Inventors change the world. The recent victory of two Sri Lankans at an international exhibition provokes questions as to why this country has not been able to leverage on its natural human resource potential to innovate at home and give development a helping hand.
The inventions of Dr. S.J.B. Lenadora and Dinesh Katugampala took the forefront at the ‘Inventions Geneva’ exhibition last week, winning prestigious Gold and Silver medals at the event. ‘Inventions Geneva,’ which is the 40th international exhibition of Inventions of Geneva, is considered to be one of the most important events in the world.
Dr. Lenadora’s invention minimises tissue damage during abdominal surgeries while Katugampala’s invention, the Radius Meter, directly reads a radius of an arch or sphere and can plot major arches in the area of mechanical engineering redesign using only a minor arch.
This is not the first time that Sri Lankan inventors have shown their prowess at an international level, but few of these creations end up as commercially viable products and services at the end of the day. Local inventors struggle to get their ideas to a national and international audience and even then have little chance to form a company and manufacture the patented product locally, thus allowing it to grow with the freedom to evolve and form a platform for other inventions.
Developed countries spend billions of dollars in encouraging investors and then ensuring that these ideas are protected and made commercially viable. It is a long and hard road for an individual to travel along without the support of the public and private sectors.
Forbes magazine in one of its latest articles on the subject points out that Intellectual Property (IP) has become one of the most important resources in the 21st century. “It’s now an accepted fact that, just like financial capital or commodities or labour, IP is more than an economic asset – it also forms the basis of a global market. What once was a quiet corner of the tech industry is becoming a hot area in the legal and business worlds.”
The article calls on companies and countries to think innovatively about how to help inventors, not simply by funding research but also giving tax benefits and investing to assist successful creations to become commercially successful. Many countries such as the US and Canada are also considering ways to prevent patents developed in their country from leaking to rival multinationals based in other nations – a fate that befalls many inventions in the developing world.
The US is also formulating legislation to encourage different patent organisations around the world to provide universal certification so that the process of innovation can be streamlined to have a global identity. While it is difficult for Sri Lanka to move along this same trajectory, there are many ways that the lost inventors can be brought into the limelight.
Creating an accessible forum for inventors and investors to meet and work together is important. There is a large role here for both the private and public sectors in guiding and commercialising the inventions. The Government, for example, can provide space in their free trade zones for successful ventures that the private sector can invest in. Greater research and development is essential for Sri Lanka’s future and it is time to grow together.