Monday, 26 April 2010

BM Editorial: Whiff of fresh air

Business Mirror

EVERY once in a while, some refreshing bit of news lifts our collective spirits, giving rise to hope that despite the relentless dose of bad news about corruption and incompetence in government and the sense of national drift, some progress is being made in little pockets here and there.

One such refreshing bit of news is the signing of the Philippine Technology Transfer Act of 2009, envisioned to hasten the process of technology commercialization and broaden the scope of protection of intellectual-property (IP) rights in government research and development institutions, or RDIs.

Expectedly, leaders of the science community in the Philippines, led by the Department of Science and Technology, which has always been in an uphill struggle to hasten this process of converting technological gems into commercial successes—thus attaining human progress, boosting economic growth and rewarding talent—would be elated by the signing of the law. Officially, it’s known as Republic Act 10055 (An Act Providing the Framework and Support System for the Ownership, Management, Use, and Commercialization of Intellectual Property Generated from Research and Development Funded by Government and for Other Purposes), or simply the Philippine Technology Transfer Act of 2009.

“We are optimistic that this new law, a landmark policy on technology transfer, will revolutionize the commercialization of technologies generated by researches funded by taxpayer’s money,” Science Secretary Estrella Alabastro was quoted as saying.

Secretary Alabastro hopes that by fast-tracking the journey of technologies to the market, they can also plug brain drain and encourage students to pursue research and development (R&D) studies.

Yet another loss is represented by the fact that technologies generated through public funds remain untapped or are being archived in laboratories around the country.

Before the law, technology transfer was characterized by a lack of well-defined and unifying policy on technology transfer; insufficient investment in technology transfer and commercialization; weak private-public collaboration in R&D and commercialization; and lack of well-defined IP regimes in R&D institutions.

Not surprising, the number of technologies developed by local researchers and protected under the patent system is alarmingly low.

The signing of the technology- transfer law is, however, just a first step. Crucial challenges remain, not least of which is the perennial lack of resources for fast-tracking the process and for encouraging more R&D work even as the ripe-for-market technologies are being shepherded; and very basic, as always, the need to support greater science education in the country. On the last one, it’s ironic that many Filipinos who had the good fortune of getting higher education and training abroad have achieved so much; for the most part, it’s the First World that has benefited from their talent, being their sponsors.

It is hoped that things will change with the new law.

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