My mission in undertaking the Fulbright Specialist assignment in Mauritius as an expert attached to the University of Mauritius was to establish Intellectual Property Rights Policy framework at the University. I also strategically developed functions, processes and organizational structure in collaboration with six Colleges (called Faculties at UoM), Deans and Academic Staff, Director of Legal Affairs, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Academia), Pro-Vice Chancellor (Planning and Resources), Vice-Chancellor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (International Trade Division), Tertiary Education Commission (Equivalent of SCHEV) and Mauritius Research Council (Research Funding Body). At the Onset, it appeared to be a challenging task, in the sense that I had not experienced an opportunity like this before at any university or in my two prior Fulbright Specialist assignments in Tunis, Tunisia and Hanoi, Vietnam, where I developed curricula, delivered seminars and taught MBA level courses in information systems strategy. The experience of having a critical organizational development process at the University of Mary Washington from 2009 to 2012 while the College of Business as an entity was being formed, was very useful to resolve competing interests and conflicts.
I met with a number of academic and clinical faculty/staff from various colleges, research centers, and reviewed Intellectual Property issues arising out of lopsided ownership of research, in general. A very high quality of research is being produced in the innovation domain in various Colleges (Faculty of Agriculture, Faculty of Bioscience, Faculty of Communication, Information and Digital Technologies, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Law and Management) of the University of Mauritius. In many instances, those innovative research and scholarship products could be meaningfully converted into Intellectual Property in the form of Patents, Design Rights, Trade-secrets and IP Assets. Of particular interest was learning about the absence of functions, processes and organizational structure for Management of Intellectual Property and Commercialization of Innovation. Although, an Incubator had been established recently, and corporate commercialization center was in existence.
This scenario presented opportunities to formulate Intellectual Property Policy in consultation with the Legal Affairs regarding equitable ownership of IP Rights between the inventor(s) and the university based on inputs from various stakeholders of the university to strategically align the IP Management Policies with the national priorities for an innovation-driven future and knowledge economy.
During this assignment, I had the pleasure of discussing scope of IPR policy awareness in Africa and enforcement issues with Ambassador David Reimer at the US Embassy in Port Louis. Indeed, it was a pleasant and stimulating discussion regarding the need for American innovation and intellectual property footprint in Africa.
One-day, I found myself talking with a journalist from ‘Le Défi Quotidien’, who had gotten a wind of my work on IP and Technology Transfer at University of Mauritius through the US Embassy. I presented my work at a great forum on Innovation-Driven Future: Intellectual Property Management in Knowledge Economy organized by the University of Mauritius. Approximately 100 plus persons were attendance from ministries (trade, foreign affairs, technology and industry) US Embassy, Foreign Universities based in Mauritius, and of course Senior Administrators (Vice-Chancellor, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Academia), Deans, Faculty and other invitees from Tertiary Education Commission and Mauritius Research Council. My talk was received greatly, and very positive comments were made. A few days later, I was on Mauritius Board Casting Channel and Clips of my interview were broadcast.
Working as Fulbright Specialist has allowed me to interact with colleagues and students abroad. Also, working in the US as an US academician has provided me opportunities to leverage my expertise and skills for engagement at a Global level and to create a high value impact. As a result of my Fulbright Specialist engagement in the Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer field, I intend to conduct workshops on IP Management and Commercialization in Mauritius during December 2018, and the African Region in 2019.
Dr. Mukesh Srivastava, is Professor of Management Information Systems and Director, Center for Business Research, University of Mary Washington.