28th jun, 2014

University use of patenting needs tweeking

 This week saw the publication of the annual patent statistics from Danish Universities. The media focused on the imbalance between expenditure and revenue from patents. The universities spend 46 million DKK and only earn 23 million DKK – quite a loss when you focus on those numbers.

DTU is quoted for saying that the university will focus more on deciding early which patents they will focus on and thereby cut costs. The blame for the high costs of commercialization is put on a strategy focusing on creating spin outs. This is quoite hard to see by the numbers since DTU only created 6 spin out companies out of the 169 patents they applied for in 2013.

Looking at the report the number of licenses and spin outs are very low compared to the number of patents applied for. What also is significant is the type of employees responsible for the work in the universities. The number of lawyers have increased and the number of economists have decreased. What is essential when starting a new company is not the number of lawyers but the number of business savvy people involved. Create an idea and an understanding of the market and let the lawyers hammer out the legal framework afterwards.

The universities should focus their spin out strategies on market analysis and mating the invention with the right business people.

Compared to large universities like Caltech, Oxford, NCU and Michegan the number of spin out companies is comparable. These universities spin out an average of 5 companies a year – with the exception of Michegan which spawns an impressive 10 companies a year.

On the positive the number of people involved in commercialization have increased and provide a solid base for the work in the future.

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