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Vol. XXVI, 4th Quarter
October – December 2008


Rodel G. Offemaria


















Technology Transfer

D ebates about the pluses and minuses of government-industry research continue as a dynamic and necessary process to achieve universally acknowledged and satisfactory understanding of the contrasts in their missions. Government research and development institutes [RDIs] including state colleges and universities are invariably perceived to be largely concerned with generation of knowledge as a scholarly function. Industry is profit driven. How do you fix the loose ends that differentiate one from the other?

In the Philippine context, a similar debate blows hot and cold. There are fundamental S&T issues that the highest political leadership must appreciate.

The proposed technology transfer law in Congress provides hope for exhaustive discussions of such an important element in a desired and working National Innovation System. Inspired by the Bayh-Dole Act in the US, the proposed law is an attempt to fix the longstanding gulf between RDIs and the market. It aims to set in motion a system of control and incentives to develop businesses out of public funded R&D results. It is a smart diktat, even if long overdue.

The Bayh-Dole Act was introduced at a time when the US is slipping against Japan and industrial upstarts like South Korea and Taiwan in flooding the world with consumer electronic products. Cost, time to market, and speed of innovation made Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan a formidable Asian Triad to rival the US and Western European industrial dynamos such as France Germany, Italy, and UK.

The act is credited with stimulating and accelerating R, D & E[ngineering] of the then emerging technologies such as materials science, information and communication technology, and biotechnology, among others.

The act also assumed significance following the collapse of the Cold War and prepared the environment for a shift in R&D focus among federal funded and university R&D from defense to more civilian applications.

But a long view of Bayh-Dole Act’s real value is in reorienting R&D efforts in US universities as a means of rebuilding national competitiveness in an era of escalating competition among technology-driven trading economies.

Here, the inspiration must be tempered with reality. The proposed techno-transfer law cannot solve all technology competitiveness, rights, transfer, usefulness, adaptability and other related issues all at the same time. When it finally becomes law, it will provide solutions to immediate and basic lab-to-market constraints. But new issues will also rise. That’s because, by the sheer complexity of the S&T sector, advocates and well wishers must not take it as a “silver bullet’ to end all conflicting and interlocking IPR and technology policy issues.

The proposed law will both solve issues and create new challenges. But it gives policymakers a platform to step on and design new policies to close the gaps. Conscientious policymaking is a self-correcting function that ought to be innovative, too.