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Policy to monetise research key tool in revenue growth

Moses Gichanga demonstrating how his drone works during the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation conference at University of Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Moses Gichanga demonstrating how his drone works during the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation conference at University of Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Most public institutions, such as universities and government entities, globally have undertaken breakthrough research. Universities such as Harvard and Oxford have contributed to the wealth of knowledge through funded research.

The findings have been a backdrop against which further research is undertaken. They therefore not only contribute to the wealth of knowledge, but also to improving the society as some, when developed further, become transformational.

A lot of breakthroughs in medicine, technology, psychology and science have been products of publicly funded research.

About three years ago, a Kenyan university held the highest number of domestically generated patents. Several other entities hold patents and utility models, such intellectual property rights being products of years of research.

I attended a conference several years ago where the speaker recommended the commercialisation of publicly funded research to earn extra revenue for the research institutes. For example, research conducted by state corporations can be a source of extra revenue for the government if the same is commercialised.

I agree with the speaker’s recommendations noting that several governments have earned a lot of revenue from commercialising financed research. In fact, a lot of commercialised innovations that are used globally found root in public research.

In Kenya, The Science, Technology and Innovations Act, 2013 regulates research. I recommend a commercialisation policy and strategy for research generated by institutions.

This should cover how the institute would derive maximum benefits from such new knowledge. Research can become an income generating pool, if a proper strategy is in place.

I recommend that the research policy include matters to do with intellectual property as most findings if pursued, may actually qualify for intellectual property rights.

The benefits of securing intellectual property rights are immense. The entity can choose to sell its intellectual property or license it to third parties in exchange for royalties. These are just some commercialisation tools. There are many more available.

However, it is important to have in place an intellectual property rights policy to cater for ownership, reward and revenue sharing. A lot of times the persons who undertake research are employees of the organisation.

The law basically states that innovations made during employment belong to the employer, save for exceptional circumstances such as in the case of technovations where employee may claim some right to the innovation.

It is important to balance ownership and reward, to motivate employees to research and innovate. It is up to the entity to decide the best reward mechanism, whether it is monetary or ownership rights.

However, having a policy on intellectual property and research will help the organisation derive maximum use out of research findings.

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