I recently organized a one day workshop hosted by Department of Research and Innovation (DRI) under Ministry of Education (MOE), Yangon on 20th October, 2016. The purpose of the event is to setup a guideline for University, Research Institute and Industry (URI) collaboration practice in Myanmar. The guideline is expected to assist companies when they introduce new product innovation, provide incentives to researchers and to manage expectation of R&D. With an effective URI collaboration, the industry and the SMEs would be able to upgrade raw materials into value-added products by supporting research facilities from university such as measurements on their properties, maintenance on quality control, setting the required norms and standards of university and research institute.
Participants were from the ministries such as the Ministry of Industry (MOI), Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (MOALI), Ministry of Construction (MOC), Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) and Ministry of Public and Sports (MOPS), Government universities under MOE. Representatives from non-government organizations, including Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), Myanmar Industry Association (MIA), Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Myanmar Engineering Society (MES) also attended. This workshop attracted more than 130 participants, where 25 from industry sector, 36 from University, 45 from Research Institutes. Media was also invited.
On the morning session, speakers talked about URI collaboration including industry, university, research institute and Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) representative share her experiences and knowledge on URI collaboration practices. On the afternoon session, I explained about questionnaires feedback of URI collaboration and briefly discussed about draft guideline of URI collaboration. The Workshop continued with a round table discussion about feedback comments on the URI collaboration where group leader of each representative discussed on how to improve URI partnerships, benefits and potential opportunities for future partnerships and challenges that prevent stronger URI collaboration.
Based on their comments, the crucial points to improve URI partnership are to strengthen the partnerships among URI; share the benefit of research outcome; networking; improve mutual understanding of different organizations; transparent and clear policy; a sustainable monitoring and evaluation; and collaboration agreement .
Representatives from each group suggested to establish central body institution for URI and launch in website of URI collaboration to spread out up-to-date information among URI, to setup funding foundation without supervision of government organization, to held awareness seminar on national laboratory services and standardization of products, to collaborate with international organization on expert area of URI linkages and access to get high level skills on sustainable development for new product and manufacturing process.
The first approach to enhance URI collaboration is to show off the exhibition of research projects by university and research institute to industry. Then, research facilities and laboratory services from university and research institute could share and access to complementary technology knowledge on commercialization product of industry. In order to access measurement data for private sector, university and research institute have to establish central lab in university campus and launch an information hub of research facilities and laboratory services in university website.
The Deputy Director General of DRI, Dr. Phyu Phyu Win and Dr. Zaw Min Naing suggested on the next steps to setup information hub by MOE, to spread out collected data (research facilities and laboratory services) among URI, to propose government incentives to researcher on R&D, to promote skill level of researcher by giving relevant training, to revise syllabus and curriculum of university in-line with industry demand, to encourage employment opportunity by giving intensive training in industry, to establish research funding for R&D project in University charter to start-up URI collaboration model.
As an ASEAN fellow, I have a unique opportunity to communicate with policy maker and stakeholders from different government Ministries and non-government organizations such as UMFCCI, MIA, MES, SMEs during fellowship program. In my opinion, government Ministries (MOE and MIA) should jointly revise government regulations on STI policy by introducing URI collaboration policy and establishing a business incubator and Publicly Funded Research Organizations (PROs) or Technology Transfer Office (TTO) as well as Intellectual Property (IP) office which will shape existing technology to product innovation. Moreover, STI policy strongly recognize and incentives for researchers by rewarding academic inventors and allowing percentage of the research budget such as R&D funds mobilized from private sources, earnings from consulting, income from patent licensing, and participation in spin-offs or start-ups.
Those PROs protect intellectual property rights to encourage the economic applications of their discoveries for the benefit of the public and help research more attractive and better supported. National government should encourage public authorities to contribute to this capacity-building process on URI collaboration, recognizing that a voluntary and widely-adopted program can yield substantial payback to society as a whole. I will continue to be involved in this by drafting action plan to draw up guideline of URI collaboration and the network directory of engineering and directory of research facilities to promote URI linkages to be published by AUN/SEED-Net and the Ministry of Education websites.
About the Author:
Dr. Ei Ei Htwe is associate professor and ASEAN-U.S. S&T Fellow (2016-17) working under Department of Research and Innovation, Ministry of Education. Through the ASEAN-U.S. S&T Fellowship program, Dr. Ei Ei Htwe will focus on emphasizing Science, Technology and Innovation Policy to strengthen the collaboration work among Universities, Research Institute and Industry (URI). Dr. Ei Ei Htwe graduated with a Bachelor Degree of Engineering (Mechanical) from Mandalay Technological University (MTU) (2000), Master Degree from Yangon Technological University (YTU) (2002) and Doctoral Degree from YTU, Myanmar (2006).