100 Licenses of HKU Inventions and Know-hows
Share with you the Versitech way of celebrating HKU 100
2012 marks a significant milestone in HKU's knowledge exchange mission: the issuing of the 100th license for our inventions and know-hows. It's pleasing to see that this was reached during the University's Centenary.
Licenses help to develop the commercial potential and impact of our research findings by opening the door for the private sector to develop them into useful products.
Professor Paul Y S Cheung, Director of HKU's Technology Transfer Office and Managing Director of Versitech Limited, explains the process. ''University research is for the purpose of discovering and pushing the knowledge frontier. That means there should be freedom to do things that may not have economic implications because it's the knowledge that we value.
''However, especially for scientific, technology and biomedical research, there are bound to be discoveries that might have potential applications, some for the short term, but some may have enormous impact on our quality of life. Our job is to try to enhance the impact of these research results.
''A lot of the results may not be in usable form and require further development. This is where we need partnership with industry to invest and turn it into something that can be of use.''
Since 1994, when HKU formed Versitech Limited, over 300 patents have been granted for 146 different invention disclosures at HKU and 102 of these inventions and know-hows have been licensed. The commercialization rate is close to 40%. This commercialization has been achieved despite the lack of a well-established technology industry in Hong Kong - most of the licenses are with international or Mainland China companies.
Examples of licensed inventions include a new transgenic plant that grows significantly faster than other plants and could be useful as a biofuel, the discovery of a new pathway for attacking the influenza virus, and an osteogenic drug to enhance bone density.
Professor Cheung said patents were important to make inventions attractive to industry partners, who want to protect their investments as they develop them into usable products. This process in turn was important to society as a whole.
''China is in a stage of development that is at a tipping point where its next step depends very much on its ability to innovate and create intellectual property assets as opposed to being the factory of the world. Because of that it's very important for us to enhance our efforts in technology transfer. We need that process of turning our inventions into something useful,'' he says.