Skip to content ↓

University patents support 246,000 jobs, contribute billions to economy

University research is increasing and generates approximately $29 billion of economic activity and 246,000 jobs through the commercialization of discoveries, the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) estimates in its seventh annual Licensing Survey.

"The survey confirms that research universities are an important seeding ground for new science that has practical application," said Karen Hersey, AUTM's president and MIT's intellectual property counsel. "The volume of technology transfer activity demonstrates that industry not only needs the creativity and innovation of academic research, but values our active participation in the process of finding new discoveries that may lead to new products."

Precise survey data included reports from 175 institutions, including 132 US universities, plus teaching hospitals, research institutes, patent commercialization companies and Canadian universities. The US universities include 90 of the top 100 universities receiving Federal grants.

At these institutions, in fiscal 1997 alone, faculty members reported 11,303 new discoveries from their research activities, up 11 percent from 10,178 in fiscal 1996. A total of 4,267 patent applications were filed on these discoveries, an increase of 31 percent. The US Patent Office issued 2,645 patents to these institutions in fiscal 1997, an increase of 26 percent.

A total of 333 startup companies were reported in the survey, an increase of 34 percent. The University of Washington had 25 startups, MIT had 17, Stanford had 15 and the University of California system had 13. Eighty-three percent of all start-ups were located in the same state as the research university or other patent generator. Since 1980, 2,214 new entrepreneurial ventures have been created to commercialize university technologies. Of these, nearly half (1,045) have been formed in the past four years.

In fiscal 1997, academic institutions signed 3,328 new licenses and options with industrial companies (up 21 percent from fiscal 1996). Fifty-nine percent of these licenses and options were granted to small companies with less than 500 employees.

In fiscal 1997, academic institutions received $611 million in royalties and fees (up 19 percent from the previous year) from 6,974 active licenses.

American universities received $446 million in royalty income--an increase of 33 percent. Twenty universities accounted for two-thirds of that total, or $296 million.

The top earners included the nine-campus University of California system (Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz) with $61.3 million; Columbia, $46.1 million; Stanford, $34 million; Florida State University, $29.9 million; MIT, $19.8 million; Michigan State University, $18.3 million; the University of Wisconsin, $17.2 million; Harvard, $13.4 million; Carnegie Mellon, $13.4 million; Yale, $13.1 million; and the University of Washington, $11.5 million.

Dan Massing, AUTM licensing survey chair, suggests that "income from technology transfer licensing is small, percentage-wise, when compared with universities' overall research budgets." While revenues derived from university licensing help to underwrite expenses related to the patenting and licensing of university discoveries, universities reinvest the major portion of their licensing revenues into teaching and research activities.

In patents, MIT was the single university with the largest number--134. The University of California system reported a total of 206. Wisconsin had 69 patents, Minnesota had 66, Stanford had 65 and Cornell had 62.

In licenses, the University of California system had 528, Stanford had 272, MIT had 255, Harvard had 232, Columbia had 201, Rutgers had 191, the University of Iowa had 186, Purdue had 182, Cornell had 147 and the University of Washington had 142.

These institutions in fiscal 1997 had $22.7 billion in research, up 6 percent from $21.4 billion the year before. They reported US government research of $14.6 billion, up five percent from $13.9 billion the previous year. Industry funded $2.2 billion of research, up 6 percent from $1.9 billion.

The survey reports that 70 percent of the 15,328 active licenses of responding institutions are in the life sciences, yielding products and processes that save lives, diagnose disease, and reduce pain and suffering. Examples of technologies and products originating from university discoveries include:

  • Artificial lung surfactant for use with newborns, University of California
  • Cisplatin and carboplatin cancer therapeutics, Michigan State University
  • Citracal��� calcium supplement, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
  • Creatine-kinase antibody used in diagnosing heart disease, Washington University
  • Haemophilus B conjugate vaccine, University of Rochester
  • Hepatitis B vaccine, University of California and University of Washington
  • Human growth hormone (genetically engineered), City of Hope Medical Center Leustatin��� chemotherapy for hairy cell leukemia, Brigham Young University
  • Metal alkoxide process for taxol production, Florida State University
  • Neupogen��� used in conjunction with chemotherapy, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute
  • Osteomark��� osteoporosis diagnostic, University of Washington
  • Prostate-specific antigen test, HRI/Roswell Park Cancer Institute
  • DNA technology, central to biotechnology industry, Stanford and University of California
  • Recombinant engineering co-transformation process, Columbia
  • Retin-A, University of Pennsylvania
  • Synthetic penicillin, MIT
  • TRUSOPT��� (dorzolamide) ophthalmic drop used for glaucoma, University of Florida
  • Vitamin D, University of Wisconsin

Further information is available to subscribers to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 13, 1999.

Related Topics

More MIT News