Scientific advancements in local university laboratories are breaking through in the marketplace at the fastest pace since the recession.
The University of Rhode Island, claims income from technology licensing and royalties doubled from fiscal 2011 to 2012, while Brown University’s commercialization income jumped 67 percent during the same period of time.
Both were dwarfed in licensing prowess by the University of Massachusetts, where commercialization income rose 48 percent during the fiscal and academic year that ended in June to $53.9 million, the second-highest total in the school’s history.
At the end of 2011, UMass ranked 14th nationally in commercialization income and second in New England behind only the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to a survey from the Association of University Technology Managers. (The survey doesn’t count the spike in UMass revenue in the first half of this year.)
As the economy sagged and states cut higher education funding, many schools looked to leverage the innovations in their labs as a way to boost their bottom lines while stimulating their local economies.
Nationally, the number of startups, patent applications, patents issued and faculty disclosures of potential commercial innovations all increased at American universities from 2010 to 2011, according to the Association of University Technology Managers survey. Commercialization income rose 2.6 percent nationally on an annual basis.
At local universities, technology-commercialization offices have been bolstered and reorganized to work with researchers and maximize the market potential of promising innovations.
At URI, for example, the school created a separate nonprofit to manage intellectual property and pursue commercialization opportunities.
Whether those new efforts are stimulating new activity or the economy is simply coming to life is difficult to tell.
Either way, the results have been encouraging.
“There has been an uptick in the economy and more products are being sold with royalties,” said Katherine Gordon, managing director of the Brown University Technology Ventures Office. “We have doubled up our efforts to do deals and to work with our researchers on exploring entrepreneurial potential.”
Over the last three academic years, Brown has seen its commercialization income jump from $502,100, to $962,200 to $1,592,300.