May 24, 2022 - Business

How the University of Arkansas' intellectual exports rank nationally

Data: Heartland Forward; Map: Simran Parwani/Axios

If the University of Arkansas was graded solely on its technology transfer, it would probably get "satisfactory" on its report card.

What's happening: Bentonville think tank Heartland Forward recently ranked 166 U.S. universities based on their ability to transfer technology developed on campus into the commercial world.

  • U of A came in at No. 69, which is in the top half of the group, but not gold star worthy.

Yes, but: It ranked No. 8 with its peers grouped in terms of research spending.

  • The university was grouped in the third-lowest category of research spending.
  • Other universities with similar spending include Rice (No. 3); the University of Texas, Dallas (No. 5) and Oklahoma State (No. 10).

The big picture: New ideas from universities in the form of products, processes or technologies are often innovations for companies or entire industries.

  • The ability to commercialize research inspires entrepreneurship and economic growth outside the university setting, but also often rewards the school through licensing fees and clout.

Context: Heartland Forward is focused on improving economic performance in the 20-state region it calls the "heartland." It ranges from North Dakota to Texas; from Ohio to Kansas.

What they did: To create their University Technology Transfer and Commercialization Index, researchers analyzed invention disclosures, the number of — and options to — license, licensing income and startups formed from each university.

  • The authors also considered citations of university articles in patents granted to firms to show the value of academic research in the private sector.
  • They compared those metrics with each institution's research spending.
  • All data in the report is based on the average values for each metric between 2017-2019.

What they found: The top five universities were Carnegie Mellon, the University of Florida, Columbia University, Stanford University and Harvard University.

  • Of the top 25, only six are located in the heartland: the University of Minnesota (No. 10); Purdue (No. 11), Northwestern (No. 13), the University of Michigan (No. 16); the University of Texas, Austin (No. 20) and the University of Chicago (No. 24).
  • Overall, 63 universities located in the 20 states in the middle of the U.S. made the list.

What they're saying: "Heartland elected officials should advocate for commercialization and tech transfer to be stated objectives in the mission statements of universities," Heartland CEO Ross DeVol wrote in a letter opening the report.

  • "State leaders should advocate for a consortium of universities to be formed across heartland states to exchange and implement best practices in commercialization."

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