Quantum dots technology to revolutionize healthcare and sensing technology: see what’s invisible

An invention that changed perspective of conducting research

The University of Oulu’s Innovation Centre provides training in intellectual property rights. Familiarity with them is an important working life skill for researchers and teachers alike.

The researchers under leadership of Docent Rafal Sliz have started process towards commercialisation of an invention they made. They invented a new method for manufacturing photodetectors. Thanks to the new technology, they are able to manufacture more sensitive infrared sensors with higher performance and more affordably than before.

Knowledge of intellectual property rights is the first step in commercialising the invention. Sliz had familiarised himself with the topic during his doctoral studies, and later took part in the IPR training organised by the Innovation Centre.

“At the beginning of the journey, you never know whether an invention can be commercialised. You need people who know intellectual property rights, like the Innovation Centre staff, to help you get started,” Sliz says.

The researchers have received proof-of-concept funding, which helps them to develop further their prototype and better understand how to commercialize the invention.


The first time is the hardest

Intellectual property rights are intangible rights: copyrights and industrial rights. Copyrights are generated automatically along with the completion of creative works, whereas industrial rights may be granted by authorities upon application.

“You can decide on the use of intellectual property rights as if they were a house or a car. You can live in your house yourself, let someone else use it for free or against payment, or sell the entire house,” says Innovation Manager Maarit Jokela to illustrate the point.

Recognising an invention from own research results may be challenging. People often consider their findings academically interesting without realising that they might also have other uses. After going through the process for the first time, one often starts to see new opportunities elsewhere.

“The further you go in your research, the more ideas come to your mind. It’s always about being open-minded. When you do it once, you realize that it is easy. I’ve already submitted a second invention disclosure,” Sliz says.

Some invention disclosures are made when the invention is still just an idea. The Innovation Centre may be contacted at an early stage to make sure the invention will proceed in the right direction.


Making use of intangible rights

Everyone benefits from knowing intellectual property rights. The teaching staff must know how they can use materials created by others without violating their copyrights. Researchers can use databases to find the latest research data on their topic – companies do not usually publish articles, but patents are public.

While inventions do not always result in new business, they sometimes spark the interest of companies, which may then start cooperating with the researchers.

“Both the university and society in general are striving to enable the better utilisation of research in business activities,” Jokela says.

Knowledge of intellectual property rights may also change people’s approach to work and perspective on research.

“Previously, we wanted to make discoveries just for the sake of publishing. Today, we spend more time thinking about possible applications – we want to discover things that might be more needed,” Rafal Sliz says.


Turning Oulu into the Finnish Silicon Valley

The largest number of invention disclosures comes from the Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, but the faculties of technology, science, medicine as well as biochemistry and molecular medicine are also represented. In relative terms, the university’s foreign employees submit more invention disclosures than Finns do.

“I put this down to cultural differences. Foreigners test their ideas more easily, whereas Finns first want to be almost 100% sure that the idea works,” Sliz says.

Sliz believes that Oulu has potential for even greater growth. The Innovation Centre is a good start, but we also need business incubators and more self-confidence.

“Oulu would be a perfect environment for the Finnish Silicon Valley: it has great engineers and scientists, world-class equipment and governors that realize this potential. We only need a little impulse for much faster growth,” Sliz says.

Last updated: 17.12.2019