Stronger Connection Between Research and Enterprises is Key to Real-Life Impact Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Seminar Told

July 20, 2021

Stronger connections are needed among research establishments, governments and private industry for more-efficient commercialization of innovations coming out of public sector institutions, particularly amid the pressing needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic, speakers at an international seminar said.

Historically, many major breakthrough technologies stemmed from government-funded research that was taken to the marketplace by private industry. Now, policy and other shifts could further promote this realization of innovation – moving from creative sparks in laboratories to life-altering products, said WIPO Director General Daren Tang.

“In every country in the world, the translation of research outputs to economic and social outcomes is extremely challenging,” said Mr. Tang in opening remarks to the International Seminar on “Harnessing Public Research for Innovation in the Time of COVID-19 and Beyond - The Role of Knowledge Transfer Policies”.

“It requires the combination of quality research, vehicles that can bring that research to the market, whether they are start-ups, SMEs, large enterprises or other entities, and bridge-builders who can help connect the worlds of research and business,” said Mr. Tang.

Mr. Tang said that a more robust conceptual framework and improved metrics around knowledge transfer will help steer policymakers towards more effective policies in fostering the commercialization of public sector-funded and other innovations.

“The challenge of commercializing or translating research into impact has become even more important as the global community now needs to overcome the pandemic and also build momentum towards the post-pandemic recovery.”

Mr. Tang said his Administration had increased its work on IP commercialization, recently creating a new "IP and Innovation Ecosystem Sector" that is looking at IP from an economic and enterprise angle.

(Photo: WIPO/Cabrera)

Mr. Tang was joined in welcoming participants by seminar co-hosts Dana Robert Colarulli, Executive Director, Licensing Executives Society International (LESI); Stephen J. Susalka, Chief Executive Officer, AUTM - The Leading Association in Technology; and John W.H. Denton, Secretary General, International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

The four organizations said they would expand collaboration by:

  • Examining ways to track technology/knowledge transfer activities in a more standardized, internationally comparable way by exploring common definitions, improved surveys, and by sharing, as appropriate, data;
  • Contributing to the dialogue on what technology/knowledge transfer practices and policies work best (and don’t work), and to propose policy actions - through publications, task forces, and/or best practice sharing platforms, paying particular attention to the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises as key stakeholders.

Dr. Anand Padmanabhan, an inventor of medical technology currently being used to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and Associate Professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Mayo Clinic, told of his own work, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Dr. Padmanabhan said his efforts had led to the rapid development of a diagnostic tool used to identify “rather rare” blood clotting “in a few individuals” following the administration of certain COVID-19 vaccines.

The test is currently in use in the United States and is also being used by various groups in different forms in Europe, Canada and elsewhere, said Dr. Padmanabhan.

“So you can see that research that is funded by the NIH has, within the span of just a short period of time, resulted in intellectual property, which has then been translated to enable development of a blood test that can quickly and rapidly diagnose this dangerous medical condition.”

Dr. Padmanabhan said that inventors, particularly those from academia or other parts of the public sector, could use increased support from their own institutions on founding startups and protecting IP. Governments should work on appropriate legal and policy measures to support inventors while providing education and other tools, among other efforts, he said.

“The COVID pandemic has provided some major stressors on the medical field, on our societies, on our governments. But I think this provides a great opportunity for us to think of new ways to innovate and set a new paradigm and how we go about innovation,” said Dr. Padmanabhan.

“You might have fantastic technology, but it will not benefit patients unless translation is efficient and seamless. And I hope that this meeting would be the beginning of the path led by WIPO in ensuring that this can occur better in many of the areas that it's active in,” he said.