Thursday, June 21, 2018
Opinion

Column: University research helps drive Florida economy

As Florida and the rest of the nation emerge from an extended period of economic stress, it is noteworthy that there is an economic engine in Florida that has been quietly chugging along, to the tune of more than $1.6 billion each year, and is poised to do even more for the state in the future.

The majority of the faculty at Florida's public universities have tripartite job descriptions that include teaching, research and service. For many, the research requirement of their position means competing for and receiving outside research grants to fund their efforts. These funds are used to support student and staff salaries, buy equipment and supplies, and in a very entrepreneurial fashion, provide a portion of their own salaries.

Last year, these faculty researchers generated more than $1.6 billion in research grants and contracts from government and private entities. The vast majority of these funds cycled through the Florida economy in the form of salaries and locally purchased goods and services. The impact of these dollars is significant every single year and has a multiplier effect as the money moves through our economy.

The specific research outcomes of these faculty efforts are also significantly impacting the quality of our lives. For example, brain scientists are developing new methods for treatment of stroke and concussions; agriculture scientists are optimizing methods for enhanced yields of crops vital to our economy; and engineers continue to develop new technologies to allow for the development and use of alternative energy sources. These are but a few of the innovations happening on our campuses every day.

Another way our faculty research activities directly affect the lives of Floridians is through the transformation of research into products for the marketplace. This has included an array of products ranging from the cancer-fighting drug Taxol to the sports drink Gatorade. Florida's public universities routinely secure patents on faculty discoveries such as these, which serve to protect them from development by unauthorized companies.

However, the patents themselves confer no benefit to society or added income to the university. The added value occurs only if the discovery they protect can be licensed. True success is measured by the ability of the licensed product to provide benefits to the public (such as lives saved), help companies increase productivity and generate more revenue, and produce a financial return through licensing income. In other words, patents offer the hope of value, while licensing actually provides value in measurable ways.

Speaking of licensing income, as opposed to research grants, Florida's public universities generated more than $1 billion in revenue over the last two decades (see http://www.research.fsu.edu/techtransfer/aggregate.html for a partial listing).

This number is impressive by itself, but becomes even more remarkable when you consider, similar to research grants, that these dollars lead to more jobs and more money circulating through our economy. Add in the fact that each university is actively supporting a multitude of promising research projects that can lead to even more licensing income, and the picture of a strong, sustainable economic contributor becomes even more clear.

The teaching responsibilities of our public universities will always be the top priority. But together, teaching and research are kindred souls that help fuel greatness in one another. After all, our best instructors are those who are creating new knowledge through their research or other creative activity, while teaching the next generation of leaders, innovators and workers.

Gary K. Ostrander is vice president for research at Florida State University and president of the FSU Research Foundation. He can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18