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[BEIJING] Research institutes in China that carry out government-sponsored research projects will in future be able to claim ownership of the intellectual property resulting from such research, the Ministry of Science and Technology announced in Beijing yesterday (20 May).

The measure represents a significant shift in the management of science and technology in China, and replaces the current practice under which the results of all government-sponsored research belongs to the state.

According to a statement released jointly by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Finance, research institutes will be free to apply and use the results of government-funded projects as they choose, apart from projects that involve state security or significant national interests.

This could, for example, including licensing the results for a fee to other organisations, or using it to form science-based companies.

Most of China’s research institutes are state-owned, and most of the country's research programmes are financed by the government. So the drive to allow these institutes to own the property rights to the results of such research is widely seen a contributing substantially to the importance and independence of such organisations.

Some of these are currently in the process of being given complete independence from the state. As a result, say many policy experts, the ministry’s move is likely to help such reforms by reducing direct government involvement in the running of the institutes, and boosting their financial prospects.

“The move has been aimed at encouraging researchers to devote more effort to technological invention, and strengthening the application of the products of research to the development of new technologies,’’ a spokesperson for the ministry said on Monday.

In addition to transferring the ownership of intellectual property to the research institutes, the Ministry of Science and Technology has also promised to provide funding to the institutes to help them apply for and defend patent rights on their research.

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