New study ranks UF top public university in tech transfer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida is the top-performing public institution at transferring its research to the marketplace, according to a major new study by the prestigious Milken Institute.
In a report released today by the California-based economic think tank titled “Mind to Market: A Global Analysis of University Biotechnology Transfer and Commercialization,” UF ranked fifth on the institute’s University Technology Transfer and Commercialization Index. Only the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the nine universities of the California system, the California Institute of Technology and Stanford scored higher than UF on the index, which measured four components of technology transfer: patents issued, licenses executed, licensing income and startups. MIT, Cal Tech and Stanford are private, and California does not report on individual institutions in its system.
Milken Institute researchers sought to discover which universities do the best job at technology transfer and commercialization. They compared university technology transfer processes around the world; studied the common characteristics to successful commercialization; and measured the role of the university offices of technology transfer, or OTT.
Among their key findings:
- Research activity (as measured by publications and citations) has a high rate of return. Each 10-point increase in the institute’s score for published research contributes an additional $1.7 million to a university’s annual licensing income.
- For every $1 invested in OTT staff, the university receives more than $6 in licensing income.
- For each additional year that an OTT is in operation, $228,000 of incremental licensing income is generated for the university.
“Without an OTT office, the average university would earn only 79 percent of its annual licensing income,” the report states.
David Day, director of UF’s Office of Technology Licensing, said the university made a commitment about six years ago to expand its commercialization efforts.
“Now we have the people and resources necessary to identify promising technologies, pursue patents and negotiate fair licenses,” Day said. “We’ve also worked hard to nurture our startups so they can develop their products and become financially successful.”
Lead author Ross DeVol of the Milken Institute said in the report’s executive summary that “it is perhaps surprising to many” that UF scored so high, but the university has had “remarkable success” with its Office of Technology Licensing.
Win Phillips, UF’s vice president for research, said the university’s sheer size and breadth allow it to simultaneously pursue basic and translational research. UF received nearly $519 million in research funding in 2006, more than half of it for biomedical research.
“UF’s strong and diverse research program, coupled with a commitment to growing our technology licensing operation, has led to this success in commercializing our discoveries,” Phillips said.
UF’s Sid Martin Biotechnology Development Incubator — one of the few university incubators devoted exclusively to biotech — has also enhanced the university’s commercialization efforts, Day said. The incubator provides space, equipment and support services to startups for development of promising biotechnologies. Technologies under development range from a method for producing ethanol from agricultural waste to an oral treatment for a form of age-related macular degeneration. The incubator is full and has a waiting list of companies seeking space. Last year, current and former incubator companies attracted more than $50 million in equity investment.
During the 2005-06 fiscal year, UF earned nearly $43 million in licensing income. Ten new companies were launched based on UF technologies, bringing the total over the last five years to 46.
“Universities around the world have expanded their mission beyond that of basic research and teaching to become places where knowledge fuels patent development, business collaborations and incubators for startups,” the report says.