Man who invented smartcard tech reveals he gets no royalties

Jim Scott's research made things like the Oyster Card possible. Picture: PA
Jim Scott's research made things like the Oyster Card possible. Picture: PA
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THE St Andrews professor who spent 30 years developing the technology behind Oyster cards and other e-money smartcards says he doesn’t earn a penny in royalties.

Jim Scott says the patents for the nano-memories he pioneered have expired.

He was speaking as he received the UNESCO medal for contributions to nanoscience and nanotechnology in honour of his research on ferroelectric materials and devices.

He spent 30 years developing the memories which are used in millions of e-money smartcards around the world.

But because his patents have expired he is entitled to none of the profits from his work’s use in products in Japan and Korea, including computer memories and subway fare cards like London’s Oyster.

Prof Scott designed the nano-memories over 30 years ago in a Colorado lab with no funding.

After being presented with his medal at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters, he said: “I am very grateful for this recognition.

“This work began in 1984 and has taken more than 30 years; it is not like winning the lottery.

“Instead it represents working weekends for several decades with the tolerance of a very patient wife.

“The project was unusual because it started in a university lab with no funding – one professor, one very young assistant professor and only two students.

“It went all the way to £100 million a year in devices being produced commercially, but I get zero royalties, since my patents have all expired.”

UNESCO’s prize for nano-science recognises that making electronics smaller allows less power to be used, reducing environmental pollution and carbon emissions.

Mr Scott joined St Andrews University last year after 16 years at Cambridge University.

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