The business factor in R&D

Those involved in research and development must think and work like businessmen to get their inventions and products commercialised.

Intellectual property expert P. Kandiah says that university researchers need to “package” and push their inventions and research and development (R&D) findings more agressively, rather than just promote it as a scientific or an academic breakthrough.

“Businessmen are not interested in scientific achievements. They are, instead, interested in a product’s commercial potential and its application,” he says.

More importantly, university researchers need to first change their mindset and adopt a more proactive approach when planning to get their work commercialised.

This must be done as the role and emphasis of local universities are gradually changing from mere teaching institutions to R&D institutions, he adds.

“Researchers are now given good incentives, so they can and should look at marketing their inventions to the private sector more actively. We should no longer wait for the private sector to come to us. Instead we should pursue them actively if we have a good product.”

Kandiah says there are several reasons that the private sector is not working as closely as they should with the local universities.

“The private sector does not have much knowledge of what is happening in the local universities. Most of the private companies do not find out the type of R&D activities taking place at local universities or whether any of such activities are applicable to their respective companies or industries,” he shares.

“Some companies seem to think that university research is not “market-ready”, he adds.

“The perception is that university research is not the type of research that can be commercialised immediately. Developing new products that are successfully accepted by the market is a tough job, and it sometimes can be a lengthy process. So many companies take the easy route by copying third party products, processes and designs.”

According to a press release, the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry has introduced an incentive scheme for research, patents and commercialisation to encourage more local efforts.

The statement adds that the Government had announced a tax deduction on the expenses incurred in the registration of patents and trademarks from research, development and commercialisation.

Commenting on the ministry’s move, Kandiah says: “It is too early to evaluate the results. I think it is changing the outlook of researchers on commercialisation, giving them the motivation to do something with their inventions, research results, rather than be contented with just the publication of the results. We should give it a year or two to gauge the results.”

Nevertheless, he says that the outlook of collaborations between local universities and private companies in the country is still looking good.

“Some universities begin to realise the increasing need to work with the industries. Technical transfer agreements are becoming more practical and reasonable, risk taking more equitably shared, and more researchers are now prepared to work as consultants for a reasonable fee, once a technology transfer agreement is signed between the private sector and the universities,” he adds.

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