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The Warsaw Voice » Other » September 30, 2009
Intellectual Property
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Zbigniew Turowski, PhD Eng., deputy director of the Warsaw University of Technology Business School, talks to Piotr Bartosz.

Scientists, technicians and engineers disagree: some say there's no progress without patents; others say it's not patents but their practical application that counts. Who is right? When is a country innovative?
The Polish economy needs innovation, in both the manufacturing sector and services as well as the public sector. The new intellectual property management courses being developed today are part of a broad range of measures essential in this area. This is definitely not a fad but the only way to go. Poland faces a great deal of grassroots work toward something completely new or previously neglected: building respect for innovative thinking and guaranteeing protection of property rights for the products of human thought. Innovative ideas have become a commodity and are valuable, for the thinker and for the owner-a university or research center. They also have a price for anyone wanting to buy this commodity and use it to increase their competitive edge in business. This is especially true of companies with global operations. We are talking about something more than just looking at league tables to see what place we occupy in terms of the number of patents.

Work is in progress to launch a master's course for intellectual property management experts. Won't this project overlap with the work of patent agents, on one hand, and technology transfer centers on the other?
IP management experts will be agents of positive change in the future; they will promote, stimulate and use innovation in all areas of the economy and in public life. In the institutions that hire them, they will work at strategic levels, not at the operational level that is closer to what patent agents or technology transfer centers do.

What is the greatest barrier to the development of innovation in Poland?
The barriers are much more complex than one might think. Patent Office bureaucracy is not a barrier. The process of granting protection is lengthy because solid testing before issuing a certificate has to take time. There are many requirements among the testing procedures, including checking whether there is any potential military application for an innovation. There can be no latitude here, and this is a long process even in technologically advanced economies. Funding is not a problem today, either; the main problem is the lack of an ability to make a clear transition from an idea to business.

But inventors often complain of the high costs of patent protection, for example at the European Patent Office, and also of problems with loans for innovations and support for projects involving state-of-the-art technology. Is this changing for the better?
To find an application for an idea and to implement it, you need to find an investor, and that requires a simple language that a businessperson can understand. That's where the biggest problem lies. Scientists' extremely original ideas are wasted by a complete failure to translate them into business ideas. Investors see nothing in the ideas that would encourage prospective implementation. They don't see a business project. The science community tends to put pressure on government institutions to obtain more funds for research. The business community, on the other hand, thinks science offers too little in terms of solving current problems. These communities have to be brought closer together, and that's where business schools could play a useful role. The scientific community needs to be shown the huge potential in being able to present research capabilities as a commodity. It is only by showing that it has specific research potential and by being able to boast the highest standard of excellence that this community can get an entrepreneur interested in signing a contract for specific research that would provide answers to current practical problems. The scientific and business communities should serve each other.

Will disseminating knowledge on IP management have any real impact on the Polish economy? What specifically could it change?
The capacity to conduct research is becoming a commodity, so we need to find a transaction platform and send a signal to scientific circles that they have to open up to the expectations of the corporate sector, but also society. This is something completely new but it's gaining importance. Oxford University has the Said Business School; one of the elements of its strategy is social entrepreneurship. This turns out to offer huge openings for business activity. One example is helping people in Africa by building and tying together a system of mobile phone networks and earmarking small surcharges on the price of calls for social purposes, for example for expanding the telecommunications network in Africa. On one hand, this puts pressure on government institutions to provide funds to poverty areas, but on the other it means stimulating companies to develop nonprofit activities next to their strictly business operations.

What is the role of schools of higher education, especially business schools, in building a knowledge-based economy and innovative business?
Going back to IP management courses, the important thing here is not to focus exclusively on activities in just one sector, but to look at education more broadly. University courses should be interdisciplinary and build broader values. Poland's leading universities are involved in developing new IP management courses, working with the support of Stanford University. Students will be able to experience an education cycle that builds broad competence and at the end to carry out a business project transferring an idea from a technical, medical, agricultural or economic field of study to specific practical applications. This is what education has to be like today, because it means the possibility to take advantage of the achievements of different disciplines. The conclusion of the cycle should be to encourage students to run their own business. Growing interest in conducting business operations on one's own account is what we need today, and a movement promoting effective intellectual property management makes huge sense.

Education First
The Warsaw University of Technology leads a consortium of six universities that are working to launch a master's course in intellectual property management in Poland. The partners are the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, the Warsaw School of Economics, Jagiellonian University in Cracow, the Medical University of £ód¼, and the University of Warsaw.

The Warsaw University of Technology Business School offers English-language Master of Business Administration courses in partnership with the HEC School of Management in Paris, London Business School, and the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration in Bergen, Norway.
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