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May 18, 2022 | Tom Ballard

Heartland Forward’s newest report ranks tech transfer programs

Heartland Forward, the Bentonville, AR-based think tank that was launched in October 2019 with significant backing by the Walton family of Walmart fame, has just released its newest report.

Titled “Research to Renewal: Advancing University Tech Transfer,” the document ranks commercialization programs at both public and private universities that are most proficient at creating new knowledge; embedding it in their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates; and transferring both to new and existing enterprises.

“We believe that states, cities and rural areas can more effectively partner with universities in their pursuit of prosperity,” the authors write. “Correctly channeled, this approach can create jobs paying top five percent incomes, as well as a wide variety of middle-income jobs, and be inclusive. This should resonate in heartland states as they attempt to close the gap in economic performance with coastal locations. Greater emphasis is needed on patenting, licensing and start-up activity, and these factors should be weighted more heavily in faculty tenure and promotion decisions.”

A natural question that you are no doubt asking is how were the rankings derived. “For formal commercialization and tech transfer of intellectual property, we use invention disclosures, the number of licenses and options, licensing income and startups formed; less formalized modes include citations of university articles contained in patents granted to firms,” the authors explain. “This demonstrates the value of academic research in the private sector. These metrics are normalized by research expenditures to obtain a measure of efficiency in converting inputs into outputs.”

At the top of the Heartland Center’s rankings is what the authors describe as a surprise. It is Carnegie Mellon University, the relatively small private school that has a combination of top-tier computer science and engineering departments, as well as interdisciplinary research programs with a unique entrepreneurial culture and focus. They note that Carnegie Mellon led an economic renaissance in Pittsburgh after steel production and other heavy manufacturing fell on hard times.

The next nine that comprise the top 10 are:

  • #2 – University of Florida;
  • #3 – Columbia;
  • #4 – Stanford;
  • #5 – Harvard;
  • #6 – University of Pennsylvania;
  • #7 – North Carolina State;
  • #8 – University of California San Diego;
  • #9 – University of California Los Angeles; and
  • #10 – University of Minnesota.

Three Volunteer State universities were ranked. Vanderbilt University came in at #53, while the University of Tennessee was ranked #98 and the University of Memphis placed #164.

For comparative purposes, here is a listing of other institutions: Duke University (#15); University of Georgia (#45); Emory University (#47); University of Virginia (#54); Clemson (#66); University of North Carolina Charlotte (#72); University of Alabama Birmingham (#91); University of Alabama at Huntsville (#112); University of Alabama Tuscaloosa (#113); and University of South Carolina (#142).

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