Pitt recognized for success in ‘transferring' tech

A report from nonprofit group Heartland Forward ranks Pitt at No. 21 in the nation and in the top 10 of public universities for its ability to transfer technology innovation to public and commercial sectors.  

The ranking is part of the “Research to Renewal: Advancing University Tech Transfer” report by Heartland Forward, whose stated mission is to “improve economic performance in the center of the United States by advocating for fact-based solutions” leading to jobs, knowledge-based and inclusive growth and improved health outcomes.

The report evaluates universities’ effectiveness at teaching and embedding knowledge in their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates, and transferring the knowledge and students to new and existing commercial enterprises. The emphasis is on private industry’s ability to get a return-on-investment from academic-based discovery.

Metrics used in the assessment include: 

  •  Invention disclosures

  •  Number of licenses and options

  •  Licensing income and startups formed; and

  •  Citations of university articles contained in patents granted to firms

Evan Facher, Pitt's vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship, said in a news release that this recognition reflects an acceleration in the University’s culture of innovation, resulting in record numbers of invention disclosures, patents, startups and commercialization revenue in the past five-plus years.

"Pitt innovators who want to see their research make a difference in people’s lives have had more funding and resources available to them to make the leap from the lab to the market,” Facher said. “It is gratifying that their passion and dedication is being noticed."

The report also indicates greater emphasis is needed on patenting, licensing and startup activity, factors weighted more heavily in faculty tenure and promotion decisions to push young researchers to collaborate with businesses.

In its report, Heartland Forward said states should consider the following factors to boost tech-transfer performance:

  • Governors and legislatures providing direct funding for technology transfer offices as an economic development initiative.

  • Elected officials advocating commercialization and tech transfer to be objectives in university mission statements.

  • State leaders advocating for a consortium of universities to be formed to exchange and implement best practices in commercialization.

  • Investigating a pooling of invention disclosures and patents across state borders; providing pooled alumni foundation investments into venture capital funds could reduce investment risk and spur greater success.

— Shannon O. Wells

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