Despite steady patent and licensing growth and a 16 percent increase in new technology startups in 2013, technology managers at major U.S. research universities are worried this trend will wane if federal research funds continue their decline.
In its annual Licensing Activity Survey that covers the 2013 fiscal year, the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) found that along with startup growth, there was a 5.7 percent jump in new patent applications filed, an 11 percent surge in patents issued, a 1.3 percent increase in licenses executed, and a 20 percent leap in newly created commercial products. The number of startups still operating at fiscal year’s end also rose by 5.1 percent, while the number of deals with established startups grew 3 percent.
Such figures reflect a strong licensing and startup environment at most U.S. academic and research institutions — not to mention new jobs and revenue streams created – although federal research spending in 2013 held relatively steady at $39.9 billion.
In a presentation of its survey’s highlights, AUTM cites a September 2012 briefing from the American Association for the Advancement of Science that states if federal sequestration measures remain in place through 2017, overall research and development funding could decline by 8.4 percent. The AUTM survey added that in each year since 2004, research grants funded by the National Institutes of Health have declined.
AUTM leaders warn that without strong leadership from Congress, continued gains in licensing and startup activity will be jeopardized.
“It’s critical to all of us that Congress continues its strong support for research funding at our federal agencies.”
– IURTC President and CEO Tony Armstrong
“We need strong support for research funding agencies such as the National institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, and we need Congress to maintain the strength of the U.S. patent system by avoiding roadblocks to patent holders who need to enforce legitimately their patents against infringement,” said AUTM President Jane Muir, who directs the Florida Innovation Hub at the University of Florida.
Indiana University Research and Technology Corp. (IURTC) officials echoed Muir’s comments, noting the public impact that such research generates. According to AUTM’s survey, about 14 new commercial products based on academic research were created weekly in 2013, while an average of 2.25 new companies were launched daily.
“The discoveries generated with that funding leads directly to many of the products and services we enjoy today. This activity makes our local, state and national economies stronger, and provides much needed employment opportunities to our universities graduates,” IURTC President and CEO Tony Armstrong said. “It’s critical to all of us that Congress continues its strong support for research funding at our federal agencies.”
Additional highlights of the AUTM survey, along with information about how academic research improves everyday lives, are available here.