Turning ideas into income: Survey says UF ranks fifth

<p>The University of Florida is among the top universities in the U.S. and Canada when it comes to moving technology to the marketplace, according to a survey released Wednesday.</p>

<p>UF ranked No. 5 in an extensive study compiled by the Milken Institute, a California-based economic think tank. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology took the No. 1 slot.</p>

<p>UF is the No. 1 ranked individual public school, although the entire 10-campus University of California System is ranked ahead of it.</p>

<p>The report gave UF's Office of Technology Licensing high marks for taking ideas that originate in laboratories and turning them into viable products.</p>

<p>Ross DeVol, director of regional economics at the Milken Institute, said UF's performance is particularly impressive given the fact that the university isn't housed in a major metropolitan area.</p>

<p>"There isn't a high concentration of tech firms locally, but the university has been very successful in moving its technologies through licensing," DeVol said.</p>

<p>To move technologies to the marketplace, universities take a technology developed through campus research, patent the technology and then license it to a company that commercializes it. The university then benefits from licensing revenues, depending on the product's success.</p>

<p>Milken has been publishing studies since 1997, but this was the first time the institute issued this type of survey titled "Mind to Market: A Global Analysis of University Biotechnology Transfer and Commercialization." To rank universities, several criteria were examined, including the number of patents and publications universities produced. Income from licensing and the number of technologies that led to the birth of start-up companies were also factors.</p>

<p>Several traditional powerhouses, like Harvard University at No. 18, ranked lower than UF in the technology transfer category. That's in part because of a sort of "handicapping" that the Milken Institute used when calculating the top schools, DeVol said. Ultimately, the survey looked to determine which universities did the most with the money they had, he said. For instance, the survey examined how many start-up companies per research dollar a university helped establish through its technologies.</p>

<p>There's actually not much difference between the research budgets at Harvard and UF. In 2004, Harvard had $454 million in research expenditures compared with $447 million at UF. The considerable difference comes when comparing other measures like endowments, which help to attract top-notch research faculty. UF's endowment is now just under $1 billion, compared with Harvard's nearly $30 billion endowment.</p>

<p>Under the parameters set by Milken, UF had to compete for rankings against the collective research powers of the state of California. The survey ranked individual schools across the Golden State, but also gave a singular ranking to the 10 campuses in the University of California System. The system came in at No. 2.</p>

<p>"Some might argue you shouldn't compare a state with an institution, but we're glad to be up there competing with a state," said Win Phillips, UF's vice president for research</p>

<p>Phillips said UF's high ranking in the Milken survey reflects a concerted effort at the university to grow its Office of Technology Licensing, which works to commercialize the university's research. The university boasted $43 million in licensing income this year, and that led to high marks in Milken's rankings. No other university was given a higher ranking in licensing income, which influenced the overall rankings.</p>

<p>"We're a big player," Phillips said.
About one-third of UF's licensing revenue still comes from Gatorade, invented by Robert Cade in 1965 to help fuel a thirsty Gator football team.</p>

<p>"Gatorade keeps going on and on like the Energizer Bunny," Phillips said.</p>

<p>Slightly more than one-third of UF's licensing revenue comes from Trusopt, a glaucoma drug created by the late Dr. Thomas Maren and released to the market in 1995 by Merck and Co.</p>

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