flexibility

    Although Global Access is specific as to its outcomes, it is flexible in its approach. The range of Global Access obligations may include a basic Global Access clause, the foundation taking a non-exclusive license to the Funded IP, or a requirement that the partner satisfy certain specific Global Access milestones. Such milestones may consist of establishing certain agreements among project partners, acquiring the IP license rights to particular technology necessary to successfully conduct the project and develop a product, or developing a project-specific "Global Access Strategy."

  • Global Access Strategy

    In general, the IP piece of a Global Access Strategy addresses:

    • Identification of Background IP and specific strategies to ensure sufficient access to that Intellectual Property.
    • Agreements and/or procedures for transfers of materials and data among project participants.
    • Reporting processes to both the project management team and to the foundation, as well as the process for publishing and disseminating the knowledge and information gained from the project.
    • Strategies to secure, manage, and allocate Intellectual Property rights associated with the Funded Developments or Background Technology in a way that ensures Global Access while providing incentives for future potential private sector participation.
    • Anticipated development, commercialization, and sustainability strategies during and after the project to ensure that Global Access can be met.

  • Global Access Strategy, Continued

    In this way, the foundation relies on our partners to develop creative solutions, not just in terms of the technology solution that may be needed. We also challenge partners to formulate sustainable strategies for ensuring that the product reaches our target beneficiary markets. For the sustainability of the project, we encourage partners to consider IP assets arising from the foundation-funded project in terms of how they might create incentives for all the parties along the value chain.

    The foundation also takes a pragmatic approach to the management of IP Rights. Effective management of IP to achieve Global Access still allows for commercial opportunities and formation of unique and powerful collaborations.

  • The Power of Partnership

    Partnerships and collaborations are a critical element of the foundation's strategy because we believe in their power to expand the reach and depth of our work. We seek collaborative partnerships with those that have the tools and infrastructure to bring about the changes that will enable all people to live healthy and productive lives. Partnerships enable us to draw on the unique talents, resources, and know-how of industry, academia, and the public sector to better serve our intended beneficiaries.

    IP Rights are often seen as an insurmountable obstacle to a collaboration or partnership. However, when structured from the beginning with the guiding principles of Global Access, the perceived barriers raised by IP Rights are lowered, allowing for unique partnerships that can immensely benefit the charitable markets that the foundation seeks to serve.

  • Charitable Markets and Commercial Opportunities

    We recognize that many of our investments will result in new technologies, and that these technologies may well have applications for wealthy as well as poor markets. Since our grant-making model provides for our grantee partners to typically own the results, we want to talk candidly about how a grantee partner will manage these potential IP assets to achieve project-specific objectives and to advance the foundation’s charitable mission.

    An "incidental private benefit" that might result from the commercial application of these dual market applications is fine, as long as the charitable purpose of the project remains the central focus and top priority for all partners. We also recognize that free market forces will not take care of our target beneficiaries. In fact, that’s precisely why we’re doing what we do at the foundation: intervening where the market is not reaching the poorest people in the world.

    When strategically managed, new IP means we have new opportunities to assure products and solutions will reach our target beneficiaries in poor or charitable markets.

    Fundamentally, we respect our partners’ and others’ IP Rights. We ask our partners to be aware of the IP Rights of third parties, working with them to gain the access needed to make sure that the results of foundation-funded projects can be developed for our charitable markets without encumbrances.

We think an essential role of philanthropy is to make bets on promising solutions that governments and businesses can’t afford to make.

Bill and Melinda Gates

The Portal

  • The Global Access Portal

    Click here to view a sample of the IP report that you will fill out through the portal.

    The foundation must have a clear understanding of the IP Rights that are expected to arise as a result of our funding and how our partners plan to manage such IP Rights to achieve Global Access. Availability of information regarding IP Rights allows the foundation to:

    • Monitor Global Access Commitments: Facilitate monitoring and management of compliance with IP Rights management and Global Access commitments to the foundation.
    • Enable Project Objectives: Leverage IP Rights to maximize impact of foundation-funded projects, motivate new partnerships and broadly benefit external partners.
  • The Global Access Portal, Continued

    Because appropriate IP management is an essential component to achieving Global Access, we designed the Global Access Portal to facilitate communication with our partners about relevant IP Rights and related agreements with the foundation.

    The Global Access Portal provides a framework and location for sharing required IP-related information between the foundation and a partner in the form of an IP Report. It provides a collaborative, secure location, specific to each investment, for the foundation and an investment partner (e.g. a grantee or a vendor) to share information in order to think creatively and strategically about how best to reach our intended beneficiaries. The transparency enabled by the Global Access Portal and IP Reports helps us to work together to make sure that the intended products will be accessible and affordable in the markets that serve our intended beneficiaries.

  • The Global Access Portal, Continued

    To these ends, the Global Access Portal was designed to be:

  • IP Report

    An IP Report collects information on three main topics:

    • The use, incorporation, development and access to Background IP.
    • The generation and management of Funded IP.
    • Phase appropriate, plans and intentions for further development of foundation-funded innovations.
  • IP Report, Continued

    An IP Report is designed to assist you to perform the following:

  • Maximizing Impact through Global Access

    The foundation is results-oriented. At the end of all the work we do, we want to make sure that the developed product comes into the markets we serve - the charitable markets - and is of real and meaningful benefit to those populations. Generating IP is not the goal of Global Access, but where IP is generated, we want to see it leveraged as a strategic tool for achieving Global Access. The diligent management of IP can help maximize impact by:

    The Global Access Portal helps us and our partners ensure no matter what role IP may play, with all the investments we make, IP is managed to achieve Global Access.

Global Access In Action

Click on the images above to learn more.



Cowpeas, better known as black-eyed peas in the US, are rich in protein and amino acids, and a major crop for millions of smallholder farmers across Africa.

Farmers lose an estimated 25% of their crop to pests during storage after harvest. Conventional storage methods to reduce crop losses involve expensive and potentially toxic pesticides. Because these storage solutions are inadequate, farmers are required to sell soon after harvest, which results in lost income due to low prices from a saturated marketplace.


In the mid-1980s, Purdue University and African researchers developed non-chemical, three-layer storage bags, called Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage bags, or PICS bags, which work by hermetically sealing cowpeas to protect against crop losses from pests. PICS technology offers a safe, affordable storage solution for farmers that can be locally manufactured and locally procured.


To protect their crops and allow for sales when the market is favorable, the PICS storage bag technology needs to be widely accessible. This requires creating an effective and sustainable local supply chain so that PICS bags are available and affordable.

At the suggestion of an African manufacturer and distributor, the PICS brand was trademarked to provide a consistent, recognizable indicator of quality and effectiveness against pests and to encourage increased adoption.

Managing the use of the PICS trademark by local manufacturers is consistent with the principles of Global Access. The trademark provides the assurance of quality, allowing smallholder farmers to decrease crop losses and increase their income.


Application of the PICS trademark helps protect against lower quality products from competitors, whose bags could jeopardize the adoption of hermetic storage solutions as an approach to mitigate crop losses.

As of 2013, 1.6 million farmers have been trained to use PICS bags, and 2.5 million bags have been sold in West Africa.

Using safe, effective, low-cost PICS bags for storage of cowpeas results in greater food security. In the 2012 to 2013 production season, PICS bags generated an increase of approximately $34 million in income for smallholder African farmers. Recently PICS bags have been successfully tested in the developing world against other insects, and will now be marketed for use for several other crops such as maize, ground nuts, and soy.



Roughly 6,000 people become infected with HIV each day, or 2.7 million new infections per year. Worldwide, an estimated 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. The foundation is working to make lasting reductions in HIV infections and extend the lives of people living with HIV.

The foundation supports the improvement of treatments and diagnostic tools, expanding service delivery, and promoting effective prevention methods. But central to this strategy of defeating HIV is work to develop a preventive HIV vaccine. And despite enormous effort over more than 20 years, a vaccine that protects against HIV has yet to be produced.

Historically, HIV vaccine scientists, advocates, and funders were hindered in making faster progress by a lack of mechanisms to enable broad and effective collaboration in vaccine research and development.


To accelerate the pace of HIV vaccine research, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched the CAVD Consortium in July 2006.

The CAVD operates on the principle that accelerating progress toward an AIDS vaccine requires allowing for the creativity of individual scientists, while providing a structure to enable data sharing and standardized laboratory techniques and data analysis.

The collaborative effort includes a range of innovative approaches for designing vaccine candidates, supported by expert central service facilities that enable investigators to openly share data and materials and compare results using standardized assays.


To ensure a truly collaborative effort, members of the CAVD must become a party to a standard data and material sharing agreement that allows for open communication among all investigators. Investigators share data, methods, reagents, and specimens. CAVD members also agree to grant other members a right to use all CAVD inventions for purposes of education and research in support of the development of an HIV vaccine.

In addition, members who receive funding must make a Global Access commitment that any resulting HIV vaccine will be made available and accessible at an affordable cost to people most in need within the developing world. These are the essentials tools that allow the CAVD to find a balance between open collaboration and independent research that is essential to innovation.


Today, the CAVD involves more than 600 investigators from 103 institutions in 16 countries, all dedicated to designing a variety of novel HIV vaccine candidates, vaccine components, and advancing the most promising candidates to clinical trials.



Poor sanitation, a leading cause of diarrhea, contributes to 1.5 million deaths of children under the age of five every year. Chronic diarrhea can also hinder child development by impeding the absorption of essential nutrients that are critical to the development of the mind, body, and immune system. It can also impede the absorption of life-saving vaccines.

The need for better sanitation in the developing world is clear. Forty percent of the world’s population—2.5 billion people—practice open defecation or lack adequate sanitation facilities, and the consequences are devastating for human health as well as the environment.


The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation issued a challenge to researchers to develop and create innovative and affordable technologies that will radically improve sanitation in the developing world. Under the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, the foundation is funding research to develop waterless, hygienic toilets that do not require a sewer connection or electricity and cost less than five cents per user per day.


Global Access has played a role from the beginning of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge to ensure that these innovative solutions can ultimately have impact for those in the developing world that need them the most.

The Reinvent the Toilet Challenge funded a diverse set of partners with revolutionary ideas and as a condition of this funding, our partners made Global Access commitments.

One such commitment included granting the foundation a nonexclusive license to funded intellectual property. The purpose of this license is to enable the intended products to be made available and accessible at an affordable price to the people most in need within developing countries.

As long as Global Access is the primary goal, our partners can pursue opportunities for their innovations in the developed markets.


As our partners’ efforts mature from their initial concepts towards a reinvented toilet, the Global Access commitments made at all phases of development, such as the granting of the nonexclusive license to the foundation, will help to ensure that these innovations will have made a difference for those most in need.



Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. All of the existing first-line drugs for treatment of TB are at least 40 years old, and a strict daily regimen for six to nine months is required to cure the disease. As a result, many patients end treatment prematurely, so they are not completely cured and are at risk of developing drug-resistant TB.


The TB Drug Accelerator, or TBDA, was established to speed up the development of new drugs. A new combination could dramatically shorten the treatment to a few weeks, instead of six to nine months. It is an early-stage collaboration between major pharmaceutical companies and research institutions. The plan is to screen proprietary compound libraries owned by the pharmaceutical companies to identify new leads that can be optimized to yield new TB drug candidates.


The collaborators agree to share data and information that arises from TBDA activities, and to participate in the further development of new drugs derived from lead compounds identified from the proprietary pharmaceutical libraries. TBDA members also agree to grant to the other members a license to make and use all TBDA inventions for purposes of education and research. This supports the generation of new lead drug compounds for development into TB therapeutics.

As part of Global Access, the collaborators also agree that any new TB drugs developed as a result of TBDA activities will be made available and accessible at an affordable cost to the people most in need within developing countries.


The goal of the TBDA is to identify five new clinical drug candidates, in the hopes of creating a new combination therapy capable of delivering a complete cure in just a few weeks versus the current minimum of six to nine months.



Only 25 percent of U.S. public high school graduates have the skills needed to succeed academically in college, which is an important gateway to economic opportunity in the United States.

By focusing on improving education through innovation — and by building on and sharing effective tools, strategies and standards – educators, school leaders, and non-profit partners across the country can transform U.S. education.


Learning is improved when students are in an environment that adapts to their specific interests, pace, and learning style.

With this principle in mind, Dr. Zoran Popovic, director of the University of Washington’s Center for Game Science, founded a non-profit company called Engaged Learning. Engaged Learning is developing a platform for adaptive educational material—including digital courseware and games—that applies user data to continuously improve learning outcomes. Ultimately, it will be available for use in all educational settings, with a focus on use by students with the greatest learning needs, including low income and minority students.

The platform will have a teacher and parent portal that offers a full picture of students’ understanding of material and progress. Teachers will have access to detailed assessments that can pinpoint collective and individual learning progress in the classroom and provide real-time information on the effectiveness of classroom activities. Parents will benefit from a direct and in-depth breakdown of what their child understands and how their child learns.


To enable maximum impact, Engaged Learning made a Global Access commitment that the platform will be available and accessible at an affordable cost to state agencies, school districts, public and private school systems, and post-secondary institutions. Engaged Learning will pass this Global Access requirement along to its distribution partners, whether they are for-profit or nonprofit entities.

Engaged Learning’s Global Access commitment also includes the development of a sales and marketing strategy to increase adoption by school districts with the greatest need. In furtherance of Global Access, the Engaged Learning platform itself can adapt to any curriculum and works across all major courseware, operating systems, and device types, including mobile.

Because the knowledge and data generated are also valuable components of the platform, Engaged Learning’s Global Access commitment includes making certain anonymized data available to the foundation and to the education field for additional research and evaluation.


The first release of the Engaged Learning Platform was piloted at the Washington State Algebra Challenge in June 2013, in which the DragonBox Algebra game was ported to the adaptive platform. During the one-week challenge, students from more than 70 schools across 15 school districts used the platform, achieving an average mastery rate of 93% after 1.5 hours of participation. This result is in contrast to the 40% mastery rate achieved by the standard version in a comparable amount of training.


    • Click here to view a sample IP report.





Our grantees and partners are at the core of our mission and work. We are most effective when we are working together with partners to achieve the shared impact we all desire.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation


Contact Us

We welcome any questions and all feedback you have about Global Access. You can reach us directly at [email protected].