Changes in strategies of companies
During the “catch up” era that lasted until the 1980s, companies had taken time to develop products for mass production by “mass marketing” under the steady growth of the economy.
However, in order for Japanese companies to be competitive in the global economy today, they need to become “front runners” that create high added value. In addition, they must develop products by “one-to-one marketing” to meet the diverse needs and create innovations in short time cycles.
Resources in universities
Much of Japan’s research resources are concentrated in universities that account for 167,000 researchers (35.7%) and 1.9893 trillion yen in research funds (13%)*. Universities, which have great potential to create innovations, are expected to pass on their research achievements to society. The Basic Law on Intellectual Property, enacted in February 2003, stipulates the following as the responsibilities of universities:
to make voluntary and positive efforts to develop human resources, carry out research and diffuse the research results; and
to assure proper treatment of researchers and engineers and to establish and improve research facilities.
*Source: Annual Report on the Promotion of Science and Technology 2001
The need for TLOs
1. Effective use of resources
TLOs discover patents and other research achievements that are already accumulated (left unused) in universities and license them out to optimum companies. Furthermore, they efficiently obtain IPRs for the technologies by screening the research results by “market-pull marketing.”
2. Liaison function
Companies that are interested in utilizing universities’ research results would not know where to start since they have had no relationships with universities. Thus, TLOs serve as the contact points to remove the inaccessible impression of universities and make it easier for companies to make an approach.
3. Securing transparency
Academia-industry cooperation in the past often took the form of personal relationships between individual university researchers and companies, so the attribution of the rights to the research results and the handling of royalty incomes tended to be unclear. Intermediation of TLOs clarifies these aspects and contributes to maintaining the morale.