An International patent attorney and scholar has given hints to what could be holding developing economies, including Kenya, from realizing their full industrialization potential. Prof. Yashitoshi Tanaka of Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan, believes that industrialization is anchored on the ability of universities and research institutions to work collaboratively with the industry to meet human needs.
Acknowledging that applied research took place in university laboratories, Tanaka decreed the prevalent mismatch between the expectations of universities and industries; leading to low levels of commercialization of research outputs.
“Collaborative research enables universities to understand end user needs. This makes it possible to develop corresponding themes and research projects with utilitarian value,” Prof. Tanaka explained.
Prof. Tanaka was speaking Thursday November 12, at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture at Technology when he presided over the opening of the University’s 10th Scientific Technological and Industrialization Conference and Exhibition.
He however emphasized that knowledge or intellectual property arising from research should be patented. This, he explained, has a threefold benefit. It gives exclusive rights to use the innovation in own products; allows innovator to earn royalties by licencing to others; or enables the creator to sell the innovation.
Tanaka who is a professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Graduate School of Innovation Management, gave an example of his institution which he said maintains collaborative research ventures with global technology firms like Canon Inc., Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Panasonic Corporation and Hitachi, Ltd through incubation centres.
The attorney said that his University alone currently files 250 patents annually against Kenya’s 241 filings in 2013. The earnings from intellectual property had substantially funded institution’s budget over the years, reducing dependency on state funding.
Statistics from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) indicate that of the 2.6 million patent applications in 2013, Africa’s best performer, South Africa filed only 7,295 followed by Egypt at 2,057. China filed 825, 136 patents while United States of America (USA) and Japan, filed 571, 612 and 328, 436 patents respectively, taking top three slots. The other countries that took top slots include Republic of Korea, Germany, Russia, India and Brazil.
To strengthen technology transfer in Africa, Prof. Tanaka called for increased research funding, foster human capacity, patent protection and licensing, and a business sense of technology transfer.
Addressing the conference, Vice Chancellor Prof. Mabel Imbuga highlighted a number of thematic areas where JKUAT has intensified applied research. She noted that JKUAT had in this financial year committed Ksh. 90 million on research and innovations from internal sources with a further Ksh. 250 million coming from external funding.
Prof. Imbuga further singled out the rollout of Taifa Laptop which was conceived and designed by JKUAT as a demonstration of the University’s technological versatility to engineer solutions locally.
The conference attracted participation from USA, Japan, South Africa, Nigeria, South Korea and Kenya. Over 100 papers on areas such as water, energy, entrepreneurship, built environment governance and engineering technologies are set to be presented during two-day event.