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The Warsaw Voice » Other » December 2, 2009
Intellectual Property
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Toward a Knowledge-Based Economy
December 2, 2009   
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A high-profile conference on technology transfer was held in Cracow in late October as part of an annual meeting of the Association of European Science and Technology Transfer Professionals (ASTP), an international organization with 22,700 members.

The conference, called "ASTP Fall Meeting: Challenges and Opportunities in Technology Transfer," attracted a host of academics and businesspeople who discussed issues such as a plan to establish an Intellectual Property Institute in Poland to facilitate the country's move to a knowledge-based economy.

Opinion
Conference participants discussed mechanisms for supporting technology transfer and barriers hindering the process.

Piotr Moncarz, a Polish professor working at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, in the United States and one of the academics behind the idea to establish the Intellectual Property Institute, said that Poland is well positioned to become an IP management hub because its economy is growing dynamically, faster than other economies in the European Union.

Andrzej Pawlak, a professor at the Lawrence Technological University in Michigan, Minnesota, in the United States, said that individual regions should strive to develop advanced technology clusters as part of their strategic planning policies. This will allow them to carve out new market niches and spur the development of small and medium-sized enterprises.

According to some experts, Poland is on track to becoming a European powerhouse in niche sectors such as underground coal gasification, production of synthetic liquid and gaseous fuels, and CCS technology based on injecting carbon dioxide underground.

Scientists and businesspeople from Europe, Asia, the Americas and Australia need to exchange experiences despite international competition in innovation and access to both physical resources and intellectual property, said Pawlak. Competition contributes to progress and one cannot work alone in a global economy, Pawlak added. Countries need to work together in transferring technology developed in laboratories to industry and in applying ideas developed at research institutes and universities. Exchanging views at international conferences provides the basis for cross-border economic growth, Pawlak said.

IP culture
Moncarz, who was a keynote speaker at the conference, focused on changes taking place in the business culture of developed countries including the European Union, North America and Australia. According to Moncarz, countries that treat intellectual property in the same way as production-related values were treated at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century will become global economic leaders and ensure the development of education, social welfare, healthcare and infrastructure for their citizens. Everyone else will be lagging behind and asking others for help, Moncarz said.

In today's world, everyone wants to be a leader, but not everyone knows how to do that, Moncarz said. Education, research and development, consumption and production-all these values are indispensable today, he added. If a country or region fails to include one of these values in their development strategy, they may lose stability-like a table with a missing leg, Moncarz said.

Countries should make sure they balance their development strategies in the right way, Moncarz said. Those who excessively concentrate on consumption may one day find themselves on the verge of an economic catastrophe. Those who exclusively focus on education and research may also face a disaster sooner or later because they will lose their human capital: people will emigrate to other countries where they will be able to put their education and research potential to a good use. Those who focus on production while neglecting all the other values may end up as a colony exploited by those who have ideas, know-how and capital, according to Moncarz.

Polish decision makers are aware of the need to maintain such an equilibrium, Moncarz said. The Ministry of Science and Higher Education is putting pressure on academia so that professors leave their "ivory towers" and establish ties with industry. The Ministry of the Economy is steering Polish industry toward modernization and new technology. The Environmental Protection Ministry is setting ever higher requirements for industry and encouraging producers to apply new research results in order to upgrade their production standards and protect the environment from hazardous emissions, Moncarz said.

Success sharing
Conference participants agreed that more attention needs to be paid to "bringing down the barrier" between universities and industry in Poland. According to Moncarz, universities should stay in touch with their graduates who are often ready to sponsor university projects and place orders for research work with university staff. Graduates who have become successful businessmen are often willing to share their success with their alma mater, Moncarz said.

According to Pawlak, success in business, especially at a time of crisis, depends on a country's ability to come up with the right development strategy and on finding new applications for already existing technologies.

Every field of applied science offers market niches that can be tapped. To spot these niches, it is necessary to look for new uses for existing technology and protect intellectual property with patents, Pawlak said.

Another important determinant of success is an ability to find strategic partners and establish working contacts with them, conference participants said. New technology may be capital-intensive, but in the case of start-ups, seed capital, or funds intended for development and implementation, are available in Poland.

Disruptive, or revolutionary, technology deserves special attention, according to conference participants. Most new firms rely on "incremental technology" that only guarantees small technological improvements. No more than 12-14 percent of new firms rely on disruptive technology, according to experts.

An innovative technology does not need to be built from scratch, conference participants said. Technologies used in some industries could also be applied in other market segments. For example, traction control and cooling systems used in passenger cars and trucks can also be applied in computer servers and personal computers.

Research shows that about 10 percent of existing technologies could be easily applied in other sectors of the economy, conference participants said.
Piotr Bartosz
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