Tech Transfer eNews Blog

China implements much-needed change in its tech transfer policy

By David Schwartz
Published: May 12th, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, China has made advancements to solve longstanding issues that have made tech commercialization nearly impossible for many researchers in the country.

Under laws intended to prevent corrupt deals to privatize state assets, university administrators have been made to fear criminal penalties for undervaluing patents. This has led many schools to slow down tech licensing out of caution, but this year China’s Ministry of Education released Certain Opinions on Raising Higher Education Institutions’ Patent Quality, and Promoting Transformation and Applications, a document intended to communicate interpretations of regulations to universities, as well as a Work Plan to help accelerate the regulations into practice.

The Opinions address all aspects of tech transfer, including research funding, patent application fees, commercialization, and intellectual property management. Changes include additional evaluation steps before research projects are funded; the enabling of joint ownership of patents between the university and researcher; the enabling of invention disclosures and evaluations by universities; and the ability of researchers to file and pay for patenting on their own using research funds.

According to technology manager Yu Uny Cao, the new regulations may lead to a decrease in the number of patents filed by universities and an increase in technology licenses, which the Opinions explicitly encourage. He also believes Chinese universities will face more challenges in managing their IP.

The new document “introduces the concept of ‘intellectual property assets,’ and it asks universities to analyze the value of such assets,” says Cao. “More importantly, it asks them to ensure the value is maintained, which looks like a tricky task. Deciding the value of a piece of intellectual property has always been difficult, and now ‘maintaining’ its value through the years sounds even more so.”

In addition, Chinese universities must now either greatly expand their research departments or form entities to accommodate the new tech transfer functions. Cao thinks they will most likely look to prevailing commercialization practices elsewhere in the world for guidance.

“National implementation can be the trickiest part of Chinese policy-making, but pilot programs will create incentives for universities to lead experiments,” he adds. Under the Work Plan, “now there are proposals to write, and demonstration or pilot programs to apply for. People will get busy, and there is no question that in a few months, China will have fifty or so ‘demonstration universities,’ and a group of ‘pilot universities,’ number unspecified, implementing the contents of the Work Plan as guided by the Opinions.”

The Opinions come at a crucial time for China, which is fast becoming the world’s top spender on research and development, possibly overtaking the U.S. in the past year.

“Can China spend wisely? Will China achieve great commercialization results from its research? The Opinions are part of the answer, and they are pushing for change in the right direction,” Cao says. “If China does this right, people in China and around the world will benefit from more sophisticated products originating from research in China.” Source:

Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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