I’m sure that there are still many undiscovered inventors at the University of Silesia. Perhaps they haven’t thought that the results of their research, which constitute intellectual property, can be additionally protected, e.g. by obtaining a patent for invention, protective right for utility model or rights under industrial design registration. Such results are somehow given away to the world for free in scientific publications. In fact, patented inventions (and other protected industrial property objects) enrich the scientific output of their creators and strengthen the position of a university as an innovative unit. They also allow to think about economic profits resulting from the possession of exclusive rights to use protected solutions, which may be the effect of successful commercialisation of such solutions. It should be remembered that a lack of legal protection of industrial property objects basically prevents their effective commercialisation.
An Interview with Mariusz Grzesiczak, Patent Attorney at the University of Silesia.
Radio transmitter, light bulb, car – we can go on mentioning subsequent patented inventions that changed our world, and the list is endless. It turns out, however, that the word ‘invention’ has a much broader scope and does not always have to denote a specific material object. What is patented by scientists from the University of Silesia?
This question actually touches on the problem of applicability of a given solution. There are some ideas that we could introduce in the market almost right away. I think about designed instruments, devices and structural parts. However, they are a minority. In the case of activity of our scientists, I more frequently receive applications for material solutions or technologies of obtaining different chemical compounds, metal alloys, etc. Such solutions may also have the features of inventions, but we find it difficult to enter the market with them. They rather resemble little bricks in the long implementation technology process.
Even if the applicability of solutions is low at this point, without these actions there would be no progress in science. In particular, this is visible in the pharmaceutical industry…
It’s true. For example, we have many developed and patented chemical compounds which could help detect and treat cancers, HIV or Alzheimer’s disease. However, the way from a new solution to a drug available in a pharmacy is time-consuming and expensive, and frequently exceeds the organisational, and particularly financial capacities of a university. Although our scientists know about it, they do not disrupt their research, regarding its results as their contribution to education, and hoping that that it will contribute to improvement of health protection in the future.
So, is it easier to commercialise research results in other industries?
This is what I expected first, but the practice showed it was otherwise. There is still no good relation between science and business, and I’m not talking specifically about the University of Silesia, but this is something that I see across the country. Companies frequently search for new solutions on their own, and even if they think about cooperation with scientific institutions, they go to universities of technology first. In fact, universities such as ours, non-technical, ‘classical’, also have a great potential for inventions, which consists of the presence of open-minded and creative experts in many scientific disciplines, their knowledge and experience, research centres, as well as laboratory facilities.
This potential is particularly visible in annual reports of the Patent Office of the Republic of Poland (UPRP). For years the University of Silesia has been among the best institutions in terms of the number of patent applications, as well as granted patents and other exclusive rights, for example such as utility models and industrial designs.
It is worth adding that we are frequently classified among top three ‘classical’ universities in Poland. The number of patent applications grows every year. This mainly results from the increasing awareness of our scientists, who also want to protect the results of their research work in this way, and at the same time, they enlarge their scientific output. Let us remember that granted patents and other exclusive rights are rated similarly to scientific publications and conference presentations, which is additional motivation for scientists to try protecting their innovative ideas.
Who are the leaders?
It is mainly the scientists representing the Faculty of Science and Technology who patent their inventions. There are also single applications from the Faculty of Natural Sciences. Practice shows that physicists, chemists, material engineers, as well as biologists and representatives of earth sciences, can also think about patenting their solutions.
It is no surprise that inventions are created mainly by scientists who represent strictly technical sciences, but I must say that I’m getting increasingly interested in the Faculty of Natural Sciences, which is still undiscovered in terms of solutions that could be reported to the patent office. I watch scientists and motivate them to take such actions, because I see a huge potential for inventions in them.
Which of the already patented inventions do you remember particularly well?
There are many. For example, our scientists designed an interesting device for “taming” bacteria. By this I mean is the Automatic Biodetector of General Water Toxicity (ABTOW), which quickly and effectively detects low-concentration pollutants in water thanks to microorganisms.
What also stimulates my imagination is the structurally simple “mouthpiece” which enables to collect and store the respiratory phase of a human being, and is used particularly in detecting such illnesses as lung and larynx cancers. We also protect innovative materials with unique properties, for example metal alloys with shape memory (used e.g. for production of implants) and polymer materials, including photoluminescent, anti-bacterial, etc.
These are only a few examples among over 500 of our protected industrial property objects.
Thank you for the interview.
(information from the Office of Patent Attorneys at the University of Silesia of 25 February 2020)