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Innovation is widely recognized as one of the key focus areas of Corporate, Academia and Government (A&G) segments alike even though the reasons to innovate might vary. Each segment has strengths – strong basic research and research publication output are hallmarks of Academia whereas the Corporate segment is strong in applied research and subsequent innovation and commercialization.

For a sustainable and successful innovation ecosystem, collaboration between the various segments is critical as evidenced by increasing initiatives to bolster such collaboration.

Collaboration linkages in innovation between Industry and A&G segments are still in the nascent stages in India. Analysis of the patents published in India indicates less than 1% collaboration between these segments.

In India, the Corporate segment has contributed substantially more in driving the total volume of patents compared to the Academia & Government (A&G) segment (Graph 1). A lower patent focus and output by the A&G segment is one of the reasons for lower collaboration.

The A&G segment should translate its strength in basic research into applied research and aim at protecting intellectual property and subsequently commercializing it. This will offer a good environment for collaboration with industry.

Graph 1

Graph 1:  Volume of patents published in India
(SOURCE: Thomson Reuters Derwent World Patents Index)

Another reason for low collaboration could be the difference in technology focus areas of the two segments. A look at the top 5 major technology categories for Corporate and A&G segments indicates that two of the top five areas are different for each segment (Graph 2). And that’s not all: a deeper look within the common categories shows differing focus. For example, zoning in on Medicinal Preparation shows that while corporations are focusing on organic active ingredients, the A&G segment is focusing on traditional herbal medicine.

Graph 2:  Top 5 technology categories in which patents are published
(SOURCE: Thomson Reuters Derwent World Patents Index)

For enhanced collaboration between the segments, a greater awareness of the technology landscape in which the other segment is focusing and a gradual convergence of their respective technology focus areas is critical.

A few best practices that can be adopted at the academic institution level to enhance such collaborations are:

  • Create research parks to be able to conduct research in tandem with the corporate segment, (e.g. IIT Madras research park).
  • Create an IP creation and commercialization cell to provide dedicated attention to innovation, commercialization and to act as an interface with the industry, (e.g. the Cambridge Enterprise, the University of Cambridge’s commercialization arm).
  • Keep up-to-date with the emerging technology landscape where industry and academic institutes are focusing on how to guide the R&D and IP focus thereby keeping it relevant to the market.
  • Publish regular newsletters as a gateway for an institute to keep industry informed of its research and innovation activities, talent and strengths.
  • Actively engage with leading innovation experts from industry, engaging them as advisors or visiting faculty to bolster the innovation objectives at the institute.
  • Offer innovation incentives and grants to researchers for generating intellectual property, creating motivation to further innovate.

On the Industry front, a few best practices that can be adopted to enhance collaboration are:

  • Provide opportunities to talent in academia to work alongside industry experts by offering internships and research projects.
  • Participate in research parks set up by Academia and Government to leverage the rich talent pool, research capabilities and infrastructure.
  • Offer joint training programs or certification at academic institutes to bolster research capabilities in areas of mutual interest.
  • Fund academic research to leverage research talent at academic institutes.
  • Engage more actively with academia to tap into the patent portfolio of academic institutions to license/buy technology.

An example of successful deployment of these best practices is the Applied Materials and IIT Bombay partnership. This partnership started with a few sponsored projects in 2005 and has grown significantly over the last ten years. Applied Materials has become the anchor client at the recently launched research park at IIT Bombay. Some of the other collaboration initiatives include the setting up of a semiconductor fabrication facility at IIT Bombay, set-up of multiple on-site labs and research centers, and the launch of a joint certification program. Key success factors in this example are the strong research capabilities and common mutual interest that exists.

To summarize, a better understanding and convergence of innovation focus areas, use of technology resources to power innovation, and creation of appropriate interfaces to facilitate communication and collaboration are key to enhancing the innovation linkages between industry and academia.

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