Patents pending: A new initiative aims to encourage innovation

 

In late January 2012 the Abu Dhabi Technology Development Committee (TDC) launched a new initiative with the goal of stoking innovation and knowledge-based economic development. Known as Takamul – which means “integration” in Arabic – the programme offers financial support and legal guidance to local start-ups, entrepreneurs, and other technology-based research and development (R&D) organisations.

The first phase, which is currently under way, is meant to boost the number of international patents granted to Abu Dhabi-based entities. “Patents are an important part of the innovation lifecycle as they facilitate the technology transfer process,” said Ahmed Saeed Al Calily, the director-general of the TDC. “Patent output from Abu Dhabi is relatively low, which Takamul aims to address during its initial phase.”

DRIVING DEVELOPMENT: The TDC has a mandate to “encourage, support and supervise the development of science, technology and innovation” (STI) at all levels in Abu Dhabi. The government’s long-term STI plan is meant to transform a handful of key sectors, including oil and gas services, semiconductor development and manufacturing, the aerospace industry, clean technology development, and the information and communications technology sector. Additionally, the STI plan also aims to bring about major advances in the emirate’s national security and health sector, as well as the environmental industry.

With these goals in mind, the TDC spent the past three years analysing Abu Dhabi’s existing STI framework. The committee has organised its efforts into five critical policy areas: human capital, R&D, infrastructure, enterprise development, and laws and regulations. The Takamul programme is expected to touch on almost all of these areas. In particular, the initiative has the potential to positively impact R&D and enterprise development. While the initial phase will focus on increasing patent output from local organisations, later stages will include support for patent commercialisation and product licensing, according to reports from the TDC.

HOME-GROWN INNOVATION: While the official launch of Takamul took place in early 2012, a pilot version was carried out in 2011. This trial run achieved positive results, with 13 patents being filed in a wide variety of areas, and as of November 2012 35 more were expected to be filed before the end of 2013.

With support from Takamul, a research team at UAE University (UAEU) received a patent for an organic antibiotic that has the potential to protect against food-borne bacteria. The compound comes from a unique type of sugar that is found in the pits of dates.

Another Takamul-supported team operating out of UAEU received a patent for developing a method to synthesise carbon nanotubes out of microalgae by-products. This new process could potentially have major ramifications for a wide variety of manufacturing products, including semiconductors, synthetic lubricants and various electronics, among others.

MASDAR: Another early beneficiary of the Takamul initiative was the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, a government-led graduate-level university developed in conjunction with the US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Masdar received a number of patents under the programme, including one for the development of a networked cellulose material, which could potentially be used to lower the costs associated with manufacturing pharmaceuticals. The university also received a patent for work on a new biodegradable nano-composite material that could eventually be used as a substitute for plastic.

The Takamul pilot programme also supported researchers at the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company’s Petroleum Institute in developing an algorithm that could help oil exploration teams identify deposits faster and more accurately; a team from UAEU that is working on a device to detect poisonous gases in the hydrocarbons industry; and a team from Abu Dhabi-based Khalifa University that is now working on military-grade cryptography technology for broadband networks.

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