Universities are hubs for education and big, new ideas in research and inventions. Many people don’t realize how profitable these inventions can be and how much funding they can bring to the university.
According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, universities and inventors earned more than $1.8 billion in 2011 by commercializing their academic research, collecting royalties, and forming longstanding arrangements for new products.
“The 157 universities that responded to the annual survey of the Association of University Technology Managers, released on Monday, completed 5,398 licenses and filed for 12,090 new patents,” The Chronicle reported. “They also created 617 start-up companies.”
The number of start up companies has not increased over the past year, but the total revenues from these start ups has increased exponentially. In 2010, 153 colleges and universities were surveyed. Twenty-three reported a licensing income of over $15 million and 22 institutions reported around that much.
By earning more than $191 million in licensing income, Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, earned the most of all the universities that took part in the annual study.
One of the most profitable inventions of 2011 was a new strain of wheat invented at the University of Nebraska, which grossed over $16.7 million this year. The collaboration between NUTech Ventures and Bayer Crop Science has helped the university create new varieties of wheat that can be sold in markets, like those found in Europe, where genetically modified crops are illegal.
Researchers at Nebraska are also trying to encourage more students and faculty to contribute to the project. The university is experiencing an invention-disclosure rate of 160 a year, which is up from 60 four years ago.
“With big corporations doing less and less hiring, there is more of an awareness from students and faculty that entrepreneurship is a growing career path, a growing alternative,” said Tony Stanco, executive director of the National Council on Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer.
Licensing inventions and start up ideas are good for higher education institutions because they can collect revenue long after the initial invention takes off. For example, the University of Florida still owns the trademark on the Gatorade brand and receives royalties on Gatorade products even though the invention was made in 1965.