Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Libya urged to seek new solar energy patents

Writing in The Tripoli Post ("Korean-Libyan Solar Energy Cooperation: Is this the Start of a Libyan Solar Energy Policy?"), Sami Zaptia looks at a press release describing the involvement of Libya's Renewable Energies and Water Desalination Research Center (REWDRC), Korea's Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) and Korean research firm KONES in the development of a new solar generating system. The author then observes:

"The press release informed us that a total of US $10 million will be invested - US $5 million from Libya and US $5 million from the Koreans - over the next five years. ...

The press release also mentioned that the Koreans had registered numerous local and world patents protecting their technology. This is where the big money is made. Libya must put itself in the forefront of this market and try to start and encourage incubators in the solar energy field.

I am sure that there are many young technologists out there seeking seed capital to follow-up nascent ideas. Many will prove failures, but some will go on to become world beaters - hopefully. The trick is to sort out the potential money makers from the losers.

Libya can only become a serious player in this sector by being in the center of this sector. It must be in the game to be able to benefit early and relatively cheaply, rather than having to pay big money for patents later in the game owned by big business. Of course, there are no guarantees that anyone of the many potential technologies under development out there today will be the successful one. There is a lot of risk in trying to back a winner at the early stage. But you have to be in it to have a chance of winning it – or at least being in the top group of the solar technology nations. That is why I feel that the kind of investment outlay in the solar energy sector must move up substantially. ...

If Libya is serious about moving from the stage of tentative research into high level solar energy production, then real, serious long term strategies and investments need to be made sooner rather than later. ...

Libya may be just beginning to wake up to these facts, and may be -- just maybe --beginning to take this subject seriously. Certainly from the sound of the press statement from Korea it is."Many North African nations are preparing for 30 and 40 years from now," said Lee Un-jang, a manager at KONES. "They know this very well, so the REWDRC have established very good research and development facilities. Now they need the technology and know-how to use them", he said to the Korea Times. ..."

It will be interesting to see how, in terms of developing innovative products and negotiating IP rights, the REWDRC fares. Korea has become an increasingly adventurous and sophisticated manipulator of IP rights, to its great economic benefit -- but its success has also been based upon a highly extrovert trading policy,a well-disciplined workforce and a competitive work ethic. If Libya wants to become a technological power in the region or beyond, it must appreciate that IP rights confer an advantage but do not confer success by themselves.

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