Intellectual Ventures’ Indian Deal Epitomizes Strategy to Support Invention in Asia

On Monday, Bellevue, WA-based Intellectual Ventures signed an agreement with the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay to license some of the university’s inventions and to work on technology commercialization strategies with its researchers, as reported by CIOL, Express India, TechFlash, and other outlets. It’s not really big news by itself—Intellectual Ventures has formed similar partnerships with other institutes in India, as well as in China, Japan, Korea, and soon, Singapore—but it fits into the broader strategy the firm is pursuing around the world to foster invention.

Last fall, Intellectual Ventures opened offices in five Asian countries in an effort to gain access to a much wider pool of inventors and talent. Led by global head of technology Patrick Ennis, a physicist and former managing director at Arch Venture Partners—and other members of Intellectual Ventures’ senior leadership team, including co-founder and president Edward Jung—the company is building relationships with prominent academic scientists in Asia, and setting up partnerships whereby it can license certain inventions in exchange for helping with patents and commercialization. The strategy reminds me a lot of Microsoft Research, which has set up labs in China and India in the past 10 years and built partnerships with local university researchers and administrators. (This blueprint is not surprising, given that Intellectual Ventures’ co-founder and CEO Nathan Myhrvold was the founder of Microsoft Research.)

The reception Intellectual Ventures is getting also reminds me of Microsoft Research. While most university officials see the partnerships as benefiting their researchers and increasing the flow of innovation, critics have rolled out the standard “patent troll” fears that the company is coming in to buy up all the best intellectual property—which will only be assuaged by years of relationship building and repeatedly demonstrating that these sorts of deals can benefit both sides.

Nevertheless, Intellectual Ventures’ Indian operation seems to be off to a strong start. It is now staffed by about 15 people, led by Ashok Misra, the former head of IIT-Bombay and a highly respected polymer materials scientist.

I caught up with the staff of Intellectual Ventures to hear about the workings of the Indian university partnership. Nicholas Gibson, one of the firm’s directors of business development in Japan, said via e-mail, “The agreement with IIT-Bombay is important as it gives [us] more direct access to top flight university-based Indian inventors. The deal also gives IIT-B access to commercialization possibilities … Next Page »

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