Since its inception 10 years ago, Astri has close to 400 patent applications in the United States, the mainland and other countries. It has been granted 74 patents. Patents are Astri's most valuable asset because they reflect the originality and worthiness of innovations and serve as a foundation for the transfer of technologies to industry. The number of patent applications filed by Astri has been growing rapidly in recent years. The institute has 567 employees, 491 of whom are in research and development. Eric Lam, a partner at Marks & Clerk, one of the law firms that has helped Astri file patents in the US, says that the institute is extremely well-informed about the procedures involved in filing patents. 'Usually, it takes two to three years for a patent to be approved and before filing we need to understand what the product or invention is all about,' Lam says. Astri understands the process well and prepares all the documents required beforehand so that the lawyers have everything before submitting the application, the lawyer says. On the organisational front, Astri is headed by a chief executive and is governed by a board of directors comprising representatives from the industrial and commercial sectors, academia and the Hong Kong government. Three functional committees - finance and administration, technology and audit - assist the board in managing Astri's business affairs. The chief executive is responsible to the board of directors for the overall management of the company. He is assisted by a vice-president and research and development group of directors, who are in charge of the various research initiatives, and the headquarters executives, who look after administrative, financial, business development, technology management and other support functions of the institution.