"Chinese universities' technology production rate and commercialization efficiency have been soaring in the past decade," said Lei Chaozi, Director General of the Science and Technology and Information Technology Department of Ministry of Education (MOE) recently at MOE's eighth briefing of a series featuring subjects like '1+1' and 'Education in Decade'.
The briefing reveals, in the recent decade, patents granted to Chinese universities boosted from 69,000 in 2012 to 308,000 in 2021, up 346.4% while the grant rate (note: total grants out of total applications) rose from 65.1% to 83.9%. Patent transfer/licensing agreements vaulted from over 2,000 to over 15,000. Monetary value of patent commercialization amounted to 8.89 billion yuan from 820 million yuan, up a whopping 10 times. It is no small feat that patent-related quality, efficiency and capacity trending up simultaneously.
Universities, as main forces for fundamental research and cradle for major technological breakthroughs, have become a vital component to underpin the educational, technological, economic and social development in China. In an effort to motivate them to work with enterprises on transferring and commercializing their IPRs and technological findings, the government has launched multiple measures and paid dividends, evidenced by palpable progress made by universities in commercialization.
"To start a new era, we would positively follow through the cooperation among industries, universities, and research institutes, and build bridges between schools and enterprises, projects, and cities' development, to facilitate the building of national strategic scientific and technological force, and to serve for the construction of international talent center and innovative development and the realization of the autonomy in science and technology area," Lei said.
Implementing Open Licensing for University-Developed Patents
IP is a pivotal carrier for universities' innovative fruit and plays a central role in bridging innovation with market and productivity. Hence, recently, for more efficient transformation from universities to enterprises about their IPRs and scientific and technological achievements, MOE, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) have jointly released a circular about organizing and carrying out the action of incubating partnership between universities and enterprises for collaborative innovation, aiming at organizing and propelling more than 1,000 colleges to aid more than 10,000 enterprises to achieve high-quality development.
"For effectively utilizing IP, school-enterprise cooperative action would propel the implementation of open licensing in college-developed patents," indicated by a principal from CNIPA's Intellectual Property Utilization Promotion Department.
Under the circular, to promote stable implementation and efficient operation, CNIPA has convened special sessions to deploy implementation of patent open licensing and has allocated two detailed schemes to its own departments and local IP authorities respectively, with an aim to mobilize over 100 colleges to participate a pilot program and eventually involve over 1,000 patents as of the end of 2022, and endeavour to improve the efficiency of patent commercialization. Currently, 13 provinces have issued accompanying plans for the pilot program, six of which have looped in 77 universities to cull and publish open licenses for 3,375 patents that were pushed to 19,000 micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with matching need, leading to conclusion of 587 licensing agreements.
"Next, CNIPA will publish the recorded information of the concluded patent license agreements and formulate a suggested national standard on patent evaluation, giving instructions on pricing of open licensing and stimulate both the suppliers-universities and research institutes and the buyers -SMEs for a better chance of materializing the innovation findings," added the same principal.
Promoting Patent Commercialization Program
On top of implementation of open licensing of college-developed patents, CNIPA will also organize various universities to actively participate in the patent transformation program, to lower SMEs' cost in technology acquisition and prompt the technology to materialize into practical productivity.
This commercialization program was launched jointly by the Ministry of Finance and CNIPA in March 2021, which inspires commercialization of college-developed patents, educates universities to polish their mechanisms in allocation of IP-generated profits; with support from University IP and technology transfer centers, Industrial IP operation centers intensively announces supplying information of patent related technologies; makes patent/technology connection between universities and state-owned enterprises and SMEs to improves their practical ability in patent commercialization. Furthermore, the Ministry of Finance and CNIPA would aid in building a green channel in the provinces that have implemented this program, about processing related patent transfer, licensing and pledging for SMEs. Patent transfer/licensing involving universities/research institutes happened 27,000 times in 2021, up 33% year-on-year, twice faster than the growth rate of all patent transfer/licensing activities while 24,000 times or 89% out of the 27,000 times were transactions made with SMEs.
The principal from the Intellectual Property Utilization Promotion Department further expressed that this program also proposed various explorative mechanisms, involving IP ownership sharing, profit right transferring for instruction on handling the ownership and profit allocation issues. In addition, it was encouraged to refer the guideline for formulating IP related terms in industries-universities-research institutes cooperation agreement, to prevent risk of IP disputes.
Li Shunde, Professor with Law Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in an interview that universities-enterprises cooperative action would make universities to fully play the key role in fundamental research and make enterprises principal role in innovative development. Additionally, it would support SMEs growing into the vital cradle for innovative creation, then providing powerful assistance for deepening the implementation of innovation-oriented development strategy.