SUMIKURA, Koichi

To implement policies through coevolution To explore an ecosystem for evidence-based industry-university-government collaboration

SUMIKURA, Koichi : Professor, GRIPS

SUMIKURA, Koichi
GRIPS Professor

Ph.D. from the University of Tokyo Graduate School for Engineering in 1998; Visiting assistant at the University of Tokyo's Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology (RCAST) in 1998; RCAST assistant in 1999; Assistant Professor at GRIPS in 2001; GRIPS Associate Professor in 2007; GRIPS Professor from 2016; also works as a lead researcher at the No. 2 Group of the National Institute of S&T Policy (NISTEP) housed in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT)

Expertise is in intellectual property policy and S&T policy

Policymaking by integrating knowledge from industry, government, and university

Q: Would you tell us about your current research?

A: My project is to examine the implementation of translational research (TR) that is to transform the basic research results in medical field into clinical stage. This is closely related to the GRIPS project that started in the latter half of 2005 on how to support and promote TR. Actually, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) began to support TR from 2007 based on the outcome from the GRIPS TR project. The first phase was 5 years from 2007-2011, and the second from 2012-2016. Now it is in the turning point in the third phase (2017-2021). The number of TR centers has been increasing. Not only MEXT but the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) is supporting TR. The future of TR is to use the past research results and plan how to make sustainable support to promote the implementation. This was the policy issue of the MEXT Life Science Division.

So, by examining and referencing various funding methods including overseas cases, we proposed a new funding scheme for TR from an academic viewpoint, and presented a plan to implement it in policies. For example, Israel takes "hybrid funding" that is to have industrial investment in the government policies from the basic research stage, especially in IT field. The important in making such coevolution is to constantly know both the policy and industrial needs and expectations and promote through interactions between them. The collaboration between industry, government and university leads to better policymaking and forms the ecosystem for policymaking.

To challenge STI policy issues with focus on human resources training and patent system

Q: The Kaken-hi fund (curiosity driven-type government fund) has been supporting the Japanese basic science. The research result has been evaluated high to the extent to win the Nobel Prize. For example, Dr. Honjo, who won the Nobel Prize in medical and physiological fields in 2018 for the immune checkpoint blockade 'opdivo,' has developed his research from the basic stage through commercialization after obtaining the patent. However, such issues as the insufficient funding on basic research these days and need of support for researchers in negotiating for the patent compensation have been surfacing in Japan. What kind of ecosystem do you think is needed to solve such issues? And what are the issues in the future?

A: The important would be human resources training. Both natural and social sciences need not only the researchers, but also those who would be the intermediary between the policymaking and industrial people. Examples would be URAs and industry-university coordinators. The issue would be how to train these people to be professional and how to allocate them.

The above issue has not been intact. I finished my Ph.D. program and joined a university in 1998 when the idea of Technology Licensing Organization (TLO) that is the base for training industry-university collaborators began to emerge. In this sense, the pool of specialists has been growing since then. The SciREX activities include training of human resources who would be involved in implementing effective S&T innovation policies and industrial strategies, and GiST that functions as the hub of the SciREX program annually carries a Summer Camp.

On the other hand, some issues have remained intact such as a review of the Patent Law Article 73 that is deeply related to the patent compensation taken in Dr. Honjo's example above. It is because the regulations on sharing a patent are based on the cases between industrial companies. The Law does not apply to the patent sharing with an institute like a university that does not sell its products. When University A and Company B share a patent, they have to follow Patent Law Article 73. When licensing the shared patent, both the university and the company are required to have consent reciprocally. The company does not want it to be licensed to its competitors and it is ideal to use the patent freely at its convenience. Thus, it sounds like a rational deal. However, the university uses it to carry basic research, which is totally different from the use by a company that uses the patent for the purpose of commercialization. To offset such imbalance, the university asks the company to pay the "non-working compensation."

However, as it is a compensation without legal basis, companies are reluctant to make the payment. This is one of the factors that do not make smooth collaboration between universities and industries. For this reason, I believe that the Patent Law Article 73 should be modified and that we should follow the U.S. patent system that allows the universities to have the licensing rights at their discretion. This means that the universities transfer the rights to industries and the companies pay for the rights. Such compensation with legal basis would ultimately work better for companies rather than "non-working compensation" without legal basis.

As mentioned above, we need to be flexible in dealing with the current situation and way of thinking to coordinate the interests of the industries and the universities and to work on the legislation and policymaking.

SciREX activities nudge industry-university-government collaboration.

Q: The Evidence Based Policy Making (EBPM) has been getting more and more attention. However, isn't it difficult for the "Science for Science Policy" in the frontier fields where the "newest" constantly changes to exercise EBPM as it is not easy to obtain the evidence in the past?

A: It is true that the issues in the frontier fields lack the evidence in the past. So, it is essential to accumulate the evidences and analyze them. The quantitative evidence is of course important for the SciREX activities, and the qualitative evidence should also be taken into consideration to pursue EBPM. It is important to have EBPM rooted in the process of making policies while watching evidences, rather than depending on an individual forecast.

Q: When developing research from the basic stage through application, we have to make clear each of the issues that need to be solved while promoting industry-university-government collaboration and feedback the evidence-based knowledge on policies.

A: Exactly. As the goal of the industry-university-government collaboration depends on each case, there is no one answer to make everybody happy. Whenever an issue arises, all the players need to rationally face it and come to a compromise to have the best solution for the society.

Most of the industry-university-government collaboration issues cannot be solved by one of them. The issues are hidden between them. When the government tries to reflect the issues on the policies and establish a system, we need a place to discuss the issues. SciREX activities are there. Its missions are not only to solve individual cases, but also to establish a system by taking time and to train human resources who make contributions in solving such issues.


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