University-Industry Engagement Week

Aarhus University goes patent-free in bid to open up industry collaborations

By David Schwartz
Published: August 1st, 2017

Along with a number of leading Danish companies, Aarhus University has opted not to patent its research and instead will make it freely available on a new Open Science platform. The Danish Industry Foundation is providing DKK 2.5 million to get the new platform started.

According to Aarhus research leaders, the Open Science platform removes common barriers – often IP-related — that make it difficult and expensive for companies to gain access to relevant basic university research. The move is designed to turn back the trend toward focusing research only on relatively “safe bets” with clear applications, which has caused a decline in more speculative but potentially important basic research.   

The platform combines basic research with industrial innovation in a completely new way, with university researchers and companies collaborating to create fundamental new knowledge that is constantly made available to everyone — and which nobody may patent. On the contrary, scientists and corporations are freely able to use the shared knowledge to develop and patent their own unique products.

Dean Niels Chr. Nielsen of Aarhus University sees the Open Science platform as a response to several major challenges facing the research universities and businesses that rely on research for innovation.

“Public and private institutions and foundations protect their research investments by focusing on safe bets. Either by favoring applied research with a high probability of commercial success, or by ensuring that our research centers keep to clearly defined benchmarks that control the flow of funds and time — but do not allow room to explore unexpected opportunities that arise during the process,” he says.

“The paradox seems to be that we don’t like investing in unorthodox or complex ideas because of the high risk that they won’t eventuate. At the same time, however, society can’t afford to turn our universities into factories that are occupied with small and self-evident ideas,” Nielsen adds.

The idea is catching on among companies that otherwise use considerable resources on protecting their intellectual property rights. The first Open Science platform, focused on smart materials, has 20 corporate participants. All universities in Denmark have also joined in.

“Open Science will be a playground where companies and universities can try out their ideas without taking major risks. They can venture out of their normal surroundings and try new things relatively risk-free. This is particularly interesting for SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises), only a few of which are experienced in research-based development. And because participants in the Open Science platform have access to the latest university research, they can acquire a basis for creating unique products with increased market potential,” says Professor Kim Daasbjerg of iNANO, who led development of the platform.

 “Other research environments are completely free to imitate us and to copy and paste our model. We hope this will happen. At the rate the project has spread until now, I predict that Open Science can have the same impact on the scientific ecosystem associated with basic research that Internet streaming has had on the music and film industry,” Daasbjerg asserts.

Source: Science and Technology

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week