Tech transfer: Ranking the top 25 research universities in the U.S.

"Every university has the potential to be actively engaged in technology transfer so that good ideas benefit the general public," analysis says.
By: | May 31, 2022
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To rank the research universities that are excelling at creating new knowledge, a new analysis is measuring tech transfer—or the impact of the innovations that campuses share with the world and private industry.  The first measure is whether universities are embedding that new knowledge in the graduates of their own science, technology, engineering and programs, according to the “Research to Renewal” report by Heartland Forward, an economic development nonprofit in the Midwest.

The analysis also looks at how commercializing research and infusing it into private industry can invigorate local economies and create jobs. “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,” Ross DeVol, Heartland Forward’s CEO, says in the report. “We believe that states, cities and rural areas can more effectively partner with universities in their pursuit of prosperity.”

For formal commercialization and tech transfer of intellectual property, the rankings counted metrics such as invention disclosures, the number of licenses and options, licensing income and startups formed. Many of the top performers are considered elite institutions. But the No. 1 ranked university is one of the smaller schools and achieved its top score for leading an economic renaissance in its home city of Pittsburgh after the decline of the steel industry.

One of the public institutions in the top 10 made commercialization central to its mission and prioritized entrepreneurship. Another highly ranked public school has succeeded commercially in semiconductors and biotechnology. Other universities made the list for creating startups and offering low-risk deals to companies that buy their innovations.


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Heartland Forward encourages universities to collaborate with federal, state and local leaders to target investment and resources to local economies that are most in need of revitalization. Universities should also consider developing new bachelor’s and graduate programs in partnership with local industry. “Every university has the potential to be actively engaged in technology transfer so that good ideas benefit the general public,” the report says.

The top 25 on the University Technology Transfer and Commercialization Index:

  1. Carnegie Mellon University
  2. University of Florida
  3. Columbia University
  4. Stanford University
  5. Harvard University
  6. University of Pennsylvania
  7. North Carolina State University
  8. University of California, San Diego
  9. University of California, Los Angeles
  10. University of Minnesota
  11. Massachusetts Institute Technology
  12. Purdue University
  13. Northwestern University
  14. Cornell University
  15. Duke University
  16. University of Michigan
  17. New York University
  18. University of Washington
  19. California Institute of Technology
  20. University of Texas at Austin
  21. University of Pittsburgh
  22. Princeton University
  23. Brigham Young University
  24. University of Chicago
  25. University of California, Berkeley