Why does Spain lag in Innovation? A case study for challenges in Technology Transfer to the Private sector.
Spain is a world leader in science production, but lags in innovation output. The reasons are complex and numerous, but IP managers at the public-private interface can shed light on some of the limiting factors that slow down the innovation process.
In managing public innovation assets, typically Patents protecting low TRL technologies, research and technology centers in Spain consistently overvalue their contribution, thus lowering the possibilities of successful licensing. This overvaluation stems from the inexperience in the industrialization process. This inexperience is compounded by a systemic lack of educated staff in Tech Transfer offices, in which MBAs abound, but not people with experience in startups, or even real business experience. As a result, young companies seeking to license public technology are treated as large corporations. Add a national risk-averse mentality, and the result is what we have: a country with a relative high amount of science output, but dismal numbers in innovation. The whole CSIC, the foremost national research system, has an output of less than 100 patents a year, while any large tech company files thousands of patents a year. Moreover, most of these Patents are never licensed or commercially developed. In summary, Spain´s pains can be summarized as few patents and low conversion of patents into licenses.
A first approximation solution to this low conversion rate is simply to take more risk on the public side: accept lower short-term returns from licenses and ventures, multiply deals, move monetization events to later development stages. The State can and must take a long position, and accept higher risk for Innovation projects. Israel and other European countries base their success story partially on this long-term strategy. This column will develop these ideas in further detail. Stay tuned!