Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Funding Legislation Under Consideration

Biotechnology firms in South Africa have urged MPs to reconsider clauses in the draft Technology Innovation Agency Bill that give the Agency rights to board representation and equity stakes in the firms it invests in, saying these rights would grant too much control to the government via the agency according the The Business Day, a leading South African business newspaper. The Technology Innovation Agency is a government backed initiative designed to “increase the rate at which home-grown research is turned into successful commercial products and services”. However, “Having a government agency as a shareholder and board member can seriously undermine the adaptability and decision-making capability essential for a fast-growing and dynamic company,” said AfricaBio’s Donrich Jordaan.

If the draft Technology Information Agency Bill is intended to be anything like the success of a similar US initiative which began over twenty five years ago, known as the Bayh-Dole Act, South African industry has much to look forward to. Perhaps the most important contribution of Bayh-Dole is that it reversed the presumption of title. Bayh-Dole permits a university, small business, or non-profit institution to elect to pursue ownership of an invention before the government.

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