In today’s highly globalized knowledge driven economy, the innovation capacity of a nation is a critical indicator of its present and future economic health. Innovation is therefore seen as a sine qua non for national development. As such, governments and industries are investing heavily in research and development (R&D) activities so as to increase their innovation capacity and hence national competitiveness.
As one of the primary sources of generation of new technologies (inventions), universities and R&D institutions (hereinafter referred to as “universities”) increasingly play a crucial role in the process of technological innovation, technology transfer and commercialization of intellectual property (IP) arising from research activities, which ultimately contribute to national economic, social and cultural development. Consequently, universities have become an important segment of IP users and hence an important WIPO constituency.
However, besides the national innovation framework (national innovation and IP strategy, adequate IP protection and enforcement laws, research funds etc.), for an effective IP and technology transfer system, other elements must be put in place at the institutional level.
These elements include an adequate IP infrastructure (e.g., institutional IP policies, technology transfer offices, an IP management and technology transfer mechanism, and the necessary funds), incentives to support technological innovation, and necessary expertise to manage IP and technology through invention, protection and commercialization processes. Many of these elements are missing in universities, in particular in developing countries.
Pressing needs expressed by the WIPO Member States, the WIPO University Initiative Program (hereinafter “the Program”) was introduced to and adopted by the Member States during the WIPO General Assemblies in 2002 in order to address these critical issues and assist universities in the following key areas:
- establishment of IP and technology management infrastructure in universities;
- development of human capital skilled in IP and technology management;
- promotion of effective use of IP, in particular, patents; and
- creation of a national/regional/global university IP forum,
through the processes of creation (including research project management and research collaborations), protection and commercialization of IP with a view to promoting scientific innovation and IP rights so that universities can enjoy the full benefit of IP systems.
Currently the Program encompasses some 250 universities worldwide.
The objectives of the Program, in concrete terms, in the aforementioned areas are assisting universities in WIPO Member States in:
Establishment of IP infrastructure
- Setting up technology transfer offices;
- Developing institutional IP policies;
- Establishing an effective technology transfer mechanism;
- Fostering effective collaborations between university-industry-government.
Development of human capital
- Raising institutional IP awareness about the importance of IP and technology transfer;
- Building capacity and skills in IP and technology management including: strategic R&D project planning, research collaboration contracts and agreements, identification of IP assets, invention disclosure process, patent information search, decision on IP protection, patent application process, administration of IP legal matters, technology marketing, technology valuation, licensing negotiation and monitoring deals, commercialization and incubation of start-up and spin-off;
- Developing useful tools such as guidebooks, case studies, best practices and an information database.
Promotion of effective use of IP
- Building knowledge of IP systems, especially patent systems;
- Fostering IP protection and better understanding of the protection process;
- Promoting use of patent information.
Creation of a national/regional/global university IP forum
- Creating an IP and technology transfer on-line forum among partner universities for the purpose of sharing information, experience and best practices;
- Facilitating national and international collaborations between universities and industries;
- Developing a mentoring system in collaboration with partner institutions in developed countries, e.g., IP Offices, universities or other organizations such as ASTP, AUTM, ISIS, LESI, PIPRA, SWITT, or UNITT.
In the framework of the Program, each partner institution designates a so-called “University IP Coordinator (UIPC)” who is a current or potential technology manager, typically with a scientific background and some IP knowledge. UIPC will be the WIPO contact person in the institution communicating with WIPO.
Support and assistance for partner institutions are designed either individually or collectively based on assessments through questions in the Application Form and interviews.