Boosting Technology Transfer and Commercialization in the Philippines with a Highly Skilled Fairness Opinion Board

Have you ever wondered if the government is getting a fair deal when technologies from government funded researches are commercialized by MSMEs and production sector? That crucial job of ensuring that the government is not losing out in cases of technology transfers falls on the shoulders of a group that make up the Fairness Opinion Board (FOB).

The FOB assesses the financial terms of the licensing agreement between the two parties, such as licensing and or royalty fees. The FOB then prepares and submits a Fairness Opinion Report (FOR) to the DOST Secretary, which states whether a proposed technology transfer agreement between a Research and Development Institute and a technology adoptor will be fair to the government. In line with the amended Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Technology Transfer Act of 2009 or RA 10055, DOST's Regional Offices now serve as receiving offices and FOB secretariat.

Recognizing the need for continual learning and skills upgrading and as part of the capability-building initiatives of the project being led by DOST-NCR, "Support to the Issuance of Fairness Opinion Report for Technology Transfer Activities of the DOST-Generated Technologies through the DOST Regional Offices as Receiving Office and FOB Secretariat", DOST-NCR's FOB secretariat organized an online three-day training/workshop last July 13-15, 2021 for members of the DOST Regional Offices' FOB secretariat and technical staff from the Clustered Area Science and Technology Centers (CASTC) and Provincial Science and Technology Centers (PSTC).

The training workshops aimed to enhance the current knowledge and skills of the FOB secretariat members in terms of handling requests for the issuance of a Fairness Opinion Report, thus easing the process for requests for FORs and resulting in more productive technology transfers and commercialization.

In his message to the participants at the start of the three-day workshop, DOST-NCR Regional Director Jose Patalinjug III emphasized the DOST Regional Offices contribution in DOST Outcome 2 Technology Adoption Promoted and Accelerated wherein he mentioned, "...through our efforts, we maximize utilization of R&D results through technology transfer and commercialization, thus expanding Science, Technology, and Innovation assistance to the production sectors or MSMEs and strengthening the industry-academe-government collaboration". "Further, the legal aspect of Intellectual Property is only one part of the whole FOR transaction. To get a thorough understanding, the Secretariat should have a good grasp on the integration of IP and the technology's financial viability, thus, this training is structured around the familiarization with the contents and acquisition of information and skill to prepare a Freedom to Operate report and Business Plan which are interrelated in undertaking a successful licensing agreement".

The first day session had Atty. Rowanie Nakan, Intellectual Property and Legal expert from the Cruz, Marcelo and Tenefrancia Law Firm, discussing the salient points of a Technology Licensing Agreement. She included in her discussion the various provisions covered by the Intellectual Property laws, as well as pointers in writing a good Technology Licensing Agreement. This was followed by a brief talk on the Freedom to Operate Search and Report in relation to Intellectual Property Rights. This topic was discussed more extensively by two resource persons, Atty. Criselda Santiago and Atty. Raiza Alexis Radoc, colleagues of Atty. Nakan from the Cruz, Marcelo and Tenefrancia Law Firm who gave helpful guidelines in conducting a patent search from the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHIL) and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) databases.

On day two, Asst. Professor Arlene Gutierrez from the University of the Philippines Los Banos' College of Economics and Management tackled the importance and composition of a good Business Plan. She also highlighted the elements in the business plan that are necessary in evaluating a request for the issuance of an FOR. Later in the afternoon, she presided over a workshop on how to make a Business Model Canvas (BMC) wherein the 16 FOB secretariats developed BMCs per technology.

The third day was all about financial matters. Asst. Professor Normito Zapata Jr., also from the UP Los Banos' College of Economics and Management, talked about a wide range of topics: financial statements, balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement, and auditor's report. The afternoon session continued with discussions and workshop on financial ratio analysis.

In sum, the workshops accomplished two purposes: aside from adding to the knowledge and skills of the participants, the sessions also identified areas that need improvement or re-training, not only for the members of the FOB secretariat but also for technical staff of the Regional Offices as well. These three-day activities are the first part of the training series to help the DOST regional FOB Secretatriats expedite FOR transactions.