USF tops Florida universities for patents in 2014

Published June 16 2015
Updated June 17 2015

The University of South Florida ranked first in Florida, tenth in the United States and the top 15 in the world for the number of patents it secured in 2014, according to a report by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association .

USF was awarded 104 patents, which trumped the 87 patents granted to the University of Florida Research Foundation and the 66 granted to the University of Central Florida.

Each year, the NAI and IPO track the number of patents administered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The organizations compile a list of public and private universities in the U.S., ranking them by the number of patents they received.

Most of the patents were attributed to USF's strong medical school and civil engineering department, said Valerie McDevitt, associate vice president for technology transfer and business partnerships.

McDevitt said that USF strives to pair its innovative knack with commercial markets. The school wants to attract biomedical companies with its startups, she said.

USF has many of its patented technologies in clinical trial, with new products coming out on the market every year. Medical companies are quick to buy the university's inventions. Take Cellular Biomedicine Group for instance, which just acquired one of USF's medical technologies and will be completing its clinical trials by the end of the year.

"The growth of technology and innovation is essential to the success of a university," said Paul R. Sanberg, USF senior vice president for research, innovation and economic development. "Invention based on university technology remains a significant factor in economic development."

Sanberg, who has been at USF for nearly 20 years, founded one of the first chapters of NAI at the university. He helped USF faculty from different academic backgrounds coalesce to develop new patentable technologies.

Before Sanberg's collaborative push, it wasn't uncommon for university departments to operate independently when developing new tech, McDevitt said. Now, USF's academic inventors take initiative to mentor each other and work together to obtain patents. For instance, someone from the medical school and arts and sciences school might work together to develop a medical device.

"We are proud of our faculty, students and staff who make an impact on Tampa Bay and the state of Florida and are converting their research into patents and commercialization activities that benefit society," said Sanberg.

In fiscal year 2013, USF made $1.8 million off their patents and startup companies. Although, it isn't always easy for the university to generate revenue from new inventions.

McDevitt said there can be a significant lapse between when USF strikes a license deal and the time it takes to be issued a patent. It can take up to 15 years for a new technology to gain FDA approval and be released on the market, McDevitt said. USF reported 91 licensing agreements last year.

The IPO will soon release its annual list of 300 worldwide organizations that received the most U.S utility patents in 2014. USF will be one of only 13 universities to appear on the list.