Dr. Nefissa Chakroun
Qatar has invested considerably in realizing the Qatar National Vision 2030 followed by defining a thorough RDI 2030 Strategy to help build a sustainable model to achieve its economic and development goals. However, to ensure the success of this strategy, it is imperative to protect ideas and improve understanding of intellectual property to foster innovation. Without this, the research and industry will not be able to fully realize the potential and benefits of their ideas and outcomes and less invested in pursuing cutting-edge research and development.
The responsibility of protection of ideas lies with the organizations that form the RDI ecosystem in Qatar. Realizing this, Qatar National Research Fund has ramped up its efforts to ensure that the local academic and research community in Qatar has access to expert knowledge and facilities when it comes to intellectual property matters.
In this edition, we talk with Dr. Nefissa Chakroun, who joined QNRF in 2019 as an IP and Innovation Program Manager, to learn more about intellectual property. Dr. Chakroun holds a PhD in Intellectual Property with a specialization in Patent Law and Technology Transfer. Before joining QNRF, she was acting as an international IP expert, leading missions mainly for the European Union, United Nations organizations, and the World IP Organization. Over her illustrious career, Dr. Chakroun has developed extensive expertise in IP management and drafting IP regulations and has authored a book on Patents for Development.
- Can you provide an overview of the role and importance of Intellectual Property, especially in the RDI sector?
Intellectual property is a set of rules and regulations allowing creators such as authors and inventors to secure ownership over their creations of the mind. Hence, intellectual property is the tool through which, a funding agency will capitalize on the investment done in research and development activities. It is also the means through which creators get incentivized to generate more creations, thanks to the legal recognition for their efforts.
- Why is it important to develop an understanding and awareness of intellectual property in a country like Qatar, which is committed to promoting innovative research and development projects?
Qatar is massively investing in research and development activities. Over the past 15 years, Qatar National Research Fund has developed a great number of programs dedicated to creating and structuring research activities in Qatar. From this perspective, it is of paramount importance that Qatar benefits from this investment and gets the return on investment by continuously increasing its innovation index as well as its intellectual property indicators.
- As the region’s premier research funding agency, what role has QNRF played in educating and facilitating the local research community about IP?
Qatar National Research Fund, and particularly its leadership is fully aware of the importance of intellectual property in maximizing the return on investment made on research and development activities. Over the past 15 years QNRF has been active in:
- Creating and structuring the research activities in Qatar
- Connecting the local research community to the leading research institutions worldwide
- Funding outstanding research programs generating a valuable amount of publications
- Building local capacity around research activities in various areas of technology
At this stage of its development, QNRF has recruited me as an intellectual property and innovation manager to spot and assess the IP potential of the expected outcomes the agency is investing in; and most importantly to ensure that these expected outcomes are preserved against any unwanted disclosures. This ensures that the potential IP is not jeopardized. Preserving the novelty of those creations is crucial to secure their IP protection. Hence, once they are legally recognized as QF properties, they can be transferred to the appropriate end-users. Once this stage is implemented, economic and social impact can be achieved.
QNRF also collaborates closely with Industrial Development and Knowledge Transfer IDKT and the local IP department at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and stands shoulder to shoulder with QF RDI, particularly in the industrial development and knowledge transfer field to ensure that research outcomes are disclosed in a timely manner. QNRF is also providing IP expertise to secure the best IP protection to the outcomes it is investing in.
- Can you share with us some statistics about patents filed, which have resulted from QNRF-funded research?
The table below provides an overview of invention disclosures that have resulted from QNRF-funded research projects. As you will notice, more than 50% of Qatar University’s invention disclosures are generated from QNRF-funded projects, which has helped QU make remarkable strides in international university rankings.
- How can our aspiring researchers and students learn more about IP in general and in Qatar, and do you have any words of advice for our researchers who are planning to patent their project outcomes?
It is so important that our researchers get familiarized with the various IP concepts at an early stage. For instance, there is a misconception that IP is restricted to protecting inventions and generating patents. IP with its large spectrum of international conventions, treaties, and laws provides protection to all sorts of creations of the mind.
These creations can range from software, algorithms, datasets, process, and products to all sorts of literary work such as books or teaching materials, artistic works and seeds, and a new variety of plants.
It is highly recommended that our research community gets a sound understanding of these key concepts. The IP protection process can be long and complex, so the best advice to our researchers is to preserve the novelty and or the originality of their expected outcomes until the disclosure date. It is also recommended to use legal instruments such as non-disclosure agreements to handle the development phase of the expected research outcomes.
We are with our researchers every step of the way in their research journey and are committed to taking their projects across the full value chain of the RDI ecosystem to serve the people of Qatar and implement their research countries in the region and beyond.