Research to Renewal: Advancing University Tech Transfer

Heartland Forward releases its report ranking Universities' ability to turn research and discovery into private industry yielding an economic return

BENTONVILLE, Ark., May 13, 2022 - Today, Heartland Forward released its most recent research report, Research to Renewal: Advancing University Tech Transfer. The report was released during Heartland Forward's flagship event, The Heartland Summit, which brings together leading thinkers, innovators and investors, creating powerful networks to forge paths of progress and turn great ideas into action.

The report evaluates which universities are most accomplished at creating new knowledge; embedding it in their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates; and transferring both to new and existing enterprises. Research and discovery are fundamental objectives of universities, but they must be absorbed and infused into private industry to yield an economic return on the investment.

For formal commercialization and tech transfer of intellectual property, metrics include:

Invention disclosures
The number of licenses and options
Licensing income and startups formed
Citations of university articles contained in patents granted to firms
Ross DeVol, president and CEO of Heartland Forward said: "The graduation ceremony at American universities is the biggest single annual technology transfer. While all forms of university education are valuable, this evaluation incorporates the number of STEM graduates with bachelor's and master's degrees and their proportion of total degrees. It stands to reason that many of the top-performing research universities are among the elite institutions in the U.S and we are proud to release this list, which comprehensively tracks how our American universities are doing in this critical work. We believe that states, cities and rural areas can more effectively partner with universities in their pursuit of prosperity. Correctly channeled, this approach can create jobs paying top 5% incomes, as well as a wide variety of middle-income jobs, and be inclusive. The definition of the American Dream."

Maryann Feldman, the Heninger Distinguished professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of North Carolina said: "This report takes an in-depth look at the transfer activities of universities across the United States and provides data, insights, and recommendations that will help schools increase their impact on the communities they serve. Our hope is that with this data more universities will invest in the tools necessary to expand crucial technology transfer activities and that policymakers too will step up to the plate in encouraging and supporting these investments."

University of Minnesota Interim Vice President for Research Michael Oakes said: "The University of Minnesota is proud to be recognized by Heartland Forward as the highest-ranked heartland university and fifth among public universities nationwide. We are home to innovative researchers in many key fields—from medicine to material science to horticulture to education—and we have worked intentionally to build an equally creative technology commercialization team and a corporate engagement center to cultivate entrepreneurialism within and simplify cooperation with external companies. Coinciding with this release of this report, and consistent with its findings, we recently achieved a key milestone of launching our 200th startup company since 2006. In the last decade, we have also listened to our students and employers in our region, and expanded many STEM offerings. All of that lives up to our tagline, Driven to Discover, and our commitment to research that has real impact."

The report was officially unveiled during the panel discussion, entitled: Opportunity of a Lifetime: Seizing the Moment to Modernize Education and Workforce Training. Panelists included: Ross DeVol, president and CEO of Heartland Forward; Maryann Feldman, the Heninger Distinguished Professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of North Carolina; Kathleen McLaughlin, executive vice president and chief sustainability officer for Walmart, Inc., and president of the Walmart Foundation; Noa Meyer, head of philanthropy and social impact of BDT & Company; Michael Oakes, vice president for research at the University of Minnesota; Elisa Villanueva Beard, CEO for Teach for America.

What Universities can do to Improve
Within the academy, greater emphasis is needed on patenting, licensing and startup activity, and these factors should be weighted more heavily in faculty tenure and promotion decisions. Doing so will assure young researchers that their university passionately supports technology transfer and entrepreneurial activities and would nudge many in the direction of working collaboratively with businesses. Universities with major financial success in startups or royalties from licenses underscore the value of tech transfer and its potential, and contribute additional resources to support the process.

Public Policy Suggestions
Heartland states should consider several factors to boost performance.

Governors and legislatures should consider providing direct funding for technology transfer offices as an economic development initiative.
Heartland elected officials should advocate for commercialization and tech transfer to be stated objectives in the mission statements of universities.
State leaders should advocate for a consortium of universities to be formed across heartland states to exchange and implement best practices in commercialization.
A pooling of invention disclosures and patents across state borders is worthy of investigation. Providing alumni foundation investments into venture capital funds pooled over multiple states would reduce the risk of these investments and potentially spur greater success
About Heartland Forward
Heartland Forward is a nonpartisan, 501c3 organization whose mission is to improve economic performance in the center of the United States by advocating for fact-based solutions to foster job creation, knowledge-based and inclusive growth and improved health outcomes. Heartland Forward conducts independent, data-driven research and programs to facilitate action-oriented discussion and impactful policy recommendations. To learn more, visit

CONTACT: Erika Tannor, 917-626-2487

SOURCE Heartland Forward

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