Foreword

This is the first of a series of mini articles comparing academic output in a given subject and/or country with corresponding patent trends. We aim to provide a quick and easy (and dirty?) benchmark which will be some use to those stakeholders involved in moving technology from the lab to commercially valuable licensable IP assets.

The format for this series will be comparison of academic publication and citation data against patent data. For the sake of convenience, patent applications and patents will be treated identically, since, in any case, in almost all of the topics to be considered, the commercialization groundwork activities are set in motion early, or in parallel, with patenting and make for little distinction between a patent applied for and a patent granted.

This first article will show, through preliminary publicly available data, the massive potential that Israel has in commercialization of Plant Growth Regulators, in the hope that the innovation and financing community of Israel will take notice and convert potential value to actual patent assets!

Introduction

The latest figures published by the FAO (below) show that world hunger has almost halved in the last decade and a half.

Much of this improvement has been due to huge investments in plant and crop innovation, and, in spite of the huge costs involved in bringing a new plant from lab to market, (on average about 140 million USD and rising), this challenge has been shouldered by so called Big Agro, for which patent protection and other IPR’s has become totally essential. Big Agro, companies such as Syngenta, Vilmorin, Monsanto , DOW, BASF and others develop new innovations themselves, and frequently license or buy up IP from smaller specialist companies and academia. This, as will be shown, is the environment that Israel is failing to exploit.

One area of particular value are innovations that confer the ability to control plant growth advantageously trough Plant Growth Regulators (PGR’s).

 Plant growth regulators are organic compounds, natural or synthetic, that modifies or controls one or more specific physiological processes within a plant. They include plant hormones, which were first used in crops and plants in Japan in the 1940’s.

PGR’s find their importance in several applications including:

  • root formation
  • manipulating yield potential
  • plant stress protection
  • post-harvest life
  • manipulating fruit development and storage quality
  • citriculture
  • reducing fruit drop
  • bloom-thinning strategies

The statistics presented below illustrate patent trends in this important area over the last 20 years, and I make the case that Israel, in spite of strength in this field, is missing valuable opportunities.

Israel Agro Research

Israel has agricultural faculties and research institutions of world renowned status, such as:

The Agricultural Experiment Station Volcani Institute. The Faculty of Agriculture of the Hebrew University of JerusalemTel Aviv UniversityBar Ilan University,Ben Gurion University of the Negev and the Weizmann Institute of Science .

A brief Google scholar search throws up well over 40,000 references and citations related to Israeli PGR researchsince 1995. In spite of this, very little Israeli work in this area has been translated into patent assets, and therefore much commercialization and licensable potential is lost. This is all the more lamentable, given the paucity of opportunities for highly trained, highly talented and enthusiastic researchers in Israel which is a major cause of the Israeli brain drain to other countries. Of over 550 patents in plant growth regulators examined in this study which were filed in Israel, all of them are assigned to Big Agro. There are no Israeli start- up or academic institutional patent owners which appear in the data. Were there a healthy technology transfer of patentable material being licensed from Israeli academia or Israeli start- ups into Big Agro, one would expect to see some signal in terms of Israeli owned patents filed in Israel. As it is, this evidence is lacking. This patent lethargy does not bode well for the future of innovative Israeli agriculture, especially since the existence of these patents raise freedom to operate and patentability barriers to future Israeli efforts in this highly important and promising area.

The data is presented below.

PGR patents filed world-wide

 PGR patents filed in Israel

Increase of PGR patents filed world wide over the last 20 years

Increase of PGR patent filings in Israel

Owners of PGR patents filed world wide over the last 20 years

Owners of PGR patents filed in Israel over the past 20 years

Subject matter of PGR patents filed world wide

Subject matter of PGR patents filed in Israel

PGR patents world wide

PGR patents filed world wide as well as in Israel

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