New study highlights importance of university/industry research pacts
A new study of university technology licensing in the US from 1996 to 2007 provides first-of-its-kind data on the importance of university/industry research and development partnerships to the economy, showing a $187 billion dollar positive impact on the Gross National Product (GNP) and a $457 billion addition to gross industrial output.
It has long been believed that the Bayh-Dole Act, which permits and encourages industry to partner with universities to turn federally-funded basic research into new products, is a critical factor in driving the innovation economy, said Jim Greenwood, President and CEO of the US Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), which sponsored the survey.
“Indeed, because of this inspired piece of legislation, the US leads the world in commercialising university-based research to create new companies and good, high-paying jobs throughout the country,” Greenwood said, adding “This new study provides the evidence to back up that belief.”
The Bayh-Dole Act, passed in 1980, allows university inventors to patent their discoveries and license them to commercial partners with maximum flexibility and limited federal bureaucracy. As a result, the biotech revolution was born.
But Greenwood said, “We cannot take tech transfer, or the US patent system upon which it is based, for granted, particularly in the current economy. Preserving this system is critical to ensuring US economic revival and spurring the next wave of American innovation in the life sciences.”
Other key findings of the study include:
University-licensed products commercialised by industry created at least 279,000 new jobs across the US during the 12-year period
The annual change in GDP due to university-licensed products grew each year, illustrating that the impact of university patent licensing grows even more important each year
The study was funded by BIO and headed by David Roessner, Professor of Public Policy Emeritus at the Georgia Institute of Technology. It assessed the economic impact of university licensing solely based on royalty data, and does not attempt to value other significant economic contributions of university-based research, and thus the estimates are considered somewhat conservative.
At the same time BIO has released a survey of its member companies, showing that university-based technology transfer serves as a foundation for the creation of many biotechnology companies and industry job growth. Half of surveyed companies were founded on the basis of obtaining an in-license agreement.
The survey also shows there is robust technology transfer occurring between biotech companies and research universities, but very limited in-license agreements with the more restrictive federal government. Survey responses clearly demonstrate that flexible licensing practices, including the ability to obtain exclusive licenses where necessary, is a critical component of successful technology transfer and product commercialisation.
In total, 71 per cent of respondents said more than half of their in-license agreements are with US-based entities, reflecting the country’s leadership in technology transfer and biotechnology innovation.
“This survey contributes substantially to our understanding of the importance of university-industry collaborations to biotech innovation, and demonstrates the need for policymakers to protect and preserve the currently flexible tech transfer system in the US,” Greenwood said.
The full study is entitled The Economic Impact of Licensed Commercialized Inventions Originating in University Research, 1996-2007.
See also a compilation of the industry survey results and a detailed summary of the results.