Turning inventions to reality

Turning inventions to reality

As Mint reported on Wednesday, two centres for nanoelectronics are ready, with some technologies for commercialization and ideas for big societal impact.

To turn that into commercial reality will need, apart from more public fund infusion, a set of policy changes at universities and research campuses. Education programmes on commercialization should be made part of the curriculum at all science and technology institutions. While many of these now have a so-called intellectual property (IP) cell, few within their premises have been tutored about IP, markets, business plans, and incorporation requirements. The government, even business houses running private universities, should increase funding to proof-of-concept centres that come bundled with mentoring programmes.

Funding agencies should measure institutional performance not by revenue generated (by IP licensing) but by technology moved to market. The tenure, promotion and awards to researchers should factor in commercialization. It’s common knowledge that members of one of the first university teams to start a company for a technology product had to quit their posts at the Indian Institute of Science.

There’s enough evidence that commercialization of government-funded research drives economic growth and job creation. According to a recent report, at least seven out of 10 innovations in the US now come from academic institutions, compared with the mid-1970s when the private sector held sway over research. In terms of funding research, Indian public and private sectors have the same ratio, though it’s another matter that our innovation and tech transfer rates don’t measure up.

Specifically, Centres of Excellence in Nanoelectronics’ (CEN) role is cut out: act as an agency to not only develop technologies, but actively engage with start-ups, train engineers, even hand out blueprints for products, much the same way that the Industrial Technology Research Institute in Taiwan did after its inception in 1973, guiding the then budding semiconductor industry.

Not all academic work will fall in Pasteur’s Quadrant—the sweet spot where research is fundamentally significant and socially beneficial—but, if done right, it takes a small cost to move research to the market.

How can commercialization of scientific research be speeded up in India? Tell us at views@livemint.com