Tech Transfer eNews Blog

U Minnesota, U Florida score big in tech transfer rankings

By David Schwartz
Published: May 18th, 2022

Just as the University of Minnesota crossed an impressive milestone in launching its 200th start-up, the school was ranked number one among “heartland” universities for tech transfer activity. The rankings were released by the group Heartland Forward, which also ranked the University of Florida number one among U.S. public universities. Carnegie Mellon was the highest ranked among all research universities nationwide.

“We are extremely proud of this 200th company milestone,” said UMN President Joan Gabel. “The University is the state’s single largest creator of start-ups, with nearly three out of four U of M start-up companies located in Minnesota. The Heartland Forward ranking, which looks at start-up creation, STEM degrees, and other tech transfer metrics, reflects the deliberate work we’ve done to integrate entrepreneurialism and successful tech commercialization practices into our work as a leading research university.”

Perhaps more impressive than the sheer number of start-ups is the high percentage that remain in business – a full 80%. Ten UMN companies have either gone public or been acquired in the last five years.

“We’ve learned a lot over time about how to help leading researchers develop new business ideas, and we’ve built a strong network of hundreds of dedicated experts and advisers who know many different industries,” said Russ Straate, director of the UMN Venture Center operated by the technology commercialization team. “We’re pleased to be launching more companies more quickly; start-ups 101 to 200 were launched in five years — less than half the time that it took to launch startups 1 to 100.”

“University tech transfer is at the center of technology-based economic development and innovation,” said Ross DeVol, president and CEO of Heartland Forward, a nonpartisan “think-and-do” tank. “We believe the University of Minnesota offers a great example for other institutions looking to improve their technology commercialization enterprise. They have a technology transfer team with a great deal of industry experience in the areas where the university is generating new discoveries and ideas, and that has been groundbreaking in its approach to working with outside companies.” 

The report spotlighted UMN’s Minnesota Innovation Partnerships program, which provides low-risk opportunities for companies to license the school’s technology and sponsor research, as well as the breadth of entrepreneurial resources available to students, faculty and staff.

The same report ranked U Florida number one among public universities, citing its “huge student body … and research enterprise” and its “technology prowess” with roots going back to the creation of Gatorade in the 1960s.  Metrics used by Heartland Forward included invention disclosures; number of licenses and options; licensing income and start-ups formed; citations of university articles contained in patents granted to firms; and relative number of STEM graduates.

“One of the most important parts of our mission as a public university is to translate our research into impact beyond the academic setting in a way that directly affects people’s daily lives,” said David Norton, UF’s vice president for research. “This recognition of UF as the best public university in the U.S. at translating research discoveries into technologies that create companies and economic opportunities speaks volumes to the excellence of our faculty and students, and the value of our institution to our state and nation.”

The full Heartland Forward report “Research to Renewal: Advancing University Tech Transfer” is available here.

Sources: UMN News and Events and University of Florida News

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