Sieve in a scientific way: how technologies “drain away” from Ukraine

Sieve in a scientific way: how technologies “drain away” from Ukraine

R&D establishments are terra incognita, uncharted territory, where there seems to be no horizon limit for Ukraine. Budget allocates “pocket change” for science funding, which is only just enough to cover the minimum needs of scientists. At the same time, such an important issue as the audit and patenting of new technologies and developments is often put off until tomorrow.

But tomorrow never comes. After all, patent – costly affair. To assure the reliable protection it shall be formalized not only in Ukraine, but in other countries having developed technological economy as well. Patents in the US or China will cost dozens of thousands dollars.

Commercial spies (or simply “curious guests”) from other countries have long enjoyed this vulnerability with a great relish. Why one shall transact a deal for the purchase of rights to technology with the institute being in pure and simple position to lure away its key employee, who has “all the formulas and drawings in his/her head?”

Several scenarios

It’s not uncommon for the Ukrainian developers to depart with their developments. But scientists prefer to be secretive about them. “Not long ago the female employee of one of our institutes developed the absorbent absorbing hazardous substances. But it turned out that in our country no one needed her development for a long time. However, in one of the European countries the female employee of great promise was noticed and was invited to work. As of today the European company is developing the chemical defense equipment – gas masks.” told one of the employees of the National Academy of Sciences, preferring not to mention both his mane and name of his workfellow.

Ukrainian scientists go abroad together with their developments

Many technologies may “slip away” in open form too – through scientific cooperation events of our institutes with other counties. For instance, the Institute of the Information Registration Problems of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine is in an active cooperation with Zhejiang University of Technology, China, for several years already. The Chinese party regularly invites delegations of our scientists. They share experience, pieces of advice. For example, to launch mass production of microprisms, which helps to treat strabismus. This is a country-level problem for the Chinese. And scientists from our institute go to China several times a year. This is certainly a very useful cooperation, but our scientists have no international patents. There are only Ukrainian ones.

Ivan Gorbov, Senior Researcher at the Institute of the Information Registration Problems, agrees that the risk of technology copying always exists. And patents will not protect from this. According to him, it’s luck that it is too difficult to repeat the technology in full. “There are nuances, and we will not disclose them.” scientist emphasized.

Disappear from the radar fields

Another example of open cooperation – joint project of team of scientists from Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology with American Graphite Technologies Inc. (Nevada). The Americans were interested in the fact that that since the Soviet period Ukraine has vast research base in the field of new materials development from advanced carbon forms. Dmytro Vynohradov, Researcher of the Institute, thanks to the funding from the American party, was working for several years on the 3D printing technology of details using the graphene. The Americans do not disclose the research results. But, in the event of success all the intellectual rights to innovation will be owned by the American company. Wide manufacturing application of graphene layers will cause the revolution in electronics. After all, it surpasses traditional plastic, metal and glass as to strength and elasticity. But to bring this technology to the end for its use in mass production, the parties concerned shall invest plenty of money in R&D. As a general rule, neither the Ukrainian business, nor the government, is ready to take on long-term project if the prospect unknown. Usually foreigners are much more interested in such projects

Joint projects with foreigners – opened way of Ukrainian technologies “leakage”

Foreigners are also interested in the developments of Laboratory of Radio and Optical Holography of V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University. According to Volodymyr Titar, Head of this laboratory, all his attempts at making the Ukrainian government interested in our developments in the field of holography have not been successful. Though, the Japanese and the Koreans, according to him, used to come to Kharkiv city with amazing regularity. Once he was even offered $20 thous. for the sale of patent. But he refused. It is known that Titar participated in the American startup Bleen as the scientific adviser. Through the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, Bleen raised funds to create household holograph to watch 3D video at home. Currently the destiny of promising product is unknown. Startup disappeared from the radars. Who will use the Ukrainian holographic technology and for what purpose? There are no answers here.

There are examples of win-win situations

Kyiv Institute of Cybernetics of Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, place of employment of professor Mikhail Schlesinger, one of the world’s leading experts in image processing and pattern recognition, literally became the incubator for startups in the sphere of pattern recognition. Based on the preliminary studies of the Institute, well-known start-up Viewdle was launched, which was subsequently sold to Google for $40 mln. Schlesinger was a member of the company’s scientific council.

Viewdle startup, developed based on the Ukrainian preliminary studies, was bought by Google for $40 mln

“Considering the real Ukrainian life, I would rather call this the mutually beneficial cooperation, then technologies export.” told Viktor Sdobnikov, Head of Strategic R&D at Apostera company, specializing in computer vision technologies. In this very case the Institute was not left with nothing. According to Sdobnikov, partners have joint patents, whose authors are the Institute employees and company’s CEO Jason Mitura. Moreover, Viewdle and the Institute have concluded official contracts with tax remissions.

According to Viktor Sdobnikov, the technologies export is almost impossible, because the number of experts in this field is not large at all. And, as a general rule, they know each other. “Investors and funds are not interested in making one project. On the contrary, their business model is built on a variety of projects. And that’s not going to happen for the second time if you have ill fame.” he said.

Patent application may be submitted within 12 months from the date of of summary of invention

Valeriy Zhaldak, Head of Intellectual Property Department of the Ministry of Economic Development, gives advice to our inventors to remember the “exception to lack of novelty” rule, when they present promising developments. “Disclosure of the information on the development by the inventor himself will not prevent him from patenting invention in his name, provided that he submits the patent registration application within 12 months from the date of such accidental (or not accidental) disclosure of summary of his invention.” he told. This provision exists both in the Ukrainian and in international legislation. Thus, if our scientists start to realize that partners are willing to communicate with them for the sake of valuable information obtaining only, there is always time to be on the safe side.