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U.S. University Research Commercialization Gains in 2012

Lab at North Carolina State University)

(North Carolina State University)

American universities and research institutes report more research discoveries headed toward the marketplace in their 2012 fiscal year, with increases in discoveries disclosed, patents, licenses and licensing income, and start-up companies formed. The Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), the group representing campus technology transfer specialists, released today highlights of its annual survey for institutions’ 2012 fiscal year.

AUTM says U.S. academic inventors disclosed 23,741 inventions, where they identify discoveries with potential intellectual property value, an increase of almost 9 percent compared to 2011. Those disclosures led to 14,224 new patent applications, a 7 percent gain over 2011, of which 1,150 were filed outside the U.S. The institutions report their discoveries resulted in 5,145 new patent awards in 2012, an increase of 9.5 percent compared to the previous year.

Licensing activity by U.S. universities and research institutes likewise showed healthy gains in 2012. Institutions executed 5,130 licenses in 2012, nearly a 5 percent jump from 2011, with more than 40,000 licenses and license options (for further IP rights) still active, a gain of nearly 4 percent compared to 2011. Licenses provided campuses in 2012 with $2.6 billion in income, an increase of nearly 7 percent over 2011, of which $1.9 billion came from royalties — itself a 30 percent jump compared to the previous year.

Institutions spun-off 705 new companies based on research discoveries in 2012, some 5 percent more than in 2011, of which 554 located their primary place of business in the same state as the institution. Some 4,000 spin-off companies were still in operation as of the end of fiscal year 2012, a modest 2 percent gain for the year.

The spin-off companies, however, appeared to make only small gains in economic benefits, according to AUTM. The companies created 591 new products in 2012, about the same as 2011. And companies created from research discoveries reported net product sales of $36.8 billion dollars in 2012, a negligible 1 percent increase over 2011. Little more than a third of the responding campuses (70 of 194) reported spin-off companies employing 15,741 full-time staff in 2012, a decrease of 36 percent compared to the previous year.

AUTM sent the fiscal-year 2012 survey to 299 institutions, mainly universities, but also hospitals, research institutions, national laboratories, and third-party technology investment firms. Of those 299, 194 responded, a rate of 65 percent, compared to 60 percent for the 2011 survey.

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