Reflections from Gurgaon

The STEM Annual Summit 2010 was held from 29 September to 1 October 2010 at Fortune Select Global, Gurgaon. The three day event witnessed participation from several countries as well as experts from different specializations and experience in the field of technology transfer. The program was indeed prolific in nature as inputs were received and discussed from various sectors with faculty from ­­­– academia, policymakers, private and public sectors. With participants from the nations of India, Africa and EU the diversity was reflected in the discussions and idea sharing that prevailed in the summit. Several companies like Reliance, Merck, Infosys, Daimler, GE, Sierra Atlantic to mention a few, had representatives who provided a global perspective to the various concepts that did the rounds of the discussions. The success of the event is also partly owed to the contributions of AUTM, SABIC, ABSPII, Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and The Wall Street Journal.

                                                                           HIGHLIGHTS FROM GURGAON

Bayh- Dole model and India
Dr. Ashley Stevens gave the opening keynote session on the Impact of the Bayh-Dole model in research translation in the US: Lessons for India.  Bayh- Dole Act, 1980, created a uniform patent policy among many federal agencies, funding research in the United States. As a result of this law, universities retain ownership to inventions made under federally funded research. In return, universities are expected to file for patent protection and to ensure commercialization upon licensing. As an impact of this policy there was an increase in the number of patents filed and startup companies in the US in the past 30 years.

The introduction of the public funded IP bill (The protection and utilization of public funded Intellectual property Bill, 2008) is patterned on the Bayh- Dole Act of 1980, US. This IP bill has triggered debate in India and abroad, mainly due to its perceived impact on research and development, innovation and public interest. During the discussion it was concluded that, in countries like India the act should be modified for the Indian context and the activity should be acceptable to Indian society and incentives awarded to parties taking up the initiative.  

Technology transfer: the essentials and Intellectual Property (IP) Diligence
The basic elements for technology transfer are:

  1. Available technology which solves economically significant problems and has significant advantage over other alternatives.
  2. Potential for effective IP, tangible materials (patents, copyright, UPOV, trade secrets etc.)
  3. Motivated partners and deal champions
  4. Strategic vision (technology to product)
  5. IP Hygiene (determining the scope and ownership of IP rights that are relevant to any technology-based project) is very essential for a successful tech transfer
  6. FTO analysis
  7. Managing contractual issues

The highlights of the discussion on the challenges in India

  • Technology transfer in India does not support it self at the institutional level
  • Support during 5 year plans (5 years of support) are not enough for development.
  • Insufficient management
  • In India the triple helix structure (Industry-Government-University) is normally a double helix.
  • Government does not see the university as a source of economic development

Finally it was concluded that for effective technology transfer it is necessary to maintain technology assessment, proper management, honesty, transparency and seek a win- win situation.

Challenges, opportunities and strategies for translational research
Translational research is the backbone of all the projects. Translational research is a way of thinking about and conducting scientific research to make the results of research applicable to the population. It has the potential to drive applied science to advanced science. According to Jaya Singh (Strand Life Sciences) efforts need to be made in India as in the case of other developed countries, particularly in the medical domain the term translational medicine has been applied to research approaches that seek to move “from bench to bedside”. According to the panel discussion the reason for India’s failure to achieve excellence in translational research is due to lack of funding, the absence of a bridge between translational activities from lab to land (bench to bedside) and the unchangeable mind set of the people who adopt to change slowly.

Moving innovative technologies across the funding gap
The panel members discussed the gaps that are generally present between an invention and its product development. Funds are generally given for an invention or a product development and commercialization in the later stages. The funding agencies constantly fail to bridge the gap between the invention and its product development which is crucial. Both private and government sectors should take risks to fill this gap. These funds can either be provided individually or through collaboration. Dr. John Fraser, Executive Director of the Office of IP Development and Commercialization, Florida State University, stated that on the basis of research results that define a potential product with specifications, a company can easily visualize the research results as a product.

Accelerating technology transfer: options and strategies
To accelerate technology transfer the external environment should be studied thoroughly, understanding the current focus is necessary. Every sector has different interests in collaboration. Academic entrepreneurship may be a good option to accelerate technology transfer. However, many participants shared a different opinion on this issue. According to them academic persons and university researchers should only involve in basic research and innovation rather than becoming entrepreneurs.

Capturing maximum value from early stage technologies
Mr. Ragunathan’s (Sathguru management Consultants) session covered various methods to evaluate technologies in their early stages. Discounted cash flow method is a widely used technique. Discounted cash flow counts on “Time value of money” and arrives at the net present value of money that we may receive in the future.  How to determine the value of the technology / product from its market launch to the end of the product life (R&D to commercialization) using probability based valuation was included in the presentation.

Where do technologies come from? Industry perspectives
The panel members from life sciences (Agbiotechnology and pharma), chemical sciences, material sciences, information technology and emerging technology discussed the experience in their respective fields and companies as well as the opportunities and challenges they faced and the future goals to achieve.

Positioning India for next generation technologies
In the concluding session Rama Mukherjee (ARA healthcare) and Rashmi Barbhaiya (Advinus Therapeutics) co-coordinated  a discussion on the challenges in India for the next generation technologies. The main challenges India include, the Industry- University partnership, creating start ups and spin offs and developing linkages. Mr. Barbhaiya also expressed his interest in setting up a world class research institute in India.

The summit was successful in gathering professionals from different sectors seeking IP protection or its commercialization. The event concluded on a very promising note as participants spoke of the summit as a great platform for networking and idea sharing and claimed that the ideas and solutions that emerged from the forum will definitely be applied in their respective areas that could contribute to the creation of  new world orders.