Mind to Market: A Global Analysis of University Biotechnology Transfer and Commercialization
Sep 01, 2006
Ross DeVol and Armen Bedroussian with Anna Babayan, Meggy Frye, Daniela Murphy, Tomas J. Philipson, Lorna Wallace, Perry Wong and Benjamin Yeo

Three decades have passed since researchers from Stanford and the University of California, San Francisco began to develop the commercial applications for their work on recombinant DNA and launched the birth of the biotech industry. The result is a flourishing global landscape of spin-offs, startups and collaborations between biotechnology firms, financiers and academia.

Those linkages were fortified in the United States with the 1980 passage of the Bayh-Dole Act, granting to universities the right to own, license and market the fruits of their faculty research. Nations worldwide quickly followed suit.

Research and innovation are increasingly shifting away from the corporate lab and back to where they began: the university campus. And as the global economy grows increasingly dependent on the generation and dissemination of knowledge, universities are seen as natural partners for both business and government.

For this reason, it is crucial to examine the process of university technology transfer for its strengths and vulnerabilities in order to facilitate the commercialization process and ensure the greatest possible returns on public investment.

In this study, Milken Institute researchers examine the biotechnology transfer process taking place at universities, from knowledge creation to technology transfer and early-stage commercialization. A key focus of the investigation is the role played by technology transfer professionals. Research is essential for commercial outcome, but the technology transfer professional is crucial in the successful conversion of knowledge to the private sector.

Key Findings:

  • Harvard University ranks first in terms of biotech research, as measured by papers and citations, followed by the University of Tokyo and University of London. U.S. universities hold eight of the top 10, and 28 of the top 40 positions. California universities hold five of the top 25 rankings; the UK and Japan hold three each.
  • The University of Texas system scores first on our Biotech Patent Composite Index, followed by U.C. San Francisco - which is likely first among individual campuses since the University of Texas doesn't report data on individual campuses - and Johns Hopkins. Nine of the top 10 patent holders are U.S. universities. The University of London ranks first among foreign universities (10th overall).
  • Our University Technology Transfer and Commercialization Index shows MIT first on outcome measures, which include such factors as licensing income and startups. The University of California system ranks second (led by U.C. San Francisco), with Caltech third, Stanford fourth and Florida fifth. The University of British Columbia was the highest-ranked Canadian institution, coming in eighth overall.
  • Among U.S., Canadian and European universities, the United States leads in invention disclosures, patents filed and granted, licenses executed and licensing income. However, European universities surpass their U.S. counterparts in startups established.
  • Research activity has a high rate of return. Each 10-point increase in our research papers score contributes an additional $1.7 million in annual licensing income.
  • Investments into offices of technology transfer (OTT) also offer high returns. For every $1 invested in OTT staff, the university receives a little more than $6 of licensing income.
  • In terms of job creation, the Amgens and Genentechs most differentiate the economic impact of U.S. university-based biotech commercialization that originates from universities in other nations.

The report includes rankings of the top universities based on the quality of their biotech research (Publication Ranking), the number and quality of their patents (Patent Ranking) and their ability to transfer this IP into commercial uses (Technology Transfer and Commercialization Index). Click on the links below to view the complete rankings.

Biotechnology Publication Ranking

Biotechnology Patent Ranking

University Technology Transfer and Commercialization Index

The study was released at a press conference in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 20, 2006. Among those speaking at that event were Ross DeVol, Director of Regional Economics and one of the report's co-authors, and Assistant Secretary of Labor Emily Stover DeRocco. View their presentation and remarks below.

Ross DeVol's presentation

Assistant Secretary of Labor Emily Stover DeRocco's remarks

Executive summary

You may download or order the full report here. To purchase or view the executive summary only, go to the Mind to Market - Executive Summary page on our web site.

Mind to Market was made possible, in part, thanks to a generous donation from Inflect Technologies, a leading commercialization fund, efficiently and methodically developing innovative intellectual property licensed from universities and institutions into game-changing products and companies.