Making South African Biomedical Science Profitable: Can Academic Patenting and Licensing Deliver?
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Innovations in the biopharmaceutical sector are heavily dependent on knowledge/technology transfer relationships between academic research and industrial actors (firms). The South African biopharmaceuticals sector is characterized by a paradox whereby on one hand the country possesses a robust biomedical knowledge production/research system but a failure in the uptake of locally produced knowledge and the application of the same in production (innovation). One way in which South African policy seeks to address this paradox is by formulating a framework for intellectual property (IP) protection for publicly funded research modeled along the American Bayh Dole Act. This paper investigates the role of academic patenting and licensing in addressing the paradox. The paper examines 2 broad factors considered to be critical in understanding learning and innovation processes between academia and industry namely the nature of interactions between university and industry and the relation between university research and clinical application. The paper shows that university/industry linkages are weak and that the South African biopharmaceutical sector is characterized by very low patenting and licensing activity both at universities and firms.