Key role for universities in Egypt’s first IP strategy

Egypt has launched its first intellectual property (IP) strategy, which will be implemented by the higher education sector and research institutions, among others. The aim is to create a research environment and develop a higher education system that can prepare a generation that is capable of creativity and innovation which, in turn, can be converted into intellectual property.

As part of the strategy, an IP authority will be established to coordinate the efforts of IP departments and offices across Egypt, including those at universities and research institutions.

Also, the strategy envisages the monitoring, implementation and evaluation of all activities, initiatives and projects with the aim of developing an innovative society and knowledge-based economy.

The IP authority will also develop key performance indicators to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of the implementation of targets.

The five-year IP strategy (2022-27) was launched by Egypt’s Prime Minister, Mostafa Madbouly, on 21 September.

It aligns with the Development Agenda of the World Intellectual Property Organization or WIPO, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Egypt’s Vision 2030.

Professor Hamed Ead, the director of the Science Heritage Center at Cairo University, welcomed the strategy. He told University World News: “I am fully satisfied that [it] will be very beneficial for the university of the future.

“IP is a highly desirable asset in higher education institutions and universities which could be a tool for reaping unexpected financial gains,” Ead said.

“Higher education has focused on the discovery of new knowledge, which can turn into IP, but legislation, higher education policy, and-or contractual engagement may limit ownership or opportunities for IP ownership by those involved in the discovery process,” Ead pointed out.

“An IP strategy, therefore, will help universities and higher education institutions to become more involved in overseeing technology transfers [which can help them] to obtain research funding from private investors as well as [from] licensing IP,” he added.

Status of IP

The strategy indicated that Egypt suffered from some weaknesses related to IP, including a lack of expertise and developed human resources, the lack of integration between scientific and industry research, as well as the absence of a comprehensive exclusive pool of IP assets owned by the state.

These weaknesses in the IP system are noticeable from the 2021 record of the number of patent applications in Egypt, namely 2,225, including 881 from residents (Egyptian) and 1,344 from non-residents (foreigners).

Also, the 2021 record for registered patents in Egypt were 508, including 63 from residents and 445 from non-residents. This indicated that the number of patents applications and granted patents are low for Egyptians, compared to foreigners.

In 2021, most of the registered patents in Egypt were owned by companies (85%) followed by individuals (10%) and research centres (5%).

IP strategy strategic goals

Despite having a great wealth of intellectual output, Egypt lacks awareness about the concepts of IP, creativity and innovation, which has led to a less than optimal utilisation of the economic opportunities available to the state for activating the role of IP in all fields, according to the IP strategy.

Therefore, strategic goals of the IP strategy aimed, among others, at spreading awareness about IP concepts in order to motivate different segments of society to innovate, create, participate in research and development, and to produce technology contributing to an increasing production of IP, and its utilisation and economic exploitation therefrom.

To achieve these aims, the IP strategy will focus on promoting IP awareness in universities and research institutions, and motivating students and scholars to produce IP as well as maximising the use of IP in scientific research.

Action plan for universities

The IP strategy called upon universities and research institutions to adopt specific activities, projects and initiatives for integrating the concepts of creativity, innovation and intellectual property into the educational and research programmes including the following:

• Teaching an IP course at public universities that includes practical applications, the means of economic appropriation, and best global practices.

• Conducting a comprehensive review of the current intellectual property teaching curricula in universities to revise and reformulate them in line with international standards.

• Formulating clear intellectual property policies in all universities and research institutions that balance encouraging students and faculty members to innovate and preserving their rights, as well as their home universities’ rights, along with preserving the rights of host universities, institutions and bodies funding research projects.

• The establishment of innovation and technology support units in higher education and scientific research ministries as well as in universities, centres, institutes and research bodies that can support the IP system.

• Modifying individual university statutes or acts to assign the tasks of implementing and following up on IP policies to the vice-president of the university in charge of graduate studies and research.

• Optimising the economic return of IP in achieving the SDGs through encouraging the commercial exploitation of IP assets after their financial valuation, according to the latest international standards through maximising the use of IP in scientific research and linking it to the needs of the national industry.

• Activating the role of the Egyptian Innovation Bank as an e-platform that allows communication between research and academic institutions and innovators within industry to link the technological needs of this sector with information about the IP.

• Linking the projects of colleges and technical institute students with traditional industries in order to create innovative designs for heritage products that suit consumer preferences and keep pace with global trends.

• Linking the projects of graduates and postgraduate students, especially in technological universities, to the map of national development priorities.

• Establishing a guide for public domain patents, which have no IP protection and, therefore, can be used freely by anyone, and encourage academic, research, industrial and commercial institutions to use them effectively.