THE INDIAN Council of Agricultural Research will soon sell products and technology, which its scientists have developed over the decades, to private companies. And these include everything from lobster traps to the bird-flu vaccine.
The guidelines for such intellectual property-related transfers will be finalised by the governing body of the ICAR on Tuesday, its director-general Mangala Rai told HT.
The move is evoking great corporate interest. Abhiram Seth, executive director of PepsiCo India, said that in several areas "frontline work has been done by the ICAR". "But the pricing has to be realistic," he said.
The ICAR has hundreds of products and technologies on offer, including agriculture software, lamb-fattening techniques, harvesting and tilling machines, solar candles, food-preservation technology and even hens that laid 300 eggs a year in lab tests.
Unlike the West, which is dominated by private research labs, in India, agricultural research is mostly done in government institutes.
For long, the inventions were taken to farmers and consumers through government agencies. But the delivery –– caught as usual in the red tape –– has been tardy. This is what the ICAR plans to change by selling technology.
But some urge caution. "Companies could end up patenting and monopolising the technology which they buy from the ICAR and which has been developed at the taxpayers' expense," said Arun Raina, chief executive of the Floral Seed Company, Dehradun.
One of ICAR's recent achievements was developing the bird-flu vaccine, 40,000 samples of which are being produced each month in its laboratories. "We will like private firms to step in and start the production of the vaccine which can stop the spread of the H5N1 virus," said Rai. The hitch: no private company in India has the safety standards required for it.