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A billion worth science and business alliance
The “Integrated Science, Studies and Business Centre (Valley) for the Development of the Lithuanian Maritime Sector” implemented by Klaipeda University is slowly gaining material basis – a great deal of laboratory equipment has been acquired, tenders for construction of buildings and research ship are underway, but it is not as yet clear how this integration of science and business will proceed, what particular areas will be covered by the research of the scientists employed in the valley and how these will be applied practically in maritime industries.
The worldwide experience of science, studies and business integration for the Klaipeda people involved in the development of the Maritime Valley.
In quest for answers to these questions Dr. Pierre Jean Everaert, one of the major shareholders and founders of Klaipeda Free Economic Zone (FEZ), was invited to share his experience with Klaipeda academic and business communities with mediation and assistance of Management Company of the Klaipeda FEZ.
This person has gained a huge experience while working in top positions for various world-famous corporations, including Goodyear, Philips, and others. And it was exactly integration of business and science that served as basis for such experienced. For instance, the Philips company alone has patented thousands of inventions which are still used all over the world, and revenue from such patents account for a significant share of the company’s turnover.
Recently Dr. P. J. Everaertas and his associates have worked and obtained ideas in the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) whose economies are now developing at the fastest rate in the world and whose GNP growth significantly outrace the growth of GNP of the US, still the biggest world economy.
According to the visitor, the reason for this is the fact that implementation of innovations in the US has ceased while it experiences upsurge in the BRIC countries. What it means to economy was illustrated by Dr. P. J. Everaert in his presentation with the famous slogan “Innovate or Die” of Tom Peters, a celebrated author of American business publications.
The presenter gave telling figures that may well illustrate the causes of diverging development rates: for example, the number of trainees and graduates annually getting degrees in various fields of engineering in Chinese higher education institutions is 10-12 times as high as that in the United States; and India overtakes the US by 5-6 times in this respect. It is a well-known fact that humanities and social studies in Lithuania are also more popular that engineering studies, and as a result a number of industrial and production companies say that they encounter with the deficit of skilled workforce despite the fairly high unemployment levels in the country.
Dr. P. J. Everaert presented seminar “Intellectual Property – the search, systemisation, protection and commercialization of sources” to the people in charge of implementation of the Maritime Valley Project of Klaipeda University seeking practical and mutually beneficial cooperation with business.
According to the visitor, pursuing scientific work presumes knowledge of practical application of one’s scientific research and what kind of value it will produce. Dr. P. J. Everaert presented schemes showing how the results of research and inventions can be translated into legally protected intellectual property and made suitable for its “use”, i.e. for delivery on market.
Importance of that was illustrated by the presenter with the list of the US registered patents including inventions dating from the middle and beginning of the 20th century of even the end of the 19th century, such as laser (1958), microwave oven (1945), LCD screen (1963), nuclear reactor (1942), air conditioner (1902), vulcanized rubber (1839), electric engine (1834) or, last but not least, Coca Cola (1870), still generate billions of dollars to the companies that patented these products.
According to Dr. P. J. Everaert, many universities in the world have business sales departments whose managers, just as in business structures, offer to customers, i.e., relevant industries, intellectual property created by universities and research establishments. The visitor suggested that an idea of founding such department at Klaipeda University, in the so-called Maritime Valley, should be considered; it could maintain close contacts with business community and would facilitate commercialization of achievements of the University scientists.
On the other hand, the presenter encouraged the implementers of the Maritime Valley project to make their research more specific, in other words, to clearly define concrete areas of the maritime sector that should be given priority and respectively position Klaipeda University in both local and world market.
According to P. J. Everaert, the matter is that marine engineering or marine biotechnologies are rather differently understood concepts and encompass a vast research area from marine tourism and infrastructure and ports required for it, modernisation and development of their technologies, extraction of energy resources at sea to the fishing industry.
When creating the Maritime Valley, representatives of port industry, who participated in its foundation, expected a greater extent of research to be carried out exactly in the area of port technologies and development, however, a certain disappointment and misunderstanding appeared because of the scholars’ inclination to lay heavier emphasis on the marine biology or similar research area.
According to P. J. Everaert, in spite of that and because the academic community resolved to make essential changes and re-focus their strategy not only towards the science as such but also to what practical application and value it will create, the Maritime Valley project will undoubtedly deliver tangible results and since, as the visitor said, the Baltic Sea, with all its problems and opportunities, will always remain here and thus scientists will always have the object of search and research.
Rimantas Didžiokas, Vice-Rector of Klaipeda University for development and international contacts and President of the Baltic Valley Association coordinating activities of the Maritime Valley, having heard the presentation by Dr. P. J. Everaert, said that the roads to success in development of the project proposed by the guest are acceptable and desirable.