University researchers are gradually leaving their ivory towers to cooperate with businesspeople and utilize the technology they have developed.

An Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry white paper submitted to the Cabinet on Friday shows that 95 new ventures were established in fiscal 2002 based on technologies developed by university researchers, bringing the total number of such ventures in Japan to 531. There were 144 such ventures in fiscal 1998, rising to 436 in fiscal 2001.

To beef up Japan’s industrial competitiveness, the government is reinforcing cooperation between institutions of higher education and industrial sectors.

It enacted a law in 1998 to promote the transfer of technological patents from university researchers to businesses. The overall number of such patent transfers through 28 authorized technology licensing organizations reached 705 in fiscal 2002, the white paper said.

TLOs apply for patents on university researchers’ inventions and transfer the technology to companies. The researchers and their institutions receive royalties from the firms.

The report says more technological achievements at universities should be utilized for industrial development, and calls for greater use of the research and development capabilities of universities, which it claims are of a top level internationally.

The education ministry expects a scheme to turn national universities into independent administrative entities will enhance collaboration between institutions and the business sector.

The new system, which will take effect in April, gives national universities greater autonomy to carry out more joint projects with the private sector and enables them to take strategic management of intellectual properties, including patents obtained by university researchers. Such patents currently belong either to individual researchers or the state.

Companies and universities are also cooperating to help students and businesspeople expand their capabilities.

Some 317 universities — nearly half of the nation’s total — offered internship programs in fiscal 2002, the report says. The government drew up a guideline to implement internship programs in 1997 and began providing subsidies in 1998, and the program has since spread rapidly, an education official said.

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