x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Innovation scheme a boost to inventors

Government body hopes to increase number of patents granted to UAE's developers.

ABU DHABI // The number of US patents granted to inventors in Abu Dhabi is expected to soar in the next two years thanks to the emirate's new innovation programme.

From one US patent in 2010, authorities envisage nine by 2014.

Yesterday, the Abu Dhabi Technology Development Committee (TDC) launched the Takamul programme, after it filed 13 inventions with the US Patent Office during its one-year pilot phase.

This is from where the nine new patents are expected to come.

TDC - a government body formed to coordinate the development of science and technology in the emirate - funded 50 to 90 per cent of the approximate Dh70,000 filing fee.

According to the director general of TDC, Ahmed Al Calily, this was the most practical way to set up the building blocks for a knowledge-based economy, in line with Abu Dhabi's 2030 Economic Vision.

"Grand plans and grand statements don't work, so we are working with our other partners in the Government to address the challenges in a very practical and pragmatic manner," he said.

Mr Al Calily said Takamul was inspired by the imbalance between the growing amount of research and the stagnant level of patenting.

The one US patent granted for Abu Dhabi in 2010 contrasts with 603 patents for Singapore and 1,143 for Finland. The first stage of the pilot was jump-started by conducting nine awareness workshops. According to Mr Al Calily, some inventors were not aware of the importance of filing a patent before publishing their results.

"Many are deterred from patenting because it can be tedious and financially burdensome," he said.

Filing for a UAE patent can take up to seven years just to get it reviewed by the Ministry of Economy, which then outsources its patent applications through the Austrian Patent Office - a process that can take up to 10 years.

Mr Al Calily said the ministry was aware of the issue and would "change as they start to see a greater volume of patents" being filed.

The Takamul programme bypasses that process by filing directly through the US Patent office, which takes three years.

Dr Arafat Al Dweik, from Khalifa University, said he published his new ideas in journals because filing for a patent was "too expensive".

Dr Al Dweik, who has invented a data security technique for wireless systems, said the programme would "change the culture in the country regarding copyright and intellectual property".

The 13 patents filed cover various innovations within the medical, cleantech, information and communications technology, semiconductors and oil and gas industries.

Dr Fabrice Saffre, of the research and innovation centre EBTIC, invented "smart radio towers", which can power down to reduce by about 40 per cent the energy wasted from the wireless access network without losing coverage.

Dr Saffre was inspired by the way termites build their nests through collective intelligence.

"We're actually mimicking the software of nature," he said.

Other inventions include creating antibiotics from date pits used for chicken feed; a device to detect poisonous gases; the world's smallest nano transistor and harvesting carbon nanotubes from biofuel waste.

Dr Steve Griffiths, the executive director of Institute Initiatives at the Masdar Institute, said the programme was "all about the inventors and getting the right people in the right place".

Dr Ioannis Economou, of The Petroleum Institute, said it was vital to set up an "appropriate environment, like the science and technology parks they have in the West".

He said the UAE had "goodwill" but lack of funding was a problem.

Just 0.2 per cent of the GDP goes toward innovation, compared with 2.5 per cent in Europe and North America.

Mr Al Calily said the Ministry of Economy "understands the importance" of addressing the laws and regulations as innovation and activity grows in the emirate. By 2015, TDC hopes to have sponsored the filing of 80 patents through Takamul, with an anticipated 70 per cent success rate. A second phase later this year will focus on "capturing the economic value" by commercialising and licensing ideas.

"We are working in a very structured and concrete manner to be able to achieve those long-term objectives," said Mr Al Calily.