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Alliance Seeks to Commercialize Universities' Research Triumphs

Key event showcases fruits of campus findings and achievements to potential investors.

Beijing's universities gathered to showcase and share their achievements in scientific research and seek investment funding at a recent key event, which was aimed at commercializing more of their patents, according to the organizers.

Launched by the Beijing University Technology Transfer Alliance, the event attracted investment firms and five universities including Peking University, Beijing Institute of Technology and Beijing Jiaotong University.

The alliance - initiated by Peking University and Beijing Institute of Technology - was founded in June, to combine the forces of universities in Beijing to promote commercialization of their research.

At the event, the schools demonstrated to investors their research projects in fields such as 3D printing, optical technology and robotics.

Featured among the presented projects was a system developed by Beijing Institute of Technology that utilizes an optimized design and database, which can coordinate photolithography with integrated circuits manufacturing and testing. It can be used as core technologies in the design and manufacturing of advanced chips, its inventors said.

To date, the project has secured more than 90 patents, including four granted abroad, and has nearly 20 other patents pending, according to Li Yanqiu, a professor at the school of optoelectronics at the institute.

She said patent industrialization was a complex issue that involves more than technology and requires other considerations.

"The commercialization of high tech is difficult because it takes time to develop the technologies into products, and it is hard to meet the market demand in the short run," Li said.

Most research projects undertaken by universities have merit, but professors have little experience in marketing them through the use of business terms and language. The alliance has helped to set up connections between professors and investors, said Chen Baiqiang, secretary-general of the alliance.

Data from the State Intellectual Property Office showed that in 2016, 12.7 percent of patented technologies held by Chinese universities were commercialized and the patent industrialization rate was even smaller, at just 2.9 percent.

"Research achievements must be applied to market and production," Chen said.

The cooperation between universities and businesses is more often reflected in commission contracts the schools sign with companies to provide them technologies or technical services, rather than licensing or transferring patents, he said.

China is strengthening intellectual property protection, meaning that infringements are subject to severe legal sanctions, Chen said, adding that the IP-friendly climate has increased the IP protection awareness of companies and academics.

To date, the alliance's membership has expanded to over 40 universities in Beijing.

"Based on geographical advantages, we attracted the universities in Beijing, but will promote commercialization of their research achievements worldwide," he said.

The transformation of scientific and technological achievements into profit-yielding ventures is an entire process that requires not only the dedication of universities but also the participation of nongovernment capital from investors and enterprises, Chen said.

The alliance is a free platform for universities but it plans to charge businesses to ensure its operation, its initiators said.

Chen said that the alliance would create a bigger "ecosystem" to incorporate more elements from colleges and society, to better serve the commercialization of their scientific and technological achievements.

In addition to making full use of such a facility as the alliance, local universities have also invested in established affiliate companies to promote the technologies they have developed.

"As a company affiliated with Tsinghua University, we enjoy distinct advantages over our domestic peers in industrializing research results," said Wen Hui, chairman and president of Beijing Tus-Clean Energy.

"Our fundamental and applied research programs are mostly conducted at Tsinghua University," said Wen, who himself was a graduate of the renowned school in Beijing.

Utilizing its close bond with Tsinghua University in equity raising and research, the company has established a reputation for its technological prowess in the energy industry.

Huang Haijun, vice-president of Beihang University, told China Intellectual Property News that China's improved IP policy system has greatly promoted the creation and use of innovation achievements by higher learning institutes.

"Universities and colleges are a dynamic force in technological innovation in our country," Huang said. "They are also a main beneficiary of the IP system."

By the end of 2017, universities and colleges across the country had a combined inventory of 258,000 invention patents, accounting for 18.3 percent of the total Chinese patents, according to China Intellectual Property News.

Sourec: China Daily