USF Research News

Technology transfer brings “more than money” to university communities

June 18, 2014

Translating university researchers' discoveries to the market can transform both the institution and society

TAMPA, Fla. – Just how valuable is "technology transfer" for universities? This question is addressed in "More than Money: The Exponential Impact of Academic Technology Transfer," an article from the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) that examines the impact of landmark 1980 legislation that facilitated technology transfer from the academic inventors' "bench" to commercialization and the far-reaching and beneficial changes for universities and communities that have resulted.

The article appears in the current issue of Technology and Innovation and is available Open Access.

According to the authors, the benefits of technology transfer for universities go far beyond any potential revenues from licenses and royalties. Such benefits can be significant, including:

  • A vibrant culture of entrepreneurship that promotes recruitment and retention of faculty who reap the rewards of innovation and the practical application of their research
  • Increased student success through participation in real world research, exposure to the patenting process, and increased job prospects
  • ublic benefits from applied research that seeks to address global challenges around health, the environment, technology and our changing societies
  • Economic development, with licensing revenue that boosts the economy, better retention of local talent, and new high-skill, high-wage jobs from university start-ups
  • Increased opportunities for funding through inter-institutional and interdisciplinary grants, new start-ups and international research relationships
  • Increased prestige and fundraising from a stronger university brand, and donor ties deepened through relationships with start-ups

"In the academic setting, technology transfer is a critical component for facilitating and sparking innovation within universities and helping to connect universities with commercial partners in the community," says co-author Paul R. Sanberg, president of the NAI. "Technology transfer can be truly transformational to a university and to the community,"

For example, data gathered from 82 institutions responding to a survey conducted by the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) reports that in 2012 $36.8 billion in net sales were generated by startup companies from 70 institutions that provided fulltime employment for 15,741 people. Additionally, 705 new companies were created based on university patented inventions and 591 new commercial products were launched for consumer use in 2012.

"Technology transfer describes the process of transferring scientific findings from one organization to another for the purpose of further development and commercialization," explains lead author Valerie Landrio McDevitt, former associate vice president for technology transfer and business incubation at the University of South Florida (USF) and current executive director of AUTM.

"Strong and supported technology transfer programs, the availability of funding from seed through venture capital, serial entrepreneurs, administrative support, and community engagement all become critical components affecting the success of technology transfer, and the best opportunity for reaping the benefits of technology transfer arises when all of the necessary components come together and are supported," said McDevitt.

Technology transfer in the past 35 years has transformed not only universities, but also transformed American society and the world beyond; the benefits are all around us, say the authors, and the increases in university-based patents and licensing, often to small startup companies, continues. 

"Having an active academic technology transfer program benefits individuals within the university community," said Sanberg, who is also senior vice president for research and innovation at the University of South Florida. "The NAI felt this paper was important because we are dedicated to supporting the patenting and research efforts of faculty, and wanted to make sure that the impact of those efforts was understood, beyond the bottom line."

In addition to McDevitt and Sanberg, the co-authors of the paper are Joelle Mendez-Hinds of the University of South Florida, David Winwood of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Vinit Nijhawan of Boston University, Todd Sherer of Emory University, and John F. Ritter of Princeton University.

The Fourth Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors will take place Mar. 19-20, 2015, at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Cal.


The National Academy of Inventors® is a 501c3 organization comprised of U.S. and international universities and non-profit research institutes. It was founded in 2010 to recognize and encourage inventors with a patent issued from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students, and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society. Email; web

The editorial offices of Technology and Innovation are located in the USF Research Park, 3702 Spectrum Blvd., Suite 165, Tampa, Florida, 33612 USA. Tel: +1-813-974-1347. Email 

News Release by Florida Science Communications,

Media contact: Judy Lowry,, 813-974-3181