2016 ASBAR World Forum (Dec 6-8) highlights

Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony

Last week I attended and participated in the ASBAR World Forum on the Transitioning to a Knowledge Economy. The focus of the forum was on strategies and tactics on capacity building in universities and industry providing a high level understanding of issues associated with transitioning the Kingdom's oil-based economy to a knowledge-based economy, reducing these issues into manageable and actionable tasks, and providing processes and methods to execute strategies to achieve the objectives of the Vision 2030 Plan.

Visiting Riyadh was an eye-opening experience. About a third of the participants were women, and several women entrepreneurs gave presentations. I found out that it is easier for women entrepreneurs to open a business and secure financing from the government than it is for men (a good start). There was incredible energy and a desire to make things happen to achieve the Vision 2030 objectives from the ministers to the citizens. The most valuable part, as it tends to be, were the informal discussions that happened during breaks and meals.

The Forum consisted of panel discussions and workshops, and was extremely well attended. There was considerable discussion about creating innovation ecosystems, ways to fund and nurture knowledge creation and innovation, roles of various stakeholders, and the infrastructure required. The speakers and participants agreed that transition efforts should be on multiple fronts such as attracting multinational corporations to build R&D facilities, the need to increase university-industry collaborations, partnerships between academia, government and industry (AGI initiatives), and instituting policies, laws and regulations that incentivize these activities. The strategies included were investing in research, entrepreneur focused education and mentoring, creating SBIR and STTR type programs, greater communication between the stakeholders, and creating prototyping and light manufacturing facilities. And, as we found there are already some efforts underway to build or enhance innovation centers within universities and engage in entrepreneurial activities. There are however some barriers which are being addressed such as culture in universities and industry, skills and training of technology transfer professionals, and an undeveloped innovation ecosystem to support and sustain startup companies.

Highlights of the Forum included the inauguration and awards by Prince Fasial bin Bandar, Governor of Riyadh. In addition, there were ex-ministers, ministers and deputy ministers representing government, and CEOs and vice presidents of corporations who participated in the discussion panels along with incredible speakers from around the world. The panel discussions promoted a great deal of dialog between universities, government, and industry. I was on a panel that discussed how universities and state or regional governments can work together and the impact of those collaborative efforts, a workshop on the role of a university in the knowledge economy, and a keynote address on building capacity for academic technology transfer.

The Forum surpassed all expectations and positive comments from the attendees indicating a desire for more events of this nature. Working with Dr. Yahya Al-Harthi to put the program together and recruit the international speakers was a great experience, and we hope to repeat our efforts next year. 

 

Second IP Monetization and Commercialization Forum

Opening of the Forum

Towards the end of June, I was invited to participate in the Second IP Monetization and Commercialization Forum, organized by WOTIP and held in Suzhou, China. This was followed by partnering meeting in Guangzhou. I got to work directly with the individuals at WOTIP, who were phenomenal and a pleasure to work with. The forum itself was successful and well attended. And, you could tell that the Chinese business community and the regional governments are seriously committed (take a look at the declaration) to technology based economic development. It is clear that there is an increased respect and appreciation for intellectual property rights. This could not be more evident based on the discussions we had in the forum and off-line during breaks and meals. 

Probably the biggest round dining table I have ever seen.

Meeting with and eating meals with Boon Xie, the president of WOTIP; QuFu Tian, Mayor of Suzhou; Xu Gang, CEO NHCCD, Zhou Jianhui,Deputy District Chieg and Xie Qiang Director of Government Affairs at NHCCD; Huang Ji, Director of the Science & Technology Bureau; Zhi Suping, Director General of the Intellectual Property Office of Jiangsu Province; Edmont Rao, Vice President WOTIP, and others was a great experience. It exposed us to many different delicacies of the region and introduced us to the tradition of going around the table to toast your guests. A great way to establish ties and make friends and have dinner at one of the oldest restaurants in the city (over 200 years old).

BioBay in Suzhou

As part of the forum, we toured the BioBay and BioTop facilities in Suzhou where we met with companies and researchers, and gained  a better understanding of the types of facilities and resources that are being dedicated to the efforts of transitioning the economy. The facilities included state-of-the-art labs and small animal facilities as well as facilities and companies to help startups develop drugs, from modeling to pilot scale manufacturing. All quite impressive.

Guangzhou

The last two days were spent in Guangzhou, where WOTIP is headquartered. WOTIP arranged partnering meetings for technologies that had been provided to them. I had the opportunity to meet with three companies and discuss some technologies in detail, which hopefully would result in some licenses. We had dinner with Amy Chan, Co-founder and Director of WOTIP and were again treated to wonderful cuisine which was very different than that we had in Suzhou.

What I learned from all of this, is that while there is a huge desire and hunger for technology, the level of understanding how universities in the US and EU operate is growing; that, there is a an increasing respect for intellectual property rights; there are many opportunities for entrepreneurs (especially of Chinese heritage); and, just like anywhere else, if you connect with the right people, doing business is relatively easy. WOTIP and Apio now have a relationship to assist each other in their respective efforts to source technologies and find licensees.

Apio will be attending the 2016 AUTM meeting in San Diego

We are excited to attend the AUTM meeting after launching our new website. We hope to see you at the meeting, either are the exhibitors section of the partnering section. Stop by the Inteum booth. 

Arun is presenting in workshop G5: Drug Discovery and Development Primer for More Effective Technology Commercialization. And Kristin is moderating session E7: Marketing and Communication.