Evidence of meeting #32 for Industry, Science and Technology in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was patents.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Gay Yuyitung  Business Development Manager, McMaster Industry Liaison Office, McMaster University
  • Scott Inwood  Director, Commercialization, University of Waterloo
  • David Barnard  President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Manitoba
  • Digvir Jayas  Vice-President, Research and International, University of Manitoba
  • Catherine Beaudry  Associate Professor, Department of Mathematical and Industrial Engineering, École Polytechnique de Montréal , As an Individual

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart Burnaby—Douglas, BC

From your research, do you have any suggestions on how you'd boost that number? Some firms would be able to survive with more patents. Is there anything you found that the government could do to boost that number?

9:25 a.m.

Associate Professor, Department of Mathematical and Industrial Engineering, École Polytechnique de Montréal , As an Individual

Dr. Catherine Beaudry

I think at the moment there's an incentive, probably from a lot of venture capitalists who want to have something to sell as their exit strategy when they capitalize on the company they have invested in.... Companies decide that if they want to get venture capital, then they need to get patents. The venture capitalists will push toward the patents when they want to move towards their exit strategy.

Patents are also important for the firm when they start to collaborate. More and more firms need external expertise when they want to go towards the market for the clinical trials, for prototyping, and other subjects, or just the production and commercialization. They need to protect their IP before they can collaborate, so they can clearly mark that something is theirs, that something else is yours, and that that is how they're going to move forward as an alliance or partnership.

They need to patent, but there's a race to be the first at what we call in French the Bureau canadien des Brevets, the patent office. Maybe firms are spending too many resources on patenting, and once it's time to commercialize then they're left fairly fragile or are weakened somehow.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Thank you very much.

I'll just move on to the universities in general. Have you thought about experimenting with the tenure structure? I went through tenure in 2009, and my incentives were pretty clear: 40% publications, 40% teaching, 20% community service. I know they're different for different universities and different departments, but have you talked about your tenure structure at all, in terms of pushing academics towards more patenting?

9:25 a.m.

Vice-President, Research and International, University of Manitoba

Dr. Digvir Jayas

At the University of Manitoba, I think it depends more on the faculty. For example, in engineering, patents would be considered and given weight in the tenure application, but in social sciences maybe not as much. So I would say the faculties are certainly aware of patents and the value they bring to the research enterprise. As Catherine mentioned, patents lead to publications and then to increased citations, so researchers see that value in connecting.

I don't think patents won't be used; it depends on the unit. Computer science programs will recognize that, health sciences will recognize that.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Have you had these discussions about tenure at your university? You're obviously rewarding with financial incentives as royalties, or that's what you're looking at doing, and that's how you're trying to coax your faculty into making more patents. Have you had discussions about the tenure structure, or is that kind of a no-go area?

9:25 a.m.

Vice-President, Research and International, University of Manitoba

Dr. Digvir Jayas

We've not had as many university-level discussions on that, but we have had unit-level discussions.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Do you have any movement on that? Is that something you would share with other universities?

9:25 a.m.

Vice-President, Research and International, University of Manitoba

Dr. Digvir Jayas

I don't know about other universities. Maybe David would have a better idea.

9:25 a.m.

President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Manitoba

Dr. David Barnard

If you're asking if we are having targeted discussions about the idea of tenure and how it's implemented, no.

Are there variations by faculty? That's the question Digvir answered, I think. Are we as an institution looking to renegotiate tenure? No, we think there are simpler ways to make progress.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Sweet

Mr. Inwood.

9:25 a.m.

Director, Commercialization, University of Waterloo

Scott Inwood

I could make a comment on that. I don't know if I would personally support including patenting as part of the tenure process, because what invariably happens is you'll drive what I call vanity patents—people trying to file patents for the sake of having patents. I think a patent should only be filed if there's a commercial opportunity.

I think what would be more interesting in the university environment—and I've made noises about it with my senior administration in the past—is sort of a sabbatical, an entrepreneurial sabbatical for those faculty members who are involved in something that looks commercially interesting and validated through groups such as ours. When we want to work to promote a technology, quite often you can't divorce the lead inventor from the commercial activity, at least initially. But we also don't want to have our faculty members leaving the institution. That's not what we're trying to do either.

A happy compromise might be to offer periodic entrepreneurial sabbaticals to assist in commercialization.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madame Beaudry.

9:30 a.m.

Associate Professor, Department of Mathematical and Industrial Engineering, École Polytechnique de Montréal , As an Individual

Dr. Catherine Beaudry

I'm on the promotion committee at École Polytechnique de Montréal and it is not very well seen if someone has, for three years, a patent application and no publications whatsoever because they don't want to compromise the patent.

Academics need to keep other research on track at the same time as they're filing a patent. If I'm mono-disciplinary and I'm aiming for a patent, once the patent is issued and I do something else, it will not be very well seen.

There's an increasing tendency by the grant-awarding bodies—which as you know are the tri-councils or the tri-academies, or whatever you want to call them—toward measure impact, and patents are only one type of impact on the cards, and only for specific faculties. As you mentioned, copyright is better suited for computers and software.

I think it's important to measure societal impact beyond a patent as well.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Sweet

Thank you very much, Madame Beaudry.

Now we'll go on to Mr. McColeman for seven minutes.

May 17th, 2012 / 9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, witnesses, for being here today.

I want to go back to Mr. Inwood to pick up on his de-risking comments that were cut short. I'd like to know more about de-risking and what that means. You talked about packaging it, packaging something that could go forward, but is there more to it than that?