December 21, 2022
The WIPO Academy has helped the members of its growing alumni community on their wide-ranging intellectual property (IP) journeys, helping them to give back to their communities, and foster enabling environments for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. Best friends, Ms. Navodi Tharanga Wickramasinghe and Ms. Thidasi Maldima Sepala Dahanayaka, are alumni of several of the Academy’s programs. Through their work with Technology and Innovation Support Centers (TISCs) in Sri Lanka, they hope to revolutionize the IP landscape in their home country.
In 2014, Navodi and Thidasi met when they started their new jobs as Deputy Project Managers at Sri Lanka’s Coordinating Secretariat for Science Technology and Innovation (COSTI).
Shortly after starting, they discovered that they had a lot in common. As women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, trying to make it in the ever-expanding and rapidly evolving field of IP, they hoped to help their country leverage innovation and entrepreneurship to deliver socio-economic development.
In Sri Lanka most patent agents have a legal background, so coming from STEM fields made Navodi and Thidasi stand out from the crowd. Feeling like the underdogs, they teamed up to support each other and proved that those from STEM fields can make a real difference in the IP world. They become close friends and allies and supported each other both professionally and personally.
During their first years at COSTI, their Project Director, Professor Ajith de Alwis, encouraged them to make use of the WIPO Academy’s offerings. They made a pact to complete at least one Distance Learning (DL) course per year, and have so far successfully passed a number of general and advanced courses including:
They also applied for some of the WIPO Academy’s Professional Development Program (PDP) training courses. In September 2017, Navodi took part in the PDP training course on Patent Search and Examination for Asian Countries in India that was jointly organized by the WIPO Academy and the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Intellectual Property Management (RGNIIPM). A month later, Thidasi took part in the PDP course on Management and Commercialization of IP Assets for Asian Countries, which was jointly organized by the WIPO Academy, the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA), and the China IP Training Center (CIPTC).
One day in late 2017, Navodi and Thidasi were having tea together when Thidasi suggested that they should apply for the WIPO Academy Joint Master’s Programs. She believed that it would be a great opportunity to learn and to acquire a law degree, helping them to build upon their current skills and knowledge as they forge their IP careers. Navodi agreed that it was a great idea, and together they applied for the Masters of Laws (LL.M.) programs. Navodi was awarded a full scholarship for the LL.M. in IP, offered jointly by the WIPO Academy and the University of Turin, in cooperation with the International Training Centre of the International Labor Organization (ITC-ILO) in Italy. A few months later, Thidasi was accepted for the LL.M. in IP, offered jointly by the WIPO Academy, the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office and Ankara University in Türkiye, also on a scholarship basis.
The timing was perfect for Thidasi, as she had just given birth to her first son and could spend the DL phase of LL.M. with Ankara University at home with her newborn before attending the residential phase in Ankara. Navodi particularly enjoyed the LL.M. program at the University of Turin as it introduced her to new friends from all over the world, and it gave her the opportunity to visit Japan through the work-study program.
Both Navodi and Thidasi were graduates of the class of 2019 of their respective programs, and returned to COSTI to use their knowledge and expertise to help Sri Lankan innovators and entrepreneurs through the national TISC network.
Both Navodi and Thidasi use the IP knowledge and skills they gained from the WIPO Academy in their daily work. With a background in life sciences, Navodi is responsible for science technology and innovation for biological resources and skills development projects at COSTI. Whilst Thidasi’s background in engineering allows her to handle information communication technology, space technologies, electronic and robotics projects.
During the past seven years of their careers, Navodi and Thidasi have supported several local entrepreneurs to grow their businesses with IP protection. In late 2019 they helped a local entrepreneur launch Priyadi Products, a range of herbal-nutritional porridges, by supporting her in searching, drafting and filing a patent and developing her business proposal for the porridge products. The products are currently successfully commercialized and available on the local market in Sri Lanka, and with further support Priyadi Products will expand sales and distribution on the international market.
In 2020, Novodi and Thidasi also supported a young inventor, Mr. Aadhil Imam, in commercializing his smart cow collar invention, enabling him to expand into mass-scale production under their mentorship.
Furthermore, Navodi and Thidasi have supported an Ekle broom manufacturer, Mr. Gunasekare, helping him to secure his IP rights for his unique machine that increases the output of broom manufacturing. The support provided included guidance on patent searching and drafting for the manufacturing process, and mentorship on the next steps of the commercialization process.
More recently they have supported the National Institute of Post-Harvest Management of Sri Lanka to commercialize their three products (vegetarian cake mix, rice ice cream, and natural tomato sauce preservative) with the leading supermarket chains in the country.
In January 2022, COSTI transformed into the National Innovation Agency (NIA) and Navodi and Thidasi have been placed as Senior Innovation Officers at NIA. Both are currently working on NIA’s five innovation pillars (science and technology; social; ecological; service and defense; and innovation).
Navodi and Thidasi were co-authors of “IP into Rupees - The Game Changer of the Economy” report, published in June 2022 and submitted to the Governor of Central Bank Sri Lanka. The report is based on the study carried out by NIA to visualize the importance of accounting IP assets and introducing intangible assets as an economic indicator to the country.
Both Navodi and Thidasi have played a key role in drafting the National Commercialization Guidelines which are in the process of legal acceptance, and are currently part of the team drafting an “Inventors Log Book” for school students under the project on school innovation labs initiated by Ministry of Education in Sri Lanka with Asian Development Bank. They hope that their efforts at NIA will help promote and strengthen IP and innovation in Sri Lanka more broadly.
As alumni of the WIPO Academy’s DL, PDP and Joint Master’s Programs, Navodi and Thidasi frequently receive questions on social media and in-person asking for advice about the application processes and the workload expectations for different courses. Having benefited from the courses themselves, they are always happy to respond and help others achieve their IP dreams through building their IP knowledge and skills.
Definitely make use of the WIPO Academy’s offerings, as it is a good resource and it can give you good opportunities to learn from the top experts in the field. Even if you have a science background, it is very helpful to you to learn about IP.Ms. Navodi Wickramasinghe, Senior Innovation Officer at the National Innovation Agency (Sri Lanka)
The WIPO Academy offers year-long opportunities for those wishing to develop their IP knowledge and skills through its Professional Development Program, Distance Learning courses, Joint Master’s Programs and WIPO Summer Schools.
To learn from our alumni and their experiences, please connect to our growing alumni community on LinkedIn by joining the WIPO Academy’s official “Academy Community”.