NARO’s Intellectual Protection and Commercialization Journey Culminates in Royalties for Scientists

Over the years, NARO has been The National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) has over the years generated and disseminated innovative and improved agricultural technologies to end-users through public and commercial routes. However, the commercial route had long not been optimally exploited and thus the private sector had access to technologies with little or no benefits returning to NARO.

the National Agricultural Research Act 2005 alludes to the need to complement funding for agricultural Research & Development by the government of Uganda and development partners through technology transfer, commercialization, and the agricultural research trust fund, there was also a need to create an environment in NARO that stimulates creativity and sustains the generation of knowledge, innovation, and technologies by providing incentives to scientists.

In line with the above, NARO scientists continue to develop and submit new plant varieties to the National Variety Release Committee. NARO has further made significant progress towards the commercialization of plant varieties through licensing to seed companies which have culminated in the generation of royalties.

In 2020, the successful signing of license agreements with 13 seed companies to commercialize 77 plant varieties that include maize, beans, sorghum, rice, millet, and sunflower among others was held.

This led to a ceremony in which different individuals and entities are recognized for their tremendous contributions to the success and realization of the commercialization process held on the 6th of April 2023 at Kabira Country Club, Bukoto. It was attended by NARO management, NARO Governing Council, scientists, seed companies, and key partners.

The Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries- The Hon Frank Tumwebaze who was the chief guest officiated at this momentous event in the history of NARO.  He emphasized the need for NARO to work closely with NITA Uganda to develop and harness aspects of E- Agriculture and data. He said that there is a need for accurate and valid data to guide planning and policy formulation for the sector.  Research and data are kin and kith. we should use digital innovators to do enforcement.

Urged NARO to continue to ensure that we do research that matches the times it informs planning. He said some people keep asking what NARO does yet there is a lot of work being done, and the function is one of the ways that shows the connection between research work and the private sector.

He reiterated the need for the establishment of a council of eminent scientist, through which experienced scientists who have reached retirement age can still be engaged to contribute to national development. “Though one is retired, knowledge does not retire, he said.   

NARO was commended for working with the private sector and encouraged to complement the private sector. Hon Tumwabeza said, not everything can be commercialized due to various reasons, some of which are security related. He concluded by promising to work with NARO to see all the institutes fully functional and requested NARO to have a scheme with universities to provide internships to brilliant students for continuity. 

NARO Director General, Dr. Ambrose Agona, said the recognition of plant breeders was the first of its kind in the history of the Organisation and thanked the breeders for having done the country a good deal.  “Because of you, we are able to convene and show the country that we have capable scientists under wise leadership.”

He went on to say that we live in modern times where the demand for food, feed, and industry is very demanding and there is a need for people who are ready to respond. Dr. Agona said, agriculture is a vital sector in Uganda where farmers make up more than 70% yet it’s relegated to subsistence. When we look at Ugandan agriculture it’s relegated to subsistence farming but with the current focus by Government on agro industrialization, the move towards commercialization is inevitable. “Going commercial involves looking at the entire value chain from land, seed, agronomic practices, mechanization, irrigation, etc”.

He informed the minister that NARO scientists have the capacity to develop seed varieties at shorter and cheaper costs using biotechnology /Genome editing but the lack of enabling laws is a great hindrance.  Regarding the issue of fake seed, Dr. Agona said, the direction that NARO has taken regarding IP and commercialization of her technologies and innovations is meant to fight the issue of fake seed and protection of what we create. He then appealed to seed companies to work together with NARO as we streamline the seed sector and fight the proliferation of fake seeds in the market.  The limited awareness of Intellectual Property and the use of IP systems are some of the challenges facing its implementation but with support from the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), the Journey has been a lot smoother, he said.

He concluded again by congratulating breeders for their outstanding work and crucial role in the team. The recognitions were not only for those still in NARO, they included those that had retired or passed on.

Dr. Kassim Sadik presenting a paper on the journey of the licensing and commercialization of the NARO plant varieties from 1992 to date.

Dr. Kassim Sadik presented a paper on the journey of the licensing and commercialization of the NARO plant varieties from 1992 to date.  The aspects of NARO’s achievements over the years are 900, all these varieties are for food security, nutrition security, and economic development. He concluded by saying, NARO looks at Intellectual protection as a strategic tool for technology transfer and commercialization.

NARO Scientists were awarded for their dedicated service and contributions to the development of plant varieties.

A total sum of 115,924,084.00/= was given out as royalties to NARO scientists for their contributions to the development of plant varieties. This event was held at Kabira Country Club, Bukoto and presided over by the Hon Frank Tumwebaze- Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. 

The awards were based on several criteria including but not limited to:

•          Number of varieties contributed to or developed,

•          Their compliance with institutional policies,

•          Volume of pre-basic and

•          Basic seed availed,

A number of outstanding seed companies were also recognized for their support of NARO’s IP and commercialization journey.

Their selection was based on:

•          Their compliance with the license agreement in terms of quality assurance,

•          Reporting and

•          Making timely royalty payments.

Royalties generated from the commercialization of NARO plant varieties were also given out to the breeders whose plant varieties are already in the market. The royalties were as per the guidelines on benefit sharing in the NARO Intellectual Property Policy.

Names of Scientists recognized:

Stanley Nkalubo, Asea Godfrey, Dan Makumbi, Charles L. Kasozi, Julius P. Sserumaga, Daniel Kwemoi Bomet, Solomon Kaboyo, Majid Walusimbi, Annet Nakayima, Jane Alupo, Moses Ebellu, Late Stephen Okanya, Late Justus Imanywoha, Denis Kyetere, George Bigirwa, Joseph Kikafunda, Jimmy Lamo (Lead Breeder), Michael Otim, Simon Alibu, Stella Everline Adur-Okello, Ekebu James, Kyambadde Robert, Onaga Geoffrey, Musa Sie (Africa Rice).

Stanley Nkalubo (Lead breeder), Michael Ugen, John Sulume, Richard Ssekabembe, Dan Mawejje, Luyima Gabriel, Isaac Mugagga, Okwadi Julius, Ekalam Christine, alyongo Watiti Paschal, Kalule Okello David, and Angulia Paul.

Nalweyo Seed Company (NASECO) received an award for “Most Outstanding and Professional Seed Company”

A recording of the entire event is available on the NARO YouTube account. Here is the link; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJugwrjhbJg

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