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ACRI welcomes PSA Survey on IP in CRIs


ACRI welcomes PSA Survey on IP in CRIs

The UMR Research Survey undertaken for the PSA on intellectual property in the Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) is welcome for its illustration of the complexity of the issues and the divergence of views held by staff, says Paul Tocker, President of the Association of Crown Research Institutes (ACRI).

“The Survey shows the complexity of the issues, and confirms that there is no single answer for all situations.

“Each CRI is well aware of the importance of he issues and is working steadily to develop appropriate, well-supported policies for their organisation. The policy of each CRI has to reflect the culture of the organisation and the sector in which they participate.

“There is no doubt that scientists – and other staff - in CRIs should receive more recognition for the intellectual property they help develop and bring to use.

“CRIs want to commercialise as much IP as possible for the benefit of New Zealand; and we do not want to lose sight of our purpose to produce research of benefit to New Zealand – commercialisable by a CRI or not.

“The survey confirms that staff are aware that it is not a simple issue, of, for example IP protection equating with patents or even that ownership is the only way to achieve benefits.

“CRIs are owned by the Crown and thus transferring ownership of a Crown property in any form to an individual creates some complex – and costly – complications. We are also subject to securities regulations.

“Complexity has not stopped CRIs from doing what they can, however.

“A key issue is linking recognition and the contribution of teams and/or individuals.

“The survey notes that there are differences between scientists and support staff on reward issues. This is also the feedback we get from staff surveys.

“It reflects the fact that an idea has no financial value to a CRI until it is commercialised. Indeed, good IP management may be deciding to relinquish patent or other rights due to the high cost of holding and enforcing them especially when there is no clear route to market.

“Taking an idea to market requires a team, typically involving scientists, technicians and various types of support staff, including market development and IP managers.

“It also takes, as a rule of thumb, ten times the level of research investment simply to get to IP protection stage. So there is considerable investment by the CRI.

“Some team members want individual rewards; others want it for the group as a whole and not necessarily as personal remuneration. They may prefer group holidays, as in one case at least.

“CRIs have an additional public service element. CRIs create much knowledge which enables New Zealand Inc to prosper, but which is not able to be captured on our balance sheets. How can we adequately recognise the individual or team that helps reduce pest infestation and thus preserves our clean green environment from devastation or health menace?

“Each CRI has been wrestling with these complex issues, with a firm objective of ensuring that staff do receive recognition for the value they help create for the company. Value is more than economic, of course.

“We should also note that rewards to staff are closely linked with other issues also being addressed by CRIs. The critical one is – how can we encourage young people to take up science, attract the world’s best, and retain and develop them for New Zealand?

“Larger issues include how we – as a society – recognise the tremendous contribution made by scientist to our economic, environmental and social wealth. Money is part of that, but so is social recognition and support for training and development throughout the person’s career.

“How can we ensure stability around our national science research investments, which enable an acceptable level of career certainty for the highly trained scientists we employ – or want to employ?

“How can we encourage and reward highly commercial as well as vital public good science, within the New Zealand science and innovation system?

“CRIs have been talking with the PSA about these and related matters and will continue to do so.

“It is important to note however that each CRI is a separate company, operating in its own areas of science and sectoral interest. Thus each has its own pressures and needs. While we share our thinking on IP management and issues around rewards and incentives, there will be appropriate points of difference amongst the CRIs policies.”

ENDS

Notes to Editor ACRI supports the common interests of the Crown-owned research companies, collectively the largest providers of science research in New Zealand.

The CRIs undertake blue-sky, applied and commercialised science and technology research for government and private sector markets in New Zealand and abroad. In the year ended 30 June 2002, CRIs achieved $512 million in revenues, including overseas revenue of $47 million, paid tax and dividends of more than $50 million, and employed more than 4000 staff in 20 urban and rural areas around New Zealand.

The CRIs are: AgResearch, Crop & Food Research, ESR, Forest Research, GNS, HortResearch, Industrial Research, Landcare Research, NIWA.

The CRIs published its paper Transforming New Zealand Through Science: concepts for a performance-based science system in August 2002. The concepts have the objective of maximising creation of value from New Zealand’s scarce resources. See www.acri.cri/views/statements.shtml

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