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Headlines Published on 26 September 2006

Title Report indicates institutional, cultural barriers hamper international cooperation

The European Commission recently released a draft report detailing an online public consultation regarding publicly funded international research programs.

Patents remain a wrinkle for international cooperation.  © European Communities
Patents remain a wrinkle for international cooperation.
© European Communities

The DG RESEARCH consultation makes clear that researchers feel that the exploitation of findings from publicly funded research is key to improving European competitiveness. They note, however, that ways of arriving at those findings is much less clear. The researchers who participated in the consultation claim some barriers still exist for meaningful public/private collaboration to take place. They pointed to institutional and cultural factors as some of the main difficulties they encountered when involved in international collaboration.

One major issue respondents referred to is the difficulty associated with coordinating interests between the public and private sectors. This is particularly evident when public research organisations (PROs) and private industry negotiate management of intellectual property rights (IPR) resulting from collaborative research and the sharing any profit gained from them.

A member of a PRO had the following to say about interaction between universities and private industry.

“ Poor understanding of the constraints and missions of the other party, different mind set and attitudes, sometimes conflicts of interest. The underfunded universities are often in a poor bargaining position to achieve an equitable deal. There is a lack of professionalism in dealing with the interaction (on both sides).”

IPR ownership indeed proved to be a contentious issue. PROs claimed that they faced certain difficulties balancing their desire to keep research findings secret to protect their market value against researchers' desire to make them public. Fifty-three percent of respondents cited IPR ownership regimes as a research-related barrier to cooperation and 43% claimed joint-ownership was problematic.

In addition to financial squabbling, respondents said that transnational cooperation encounters different forms of cultural barriers, most importantly that of language. Others factors hindering the further development of international cooperation involves legal discrepancies between states and difficulties finding partners.

A majority of those participating in the consultation felt that urgent attention was required to deal with the harmonisation of IPR ownership across sectors and across borders. In particular, they pointed to a Community Patent as a possible solution when dealing with international cooperation-realted IPR issues. This reflects similar responses found in previous consultations conducted by the Commission.

Attention was also given to the idea of professional technology transfer officers to aid in managing cooperation between the public and private sectors. Seventy-five percent of respondents felt the development of a such a position would be an advantage.

Important conclusions drawn from the consultation include:

·Increased incentives for PRO staff to participate in public/private research
·More professional technology transfer officers
·More transnational exchange of staff between public and private sector employees

To address the findings, the Commission is drafting a Communication concerning knowledge transfer, a strengthened Marie Curie scheme in order to further promote additional public-private staff exchanges across Europe, and additional transnational networking and partner finding through the Innovation Relay Centre network.

More information:

  • Commission Draft report

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