NAA: Without collaboration between algae research and private industry, research will all be for naught

[USA] As the first algae education and production trade association in the world, we continue to promote balance between the university algae research world, private industry and investment.

Algae researchers have tried to hijack private industry and failed miserably. With all due respect to constrained algae research grant recipients, there is a huge learning curve between what goes on in their labs and commercial scale-up and deployment.

If egos are left at the door, great advancements can be made working with private industry and private. Due to a very outdated Congressional Mandate, the US Department of Energy continues to duplicate and triplicate algae research projects, often rendering their own patents obsolete.

We have received many complaints and listened to frustrations over the last decade about algae researchers’ restrictions and limitations on working with private industry. They only know how to be involved in research projects, and have no idea what is required to achieve commercial deployment, but they don’t have to – their funding is for research and as long as they sabotage commercial development, the universities they work for continue to get money to pay them.

The DOE Algae Program/Beto leadership has claimed for years they have rooms and rooms of algae technologies sitting on shelves because the motivations of university algae researchers are to find their next algae research grants, write papers and go to conferences.

We know for a fact that universities have lost potential licensing opportunities due to the restrictions put on them by research grants, their egos and not understanding the needs of the commercial algae production industry.

Researchers have tried to write industrial standards without ever deploying their technologies or ever being in industrial algae production. How can algae technologies have any value if they are not deployed outside the lab? It has caused a negative impact and response from the algae production industry, private investment and taxpayers. The holding back of algae patents and technologies for fear of losing control has stymied private industry for decades.

Mindsets need to be changed and a new approach implemented. Collaboration between algae researchers and private industry to realize algae’s great potential must happen or 70+ years of algae research and IP will have no value for another 70 years. The business and financial communities understand that the pay-for-play media promoting the latest and greatest algae research has not worked for private industry and private investment who continue to ask “where are the algae technology claims that can scale outside the lab with a low CAPEX?”

If university algae research and IP can benefit private industry, everyone wins! It can also determine what technologies are legitimately still needed. With open collaboration we believe university IP can be protected and the commercial algae production industry and taxpayers can and will enjoy some of the fruits of the labor – that is NAA’s mission.

“University research is working against the odds. Three out of 10 patents registered have a chance of getting licensed, and chances of that happening drop to 20% after 5 years.” (Columbia University)

The closed-minded DOE algae research grant program leadership has created an adversarial relationship between university algae researchers and private industry. We have been contacted by many algae research grant recipients over the last 10 years expressing major frustrations with the program, but they are not willing to confront the DOE for fear of never receiving any additional grants. Artificial barriers created by the DOE Algae Program/BETO, universities and their lobbyists have created additional problems with private industry and private investment wanting to be in commercial deployment of algae farms and bio-manufacturing facilities for decades.

Many people have realized that that algae technologies developed over decades that are not deployed outside the lab have little to no value. Major leadership and mindset changes must be made at the DOE Algae Biomass Program for algae to become a multi-billion dollar industry. The outdated Congressional Mandate needs to change. It’s nothing more than a funding mechanism to funnel money to universities.

NAA continues to invite all commercially-minded algae researchers to join commercially-minded algae producers who are not looking for their next research grant to help build the commercial algae production industry. We are open to partner in the transfer of algae technologies to the hands of private industry to enhance commercial algae production in the US and around the world, but not to be restricted by the current restrictions of the university researchers. Only through real collaboration will algae researchers understand the needs of the commercial algae production industry. Writing more white papers or searching for the next research grant does not make an industry. It takes a variety of disciplines.

 

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