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The Warsaw Voice » Other » December 2, 2009
Innovation
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Push for Patents
December 2, 2009   
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The Gdańsk University of Technology in northern Poland is stepping up its push to patent more inventions.

Global statistics show that only one in 20 inventions is ever applied in industry, according to experts from the Gdańsk University of Technology. This is due to factors such as misguided patent policies, they say.

"The past few years at the Gdańsk University of Technology have been marked by a distinct focus on innovation," says Czesław Popławski, the university's patent officer and innovation manager.

In 1998, the Gdańsk University of Technology submitted only eight inventions to the Patent Office. In 2007, twenty-eight inventions were submitted, followed by 32 in 2008 and 45 this year as of September. More patents mean more revenue from innovation-oriented projects and extra funds from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, Popławski says.

Awards and accolades
According to Popławski, the Gdańsk University of Technology's inventions stole the show at this year's International Poznań Fair in the western city of Poznań. Visitors were particularly interested in hydraulic engines exhibited by the university's Department of Hydraulics and Pneumatics and the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering; the same was true of inventions developed by a team led by Prof. Andrzej Czyżewski (see issue 27 of The Polish Science Voice), Popławski says.

The university was also successful at the International Gdańsk Fair, where it received 14 medals and awards, according to Popławski. A team headed by Prof. Jan Hupka won the top prize of a competition accompanying the Technicon 2008 Industrial Technology, Science and Innovation Fair. The winning invention was a mobile cyclone reactor that the competition judges found the most interesting design shown at this year's fair, Popławski says.

Researchers from the university's Chemical Faculty have also won many awards this year, according to Popławski. One of these, known as the Pomerania Province Chairman's Award, went to a team that had designed and built Poland's first mobile system to survey gaseous pollutants in the air. The invention had been developed by specialists from the Chemical Faculty together with their colleagues from the Faculty of Electronics, Telecommunications and Informatics. The project also involved experts from the Regional Air Monitoring Agency in the Gdańsk Metropolitan Area.

Money can't buy everything
Every year, the Gdańsk University of Technology releases a report on its innovation-related projects. A recent example of such a project is a new method to produce the 1-hydroxy-1-phosphono-2-pyridin-3-yl-ethyl phosphonic acid and its monosodium salt known as risedronate sodium. The compound is a well-known bone resorption inhibitor used to treat osteoporosis. The method was developed by the research team of Prof. Rachoń and the university patented it last year together with the Polpharma SA pharmaceutical plant in Starogard Gdański.

The Gdańsk University of Technology says it sometimes makes its inventions available for free as part of EU programs. Recently, the university has signed a number of agreements to waive license fees in the first year. The agreements include a deal with the WiComm Center for Excellence that was established by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in October 2004 to conduct research and development work on wireless telecommunication systems.

In 2007, the Gdańsk University of Technology earned zl.175,000 from patents; last year it received zl.21,000 from license fees. Revenue from innovation totaled zl.27,000 in 2007 and zl.41,000 last year.

The Gdańsk University of Technology has clinched a number of deals with large companies. These include an agreement with fuel corporation Grupa Lotos SA on joint operations in R&D and know-how exchange and mutual support in research and education. Under the agreement, the university and Grupa Lotos will work together on innovative technological projects. The corporation will also place orders for other research and development jobs with the university.

Another example is a science and industry consortium that the Gdańsk University of Technology has formed with the universities of technology in Cracow and ŁódĽ and with the Merten Polska Sp. z o.o. and Zdania Sp. z o.o. companies which provide technology for building mains. The consortium aims to promote and introduce energy-efficient technologies for electrical installations in buildings by engaging in long-term joint research and development projects. The partners plan to transfer advanced electrical technology to business and help enterprises obtain new technology to improve their competitiveness.

Role model
Ideas developed at the Gdańsk University of Technology were cited as model examples of intellectual property protection in academia during the Creativity-Innovation-Enterprise conference held at the Pomerania Science and Technology Park in Gdynia earlier this year. Conference participants discussed the role that centers for innovation and enterprise play in the emergence of a knowledge-based economy.

"We have worked out such terms and conditions of copyright protection that regulate the procedures and rules for signing contracts, providing assistance to inventors and, first and foremost, paying them," says Popławski. "Unfortunately, the public remains unfamiliar with copyright laws. Businesses often find it difficult to agree on the rules of negotiations and the contracts they are about to sign."

When it comes to intellectual property and patents, Popławski says, things are relatively easier for the university's Chemical Faculty because most of its inventions are of immediate practical value. One example is a technology for the continuous, waste-free and environmentally-friendly chemical recycling of car tires.

The registration of a new drug, on the other hand, takes 10-15 years of work and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of zlotys, Popławski says.

Electronics, in turn, is a powerhouse of innovation, according to Popławski. New inventions are put into use right away and having them patented does not always pay off. Patent procedures take five to six years, while one can succeed on the market without patenting an invention, Popławski says.

Swapping experience
Practical experience is worth exchanging, even within a small group of researchers, Popławski says. Such an exchange was facilitated by a Polish-American conference that the Gdańsk University of Technology held together with the Gdańsk Science and Technology Park in September.

Attended by decision makers, officials and experts from university-level schools, research institutions and businesses in Poland and the United States, the conference was devoted to innovation, science and technology. Conference participants debated opportunities to intensify Polish-American cooperation for innovation in energy, electronics, computer science and medicine. They agreed that joint projects would stimulate economic growth and improve the quality of life in both countries. Strong ties between universities and industries boost their international competitiveness, but the question is how such ties should be developed, conference participants said.

Innovation is not a luxury; it is a necessity, said Dr. Charles Wessner, a U.S. National Academy scholar and director of the Program on Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. According to Wessner, the most important challenge that Poland will face in the coming years is the need to build strong relations between university-level schools and businesses as part of an international innovation system. The chief task of university-level schools in the 21st century is to produce know-how that meets the growing requirements of the market, Wessner said. It is essential to focus on research that it not only thrilling but also needed in industry, he added.
Adam Grzybowski
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