Industrializing Academic Knowledge in Taiwan: The Attitudes of Taiwan's Universities toward Transferring and Commercializing Academic Knowledge Have Shifted to a More "Scientific-Economic" Orientation since New Legislation Was Enacted in 1999, a Survey Reveals

Article excerpt

Inspired by the United States' Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, Taiwan enacted the Science and Technology Basic Law (STBL) in 1999. One of the STBL's principal mandates was to clarify the ownership of intellectual property rights (IPR) that are generated from government funding research to academia. It was expected that granting IPR ownership to universities would accelerate the commercialization of new technologies and promote national/ regional economic and innovative activities.

The government also enacted the Guidelines for Ownership and Utilization of S&T Research and Development Results in 2000. The Guidelines stipulate that universities need to pay only 20 percent of any licensing income to government funding agencies. Specifically, they call for distributing 40, 40 and 20 percent respectively of licensing income and royalties to implementing institutions (e.g., universities), inventors and government funding agencies.

Furthermore, the National Science Council (NSC) is the leading academic funding organization in charge of promoting industry-academia collaboration in Taiwan. In order to encourage academia to become involved in patenting activities, the NSC implemented the Principles of Management and Promotion of Academia R&D Results in 2002. With NT$28 million from the NSC, ten technology transfer/licensing offices were established in public research institutes by 2003 (1).

The Principles also committed to reimburse 70 percent of the patenting expenditures, including patent application and maintenance lees. This will be reduced to 50 percent in 2005.

Five Survey Conclusions

Although institutional reforms have burgeoned in many newly STBL-enacted economies (e.g., Japan, Korea and Taiwan), the systematic evaluation of the industrialization of academic knowledge has not been thoroughly investigated. This includes activities of universities in patenting, licensing and creating new firms.

Consequently, in 2003, APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) and the Science and Technology Policy Research Center (STPRC) of Taiwan's National Science Council funded a survey of 122 Taiwanese universities to fill the gap (2). The questionnaire survey investigated five dimensions of industrializing knowledge in the universities, namely: 1) build-up of an intellectual property/ technology transfer infrastructure: 2) barriers to technology transfer; 3) mechanisms for university-industry partnerships; 4) patenting and licensing activities; and 5) firm incubation.

In order to assess the performance following enactment of the 1999 STBL, the survey sought information from the pre-STBL period (1997-1998) and the post-STBL period (1999-2000). Table 1 lists the survey questions. The questionnaires were addressed to the directors/ managers of the central administration who were in charge of technology transfer, commercialization and business incubation. Fifty-eight universities responded (48 percent response rate). Five principal conclusions were drawn from the survey results and described below.

1. Institutional innovation is the starting point for industrializing academic knowledge. It provides a favorable incentive system and facilitates organizational innovation across academic institutions.

The institutional reforms provide an open environment in which universities can create new organizational forms that are good for economic creation and academic entrepreneurial activities. The establishment of an intellectual property infrastructure paves the way for increasing academic awareness of the exploitation of research results. The Intellectual Property Offices (IPOs), the Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs), incubator centers, or their equivalent have become widely established for the purpose of technology protection, transfer and commercialization.

The survey shows that the build-up of an intellectual property infrastructure is no longer the privilege of a few elite research universities. …