RIETI Innovation Seminar

Technology transfer and diffusion for innovation: Mechanism and policy agenda


  • Time and Date: 14:00-16:30, Tuesday, October 25, 2022
  • Venue: Online
  • Language: English



NAGAOKA Sadao (RIETI Program Director / Tokyo Keizai University)

Part 1

14:00-14:40 "Licensing Life-Saving Drugs for Developing Countries: Evidence from the Medicines Patent Pool"


GALASSO Alberto (University of Toronto)

14:40-15:00 Q&A

Part 2
Presentations by scholars in Japan

1) 15:00-15:30 "Determinants of commercialization mode of science: Evidence from panel data of university technology transfer in Japan"


FUKUGAWA Nobuya (Tohoku University)

15:30-15:45 Q&A

2) 15:45-16:15 "Language Barriers and the Speed of Knowledge Diffusion"


HIGHAM Kyle (Hitotsubashi University)

16:15-16:30 Q&A

Seminar Content

Technology transfer and diffusion are fundamental issues in fostering innovation, and this seminar was designed to understand the mechanisms and barriers to technology transfer and diffusion, and three recent studies were presented and discussed.

The first presentation was made by Professor Albert Galasso of the University of Toronto on the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) for developing countries, which was established with the support of the United Nations. Patent pools have been mainly used for collective licensing of complementary patent rights, such as patents essential to technical standards, so that we would have expected that a pool for less complementary patents, such as those for medicines, would be effective. According to the report, however, the Medicines Patent pool, which covered drugs such as HIV, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C, was highly effective in licensing patent rights for pharmaceuticals to developing countries. Although the mechanism is not necessarily clear, their research suggests that complementarity among medicines had no major impact, and that reduction of transaction costs (standardized contracts, ensuring compliance with agreements, etc.) was a major cause. The MPP also significantly increased the probability that a drug is actually launched on the market, but significantly less than the expansion of licensing, suggesting that the conditions that complement patent licensing (e.g., drug price, manufacturing capacity) are also important.

The second presentation, by Associate Professor Nobuya Fukugawa of Tohoku University, was on his comprehensive empirical study on the channels of technology transfer by Japanese universities. The study predicted the frequency of technology transfer from universities by modes, whether it takes place through university start-ups or licensing, based on the characteristics of the university to which the researchers belong. It finds that a university with a higher level of basic research (large number of projects funded by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research) have a higher level of university-initiated startups, even focusing on the changes over time for each university(within-variations). In addition, it finds that the level of joint patent applications with companies (the number of patents subject to non-practice compensation) is positively correlated with licensing but negatively correlated with the number of university-initiated startups. Further research is important to determine the extent to which this can be interpreted as a causal relationship (e.g., joint applications and university start-ups depend on the content of the research project), but the report identified significant relationships between these key variables.

The third report was by Dr. Kyle Higham of Hitotsubashi University on their research on language barriers and knowledge diffusion. It found that a half of the lag in knowledge dissemination from Japanese patent application literature to US based inventors (relative to Japanese inventors) was due to language barriers, and that such lag was greater among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), for whom translation cost is more difficult to recover. Furthermore, the pre-grant disclosure of patents encourages international knowledge dissemination by requiring foreign applicants to publish translations of documents at an early stage. The evaluation of the economic impact of the size of the language barrier is an important issue for the future.

(Report by Sadao Nagaoka, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry, Tokyo Keizai University)