004_EETE-VF

EETE NOVEMBER 2012

UNCOMMON MARKET iNTEllECTUAl pROpERTy Will China bury its bad IP past? By Junko Yoshida China is Big. China is not homogeneous. it has a poor record pre-iPO companies with Chinese investment. as more private of protecting intellectual property. But it also has plenty of gov- capital moves to lower-risk investment, university iP remains ernment funding at the central, provincial and municipal levels locked up in school with nowhere to go, Chen said. Meanwhile, to go along with a massive domestic market for new technolo- universities are seeking Chinese partners or creating research gies and products. add up the pluses and consortia. in June this year, the University minuses and the Chinese market is a mixed of Wisconsin opened the UW–Madison bag. so far, only a few Western companies Shanghai Innovation Office designed to and universities have managed to navigate “serve as a focal point for the university’s China’s IP minefield to form successful part- growing engagement in China.” nerships and grab market share. “China is Indeed, Chen said “innovation offices” complicated,” Dongmin Chen, dean in Pe- are popping up everywhere here. Rather king University’s (PKU) school of innovation than growing competition, the challenge is and Entrepreneurship, noted during a recent whether this model is sustainable with only interview with EE Times. That’s where Chen a few experts running the offices. enters the picture. A typical problem is finding local tal- Chen, who also directs the university’s ent to help run an innovation office while office of science and technology develop- building vital relationships with government ment, is the force behind a new initiative agencies. Despite a variety of local and na- called “Open innovation Platform.” The idea tional funding sources, Chen said, “getting is to match up “Chinese venture capital Chinese funding is not that easy.” hence, that can’t find projects” with “universities or Chen argued that the Open innovation startup iPs Western or Chinese that can’t Platform can help universities and compa- find capital,” explained Chen, a former serial “iP protection is one of China’s nies attract funding and gain market access silicon Valley entrepreneur who also headed biggest shortcomings. The Open – more efficiently and effectively. harvard’s Quantum Device Physics Lab for Innovation Platform specifically 15 years. addressed that reality” Growing Chinese startups if successful, the initiative could have Chinese startups often follow a different far-reaching implications for China’s high-tech sector, where trajectory from their Western counterparts. Between 1980 and companies, universities and government agencies seeking 2000, the Chinese startup was a university spinoff. Over the last more technology transfers from the West have been stymied decade, more universities have spun off professors to head by China’s weak record on iP protection. Chen is putting PKU’s startups, Chen explained. The problem with this “professor and his professional reputation on the line in confronting the iP spin-off” approach is that professors who come up with innova- issue. his goal is to use the open platform initiative to demon- tions must shift gears from R&D to CTO, then manufacturing strate China’s commitment to iP rights. boss and eventually CEO. Chinese startups often end up floun- During a recent forum here, Chen openly disagreed with dering because most professors are not trained to do that. “not an official of China’s Ministry of Science and Technology who everyone can be a jack of all trades,” Chen noted. “I have no asserted that “borrowed, digested and reinvented innovation” intention to hire tenured professors to run projects or startups,” based on foreign technologies is a legitimate option for China. he said. “We need entrepreneurs coming from outside who are Chen replied that such an option “is viewed as infringement of willing to take risks to lead projects and compete for national iP rights in other countries.” grants.” Chen knows iP protection is one of China’s biggest short- Pay for professor/entrepreneurs will be based on their proj- comings. The Open Innovation Platform specifically addressed ects, not out of the university’s payroll. Chen acknowledged that that reality, and China hopes it will eventually encourage tech- this Open innovation Platform creates an “unfair competitive nology transfer to China based on international agreements. advantage for PKU.” The Platform is set up to offer PKU’s resources in technology, Matchmaking faculty knowledge and post doc students to those who seek The platform initiative has three goals: take risks on early stage help in developing an incubation process, he explained. startups; help foreign and domestic universities connect to Chi- The university’s response to Chen’s tech transfer proposal nese investment; and fundamentally change the way Chinese has so far been enthusiastic. Its embrace of the project derives startups are operated so that they can prosper. The “infant in part from Chen’s promise to finance startups on a “project by mortality rate” for both Chinese and U.s. tech startups is too project” basis. That approach could eliminate the importance high, Chen said. The current focus for VCs is software, not so of old connections and favoritism, requiring a new merit-based much on hardware. a bigger problem is that “nobody is funding model to successfully connect investment with deserving proj- projects focused on improvement of manufacturing process ects that protect iP rights. or materials,” he said. By assigning technologists, entrepre- “China has money,” Chen reiterated, but “China needs rules neurs and PKU alumni to “match-making” tasks, Chen said of engagement and China needs to make the process transpar- he envisions the Open innovation Platform connecting more ent” in order to protect iP rights. 4 Electronic Engineering Times Europe November 2012 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE NOVEMBER 2012
To see the actual publication please follow the link above