At WIPO, Experts Look At Challenges, Solutions For Successful Tech Transfer 05/03/2015 by Elena Bourtchouladze for Intellectual Property Watch 3 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Low levels of research and development in developing countries, human capital deficit and construction of balanced intellectual property systems were at the centre of discussions at the recent Expert Forum on Technology Transfer at the World Intellectual Property Organization. Despite a great number of technology transfer examples from developed countries to developing countries – as well as between developing countries – in various fields of industry such as pharmaceuticals and agriculture, the levels of technology transfer remain low, according to speakers. Experts from developed and developing countries gathered to present their work, identify common challenges and develop solutions in international technology transfer at the WIPO Expert Forum on Technology Transfer from 16-18 February. The forum is one of the key deliverables in the project entitled, “Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer: Common Challenges – Building Solutions” initiated by the WIPO Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) in 2010. The project is based on WIPO Development Agenda Recommendations 19, 25, 26 and 28. It aims at exploring possible initiatives in IP-related policies for promoting tech transfer, and the dissemination and facilitation of access to technology for development, particularly for the benefit of developing and least-developed countries. The project is in its final stage. The expert forum was preceded by five regional consultations and preparation of six peer-reviewed analytical studies on international technology transfer. The forum was organised into three sessions. The first session featured presentations of analytical studies on international technology transfer, which had been carried out under the CDIP project by six international experts, followed by presentations by peer reviewers. In the second session, entitled, “Measures for promoting international technology transfer: challenges and solutions,” eight international experts from developing and developed countries discussed challenges and solutions to international technology transfer. The aim of this session was to identify recommendations or thoughts for inclusion in a list of possible measures for promoting technology transfer to be submitted to the CDIP for its consideration. The third session entitled, “Review and Closing,” aimed at summarising the thoughts for consideration by the CDIP. “I hope that through our gathering we shall lay some foundations for solving the challenges and bridging the technology transfer divide for the sharing of intellectual property, technology and know-how,” John Sandage, deputy director general, Patents and Technology Sector at WIPO, told the event. Sherry Knowles, principal at Knowles Intellectual Property Strategies, LLC, Atlanta, Georgia (US), talked about the perspectives of developed countries on international technology transfer. She emphasised what has been one of the conclusions of the 2014 Global Innovation Index report (produced by WIPO and partners) that “economies that are catching up are more dependent on technology transfer than original R&D.” “This highlights the importance of the conference altogether,” she said. “If we want to pull up the ability of developing countries to innovate, we really need to be facilitating technology transfer.” Knowles discussed initiatives that the United States has offered, such as educational programmes for students from developing countries, involving universities, non-profit organisations, federal R&D labs as well as large corporations, to improve technology transfer to developing countries. In the case of the latter, it would be through their corporate social responsibility programmes, such as voluntary licensing, education and training, IT supplies and manufacturing. For Knowles, one of the key aspects of effective technology transfer is self-identification. “Make yourself known to the people who have assets, who can help,” she suggested. Moreover, “technology transfer is most effective when technology is requested by the group that will be using it, because it sets up a one-to-one conversation about what is needed and how this need will be satisfied,” she added. The view expressed by some commentators that “developing the expertise globally will result in more skilled workers and bring about a more politically stable environment and stronger international markets starts to take hold,” Knowles said. According to Knowles, political and economic stability, a supportive legal environment including strong IP protection, as well as well-developed national infrastructure, are key features for successful technology transfer. “What is missing,” she said, is the “communication bridge” between developed and developing countries. She sees WIPO as having an important role to play through creating a technology clearinghouse board. “WIPO could help connect governments of developed countries and large corporation with requestors” and “encourage the concept of corporate social responsibility to include technology transfer,” she noted. McLean Sibanda, chief executive officer, Innovation Hub, Pretoria (South Africa), offered the high-level perspective from developing countries on international technology transfer. “The differences in the state of intellectual property creation, protection and management as well as commercialization between the developed and developing countries continues to be a major divide in today’s global economy,” he said. “Such a condition is unfortunately untenable and it does manifest also in the disparities around social and economic conditions as well. Much of this is the result of low R&D being undertaken within the developing world,” he added. Referring to the African least-developed countries, Sibanda observed that “the infrastructure for scientific technology and innovation does not exist in most cases and governments of these particular countries have got other challenges. However, there is a need for these governments to invest in innovation, infrastructure and human capacity. Such an investment would unlock the opportunities in the long term.” “The specific focus in terms of development of local technological base and capabilities through technology transfer will be hinged on building relevant STI (science, technology and innovation) human capital, expanding innovation and developing a balanced IP system,” Sibanda added, stressing also the importance of informal channels for technology transfer, such as workshops, conferences, research collaboration and networks. According to him, increasing R&D investment, establishing joint research programmes and exchange programmes, and joint supervision of graduate students will strengthen human capital. In addition, he said the right mix of institutional arrangements, appropriate funding instruments and incentives, and expanding local private sector will help expand innovation. With regard to developing balanced IP systems, “TRIPS provides an important framework for appropriate IP systems that must be aligned to the development of a country, and effective use of TRIPS flexibilities to support development of a technological base are important,” Sibanda said. TRIPS refers to the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. Also of great importance, he said, are “the right skills in terms of policy development and more particularly the right skills around negotiating trade agreements.” “There needs to be that right balance in terms of an IP system that is able to attract foreign direct investment but at the same time that IP system must support the development of endogenous intellectual property, including adaptations and use of inbound technologies,” he added. Sibanda concluded: “Efforts must be placed in addressing the science, technology, innovation human capital deficit, increasing R&D investment, balanced IP systems that are aligned to development priorities, and relevant institutions and institutional frameworks,” stressing that “government procurement can indeed be used as a mechanism for both technology transfer and capacity building in the developing world.” The session included the presentation of six analytic studies on international technology transfer. These were: “International Technology Transfer: An Analysis from the Perspective of Developing Countries” by Kamal Saggi; “Economics of IP and International Technology Transfer” by A. Damodaran; “Intellectual Property (IP)-Related Policies and Initiatives in Developed Countries to Promote Technology Transfer” by Sisule Musungu; “Case Studies on Cooperation and Exchange Between Research and Development (R&D) Institutions in Developed and Developing Countries” by Bowman Heiden; “Policies Fostering the Participation of Businesses in Technology Transfer” by Philip Mendes; and “Alternatives to the Patent System that are used to Support R&D Efforts, Including both Push and Pull Mechanisms, with a Special Focus on Innovation-Inducement Prizes and Open Source Development Models” by James Packard Love. “Empirical evidence tells us we should worry about international technology transfer because technology adoption is a significant explanation for why different countries have different levels of income,” Kamal said. Talking about what developed countries can do in the IP arena to support tech transfer, Musungu suggested that improvement is needed in the area of disclosure requirements and, in particular, in respect of disclosing the “best method” of implementing an invention and making patent data available to the world. He also pointed out that initiatives are needed in the area of exports and goods in transit since “trade in goods is an important channel of transfer of technology.” Two other areas where developed countries need to take initiatives are compulsory licensing for export, not only for pharmaceuticals but also for climate technology and agricultural technology and government-funded research, Musungu said. In his study on alternatives to patent system, Love, director at Knowledge Ecology International, reached several conclusions. First, he said, “the grant of exclusive rights to use patented inventions is just one of several important mechanisms for stimulating investment in innovative technologies” and second, “all mechanisms for funding, subsidising or inducing third party investments in innovation have benefits as well as costs and limitations.” “The idea that you have a magic bullet for innovation is a mistake,” said Love. “Also the idea that there are good instruments and bad instruments is a wrong way of thinking about it.” Alternatives examined in his paper included grants/contracts, tax policy/tax credits, non-patent mechanisms to grant exclusive rights or marketing monopolies, research mandates and innovation inducement prizes. In the ‘review and closing’ session, Alison Brimelow, chairman, Programme Advisory Council of the UK Research Councils’ Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy (CREATe), University of Glasgow (United Kingdom), summarised thoughts put together by the eight experts in respect of promoting technology transfer. Thoughts of the experts highlighted by Brimelow included: – A platform to address the gaps of knowledge (as to what is available, what is needed and who could help to make it happen). – Dissemination of best practice. “Learning from what works and what does not seems to us a useful process” and “capturing what have been learned already is an essential part of technology transfer,” according to Brimelow. – Between WIPO and member states there is room for some sort of a helpdesk. “Ways of engaging with consideration of need is clearly important as is the existence of a clearing house for ideas,” Brimelow said. – There is a need for some empirical work on the effectiveness of science box, incubation and accelerators. – There is scope for developing learning materials, which are case-study based. “For successful technology transfer, your national IP framework matters,” Brimelow emphasised. “Confidence in your IP structure and legal system produces economic confidence, which enables people to think about investment,” she noted. “Continuing work on effective technology transfer is useful and should be endorsed by the CDIP,” Brimelow concluded. The webcast of the WIPO Expert Forum of Technology Transfer is available here. Elena Bourtchouladze (LLB, DEA) holds a PhD degree in Public International Law from the Graduate Institute (Geneva) with focus on the WTO TRIPS Agreement and WIPO Conventions. She is a researcher at IP-Watch, and has experience in regulatory and litigation at a multinational company and an international organisation. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Elena Bourtchouladze may be reached at email@example.com."At WIPO, Experts Look At Challenges, Solutions For Successful Tech Transfer" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.