Indian science and research establishments need a commercial focus

While the Intellectual Property Rights system in India has made considerable progress in the last few years, much needs to be done before it comes up to speed with international practices. Mainly in healthcare sector, we are completely dependent on Western countries.

Overall patent filling trend is not very encouraging. The ministry report of 2018-19 says the number of applications for patents filed in 2018-19 was 50667 . The number may look bright but if we compare with the last 10 year filing trends it showing an annual increase of average 2000 applications, it was 43197 in 2010-11.

If we compare with China as per the WIPO available data, this looks miniscule . China is filing average 15 lakh patent applications per year in the last few years. Another interesting fact is among them almost 80% are resident filing (Around 12.5 lakh). In contrast in India average 28% percentage are resident filings where as 70% are filed by Foreign applicants mostly companies who file them as extended arm of their foreign filings as they have big market to capitalise. Other Asian countries like Japan and South Korea are also among the top 5 patent filers in the world. In China, the government has put unjustifiable amounts of money in creating and commercializing IPR.

Coming to healthcare, the global trend shows 10.6% of the total applications are being filed in the healthcare sector. This includes 4.5% in medical technology, 2.1% in biotechnology and 4% in pharma sector. In contrast in India, only about 3% patent applications are from the healthcare sector.

In terms of healthcare related innovations, small countries like Netherland, Switzerland and UK are far ahead than even top filers i.e. USA and China. World’s 24% Medical Technology related innovation comes from these 3 European countries. They also has 22% share in Pharma sector innovations and 14% in biotechnology related patents. USA holds 8.5% of world’s pharma sector innovations, 5.5% Medical Technology and 3.6% Biotechnology related innovations.

Why are we legging behind? The answers is in the fundamentals of research and how it is defined here., There’s a myth amongst scientists that they can’t put science and commerce together. So often Indian scientists believe that they have to either publish or perish. However, the current global economic conditions have shown that you can publish and prosper. There are examples to show that good science and good business can happen together without the scientists having to take time off from their job. You can do good business with partnership models. The government too has a huge role to play—in terms of incentive structure for the scientists.

The concept of risk taking is also different in India and most of the companies are risk-averse in nature. Companies have to make a calculated bet before launching a new product in the market. The product-business strategy followed by the Indian companies are completely different and the mindset of major biotech companies are largely service-centric. They work on outsourced model which requires less investment. Indian biotech companies cannot afford huge investment that is needed for establishing a product manufacturing company.

Our science and research establishments does not have a commercial focus. If you look at the history of research in India, after independence and until recently we have been doing only reverse engineering to reduce our dependence on imports and forex.

Government needs to specially develop a research fund where they invite private partners to accelerate health and pharma research and bring out innovations to helps the poor and needy.

Binod Singh is the Co-founder & Director at EINFOLGE