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The Warsaw Voice » The Polish Science Voice » November 28, 2013
Innovation
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More Inventions, More Patents
November 28, 2013   
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Universities, companies and individuals in Poland submitted more than 5,000 patent applications to the Patent Office last year, ranking the country 15th worldwide in terms of the number of inventions submitted for registration.

The number of patent applications submitted in Poland is growing. Last year the total number of applications for inventions and designs went up by 533 compared with 2011. In 2010, 3,387 inventions were submitted for registration with the Polish Patent Office. The figure was 12 percent higher than in 2009.

Over the past three years, the largest number of inventions has been submitted by the Wrocław University of Technology in the southwest of the country. Last year the university obtained 137 patents and protection rights for its designs.

One of these involved a system of prefabricated, reinforced concrete sound-reducing screens for roads and freeways designed at the university’s Faculty of Architecture. The barriers were used during the construction of the Wrocław beltway and won a gold medal at this year’s Archimedes International Show of Inventions and Innovation Technology in Moscow. These acoustic screens with a cross section similar to that of a parabola are visually appealing, durable and offer greater protection against noise than other solutions.

Another example was an innovative modification of a wheelchair to make it easier for the user to negotiate obstacles. Researchers from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Wrocław University of Technology equipped the wheelchair with two additional pairs of wheels, one in the front and the other at the back, powered by an electric motor. Each pair can be lowered or raised, as a result of which the entire wheelchair can clear an obstacle. It can also climb over the curb with the front and then rear wheels. The device can be connected to a standard wheelchair, even without using any tools.

There are many other examples of innovative projects by Wrocław University of Technology researchers—including a pair of scales for objects weighing up to 750 tons.

The university works with companies that look for innovative solutions. An additional incentive for scientists is that any patent or implementation means a 60-percent share in the profits from putting the invention to commercial use. The university’s students are also aware of the importance of innovation. The local Academic Business Incubator supports their innovative ideas and research. The best students set up their own companies while still in college, and they are rewarded for their ideas with scholarships.

Other universities in Poland also have a long list of inventions to their name. For example, researchers at the Gdańsk University of Technology in northern Poland recently established two special-purpose vehicles to pursue innovative production.

The first company, NovaPUR, deals with the production of environmentally-friendly polyurethane foams for industries such as aerospace, automotive, clothing and construction. The foams on which the company is working on are fire-resistant, have greater mechanical strength, for example for compression, and are less fragile than conventional ones. They suppress noise well, are resistant to weather conditions and to organic solvents and oils. The researchers behind the technology are Prof. Józef Haponiuk; Magdalena Danowska, M.Sc.; Łukasz Piszczyk, Ph.D.; and Michał Strankowski, Ph.D.

The other company, ChillID, plans to produce cheap and easy-to-use smart labels with information on the quality and shelf life of products. The label responds to changes in storage conditions and provides easy-to-understand information for consumers on whether or not a specific product has suffered due to prolonged storage in inappropriate temperatures—for example, whether a product has defrosted during transport or storage. The company’s start-up capital comes from the Pomerania Development Agency. The smart label is the work of Wojciech Chrzanowski, Ph.D.

“We want to promote the idea of going commercial with the results of research conducted by students and research workers through the establishment of spin-off companies,” says Damian Kuźniewski, head of the Center for Know-How and Technology Transfer at the Gdańsk University of Technology. “We are looking for good innovative ideas and people who want to be successful on the market when doing business. We would be happy if we managed to launch three spin-off/start-up companies annually through the Excento special-purpose company at the Gdańsk University of Technology. The Center for Know-How and Technology Transfer supports researchers, doctoral students and undergraduate students in establishing ties with industry. We are also responsible for the formal aspect of this collaboration and help research teams get funds and apply for grants.”

Researchers from other Polish universities have also submitted a number of inventions for patenting in recent years. For example, Marek Bartosik, Ph.D., from the Łódź University of Technology, has developed an ultra-fast synchronized vacuum circuit breaker for high-speed railways. Other recent inventions from the same university have included a system for identifying the alarm signals of priority vehicles in traffic, a telenavigation system for the blind, and a computer controlled by eye movements for disabled and paralyzed people who are unable to use a mouse or keyboard.

The Poznań University of Technology boasts a method for locating cancer-related and atherosclerotic changes using electron paramagnetic resonance imaging (EPRI), and a “sedimentation drainage trough” designed by Daniel Słyś, Ph.D.—an invention thanks to which waste water from transport depots, parking lots and car washes will not be discharged into rivers.

The Military University of Technology in Warsaw, specifically a team led by Prof. Jerzy Gawinecki, has developed a device that encodes information into an unbreakable code. Other inventions from the same university include an optoelectronic biohazard sensor, an engineering robot for supporting bomb-disposal operations and a rail car with a rotating platform for a container trailer.

Meanwhile, the Częstochowa University of Technology has found a way to improve the properties of ceramic superconductors by developing a method for destroying pathogenic microbes in living organisms.
In terms of the provinces with the largest number of patent applications for inventions and designs, Mazowieckie was number one last year, with 1,139 applications, followed by Śląskie with 735, Małopolskie with 532, Wielkopolskie with 528, and Dolnośląskie with 524.

Mazowieckie also has the largest number of applications per head of population, at 21.5 per 100,000 residents, followed by Dolnośląskie (18.1) and Śląskie (16). The list closes with Lubuskie (5.7), Podkarpackie (6.7), Warmińsko-Mazurskie (6.9), and Świętokrzyskie (7).

In terms of Gross Domestic Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD), which shows expenditure on research and development by business enterprises and higher education institutions as well as government and private non-profit organizations, Poland ranks third worldwide, behind Singapore and South Korea.

However, innovation deployment in Polish industry is still limited. Last year, Poland was a distant 24th among the EU’s 27 member countries in terms of innovation, ahead of only Latvia, Romania and Bulgaria. Poland’s Summary Innovation Index (SII) was only 0.270, with the EU average at 0.544.

Tomasz Rybicki
Wojciech Romanowicz contributed to this article.


Factfile

A patent is an essential business tool in today’s marketplace, where the rule of thumb is that a good product will always get copied. This affects trademarks as well as innovative designs and technology. Patent protection is designed to eliminate copying and unfair competition.

Obtaining a patent for new technology in Poland is a long process. The patent must conform to regulations set out in the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. The system works on a first-come-first-served basis. The first 18 months of the patent process is a waiting period for notice of a similar patent registered in another country. More time is then needed to allow third parties to voice potential objections. After that there is a period of product analysis and literature research to establish a given product’s eligibility for a patent.

Every product, however, receives some protection of ownership rights from the time of application to the Patent Office, regardless of the length of the procedures. Prior to getting a product patent, the applicant receives intellectual ownership rights.

Patents in other countries are usually more expensive than in Poland. The decision to patent a product abroad must be based on a detailed analysis of risk and profitability.
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